“Future years will never know

… the seething hell and the black infernal background of countless minor scenes and interiors…
In the mushy influences of current times, too, the fervid atmosphere and typical events of those years are in danger of being totally forgotten.”  

Walt Whitman, Specimen Days

On October 22, 2006 the international media reported that two bodies were found in sacks, near the Pertamina Oil Depot. Early reports said they were mutilated, headless and limbless. Later reports say one had machete cuts on arms and smashed skull. Media reports suggested they were from Baucau and Lautem, victims of gang warfare. The implication was that they were gang members.

The victims have no names.

Google any Timorese activist arrested, kidnapped or killed in the 1990s. Any victim of Indonesian military brutality. The name will pop up on Human Rights websites and listserve archives from the times.

The victims of 2006, aside from the PNTL victims, have no names.

In early November I met who I believe to be a friend and colleague of this Baucau victim. He told me his friend was a student at UNTIL, pulled out of a taxi at a road block on the way home from class. He was riding in a taxi because he was too scared to ride in the microlets. He was taken away in broad daylight. 

The boy who told me this had subsequently dropped out of University. He had attended the funeral of the Victim only a week before. He wanted to practice his English.

I ask myself, why didn’t I ask for the name of the Victim at the time I heard this story? Why couldn’t I have asked more? Perhaps I felt it was simply too sensitive. Perhaps I simply couldn’t handle it.

We assimilated these gruesome murders, even at the time they rippled across our consciousness, as one of “countless minor scenes.” How could we?

And what of the many nameless others?


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