LtCol (Cav) Burhanuddin Siagian
District military commander (Dandim 1636) for Bobonaro, based in Maliana
LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian has been twice indicted in absentia with crimes against humanity before the Dili special panel. One indictment dated 3 February 2003 is known as the Cailaco indictment, the other dated 10 July 2003 is known as the Maliana indictment. These detailed documents have done much to open the curtain on how the military organised militias.
Siagian's subordinate officers mainly responsible for organising militias in Bobonaro military district were Lt Sutrisno and Sutrisno's deputy Sgt Asis Fontes (see Sutrisno). Both have been several times indicted in Dili for crimes against humanity. Siagian’s chief of staff (kasdim) was Capt (Inf) Rosidin.
Unamet political affairs officer in Bobonaro, Peter Bartu, said LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian 'oversaw the creation of the militia system in his district.... The militia structure in Bobonaro district was the most developed in terms of organisation and funding.... Bobonaro would appear to have been the subdistrict [sic - district] of greatest repression. One resident described the situation there as the worst it had been since 1975.'
Every one of the district’s six subdistricts had its own militia force. They were, in Maliana subdistrict: Dadurus Merah Putih (DMP), led by Natalino Monteiro); in Atabae subdistrict: Halilintar, led by Joao Tavares, as well as Harmoi Merah Putih; in Bobonaro subdistrict: Hametin Merah Putih; in Balibo subdistrict: Firme Merah Putih, and Saka Loromonu; in Cailaco subdistrict: Guntur Merah Putih (described below); and in Lolotoe subdistrict: Kaer Metan Merah Putih, led by Jose Cardoso Ferreira. Halilintar was a long-standing militia that had been revived in early 1999. DMP and Halilintar occur in numerous human rights reports in 1999.
The first step in the formation of a new militia to supplement Halilintar was a large rally held in the Maliana sports stadium on 8 April 1999. Siagian’s intelligence chief Lt Sutrisno had worked hard to get people to attend. Joao Tavares and Burhanuddin Siagian both held speeches threatening to kill independence supporters. They announced the formation in Maliana of the pro-independence organisation FPDK.
Nine days later, according to the Maliana indictment, the key decisions to organise a new militia force in Bobonaro district were taken by the same people, at a meeting in the home of Joao Tavares. Also in attendance were Joao Tavares’ brother Jorge Tavares, and SGI intelligence officer Rizal, the latter stationed permanently at Joao Tavares’ home. The meeting agreed that a series of militia groups to be called Dadurus Merah Putih (DMP) would be formed around Maliana town, each to be led by TNI soldiers from Kodim 1636. Lt Sutrisno then appointed 11 of his intelligence staff to head up these groups. All later took part in gross abuses and have been indicted in absentia.
On 19 April the new DMP militias and their leaders were introduced to the public in another big rally in the Maliana sports stadium. Besides the soldiers from Sutrisno’s intelligence section, these included district chief Guilherme dos Santos, Burhanuddin Siagian, Joao Tavares, and Jorge Tavares. Joao Tavares again threatened to kill independence supporters, while Siagian said: ‘Those who don’t follow autonomy will be finished. I will be the last person to leave, but before we leave we will destroy this place’ (clause 141).
The birth of the new militias in April was marked by extreme violence. The fact that this occurred all over the territory just before the arrival of Unamet indicates a policy decision taken higher up.
Burhanuddin Siagian was responsible for the deaths of seven civilians in this month. Early on 12 April Falintil had ambushed a car carrying a pro-Indonesian militia leader named Manuel Gama Soares and two soldiers. Gama and a soldier died, while the other soldier was injured. Manuel Gama was the newly appointed deputy FPDK leader in Maliana, and as the district finance head was responsible for paying the militias. The ambush at Poegoa, on the road from Marco to Maliana town, led to severe reprisals, described in the Dili indictment and in human rights reports of the time.
Upon hearing about the death of Manuel Gama, a soldier in charge of the military intelligence office (SGI) in Marco, Cailaco subdistrict, ordered Halilintar militiamen to force inhabitants from surrounding villages to come to the Cailaco subdistrict military headquarters (Koramil) at Marco. When they arrived, the SGI officer, named Mahalan Agus Salim, said he had been instructed by the military district command [Burhanuddin Siagian] and by militia supreme commander Joao Tavares to beat the five detainees. The five sustained injuries as a result. They were Americo Barrreto, Antonio Borges, Balthazar Preitas, Carlito Mau Leto, and Domingos Resi Mau.
Meanwhile, Lt Sutrisno traveled to the site of the ambush, where soldiers from the Cailaco subdistrict military command (at Marco) had already arrested and begun beating three men. They were Zefrino Soares Paulo, Silvano Maupilo, and Joao Evangelista Lima Vidal (35, teacher). Upon his arrival Sutrisno watched while the soldiers resumed the beating, and at one point joined in himself. Two of the detainees at the SGI post in Marco, Carlito Mau Leto and Domingos Resi Mau, were later also taken to the site of the ambush, making five detainees at Poegoa.
Back in Maliana, the news of Manuel Gama’s death led Joao Tavares and Jorge Tavares to meet at the office of the district chief Guilherme dos Santos with military district commander Burhanuddin Siagian. All agreed that whoever was a clandestine independence supporter within the civil service should be killed.
Joao Tavares, Jorge Tavares, and Burhanuddin Siagian then went to Siagian’s district military command in Maliana, from whence they set out with an armed party to the site of the ambush in Poegoa. Joao Tavares and Burhanuddin Siagian watched while Joao Evangelista Lima Vidal was still being beaten. Joao Tavares walked up to Zefrino Soares Paulo and said: ‘These are the people that receive money from the government, and they feed Falintil. These people we have to kill.’ He also pointed to Joao Evangelista Lima Vidal (the teacher) and said: ‘This is a civil servant.’ Lt Sutrisno then took Joao Evangelista Lima Vidal, Carlito Mau Leto and Domingos Resi Mau to the top of the hill carrying a gun. Gunshots were heard and the three were not seen alive again. The other detainees were later released.
The armed party from Maliana then went to Manuel Gama’s house to pay their respects. Burhanuddin Siagian shouted to all those who had been summoned to honour Gama’s body that all the people of Cailaco would be killed. Lt Sutrisno then gave orders to arrest four men present in the crowd: Paulino Soares (29, farmer), Jose Pau Lelo (36, Daudu village head), Antonio Soares (38, teacher), and Manuel Maulelo Araujo (38, teacher). They were taken to the Koramil office. Joao Tavares, Jorge Tavares, and Burhanuddin Siagian also went to the Koramil office and talked with Sutrisno. Sutrisno then ordered the four detainees to run away. He and his deputy Sgt Asis Fontes, as well as other soldiers and militia members, shot two of them in the back, while the other two, who refused to run, were killed on the road. Joao Tavares, Jorge Tavares and Burhanuddin Siagian watched the murders. Burhanuddin Siagian then told the horrified crowd that if necessary independence supporters would be killed. Soldiers and militiamen disposed of all seven bodies in the sea using a car belonging to Burhanuddin Siagian.
That evening there was a meeting at the house of Manuel Gama attended by Joao Tavares, Burhanuddin Siagian, Sutrisno, as well as local military and militia personnel. The meeting agreed to create a new militia called Guntur. It was led by Halilintar commander Paulo Gonsalves.
Over the next four days the new militia, working with Halilintar militiamen and TNI personnel, burned the homes of at least ten CNRT leaders. All the inhabitants of three villages considered to be pro-independence, perhaps two thousand people, were forced to move closer to TNI supervision and to join the Guntur militia. The villages were Daudo, Goulolo, and Raiheu, all in Cailolo subdistrict.
Following a roll call at the Koramil office in Marco on 18 April 1999, militia and soldiers moved out into the countryside to destroy the homes of independence supporters. The militias were told they should shoot anyone running away. The rampage resulted in the murders of six men in three separate incidents on 19 and 20 April. The dead were Aparicio Mali Tae, Carlos Sama Lelo, Armando Soares, Antonio Bazile, Jose Barros, and Cornelius da Silva. Human rights reports also suspect at least sixteen rapes occurred.
The Cailaco indictment lists 32 alleged perpetrators of this rampage. Besides Guntur commander Paulo Gonsalves, a leading role was played by Mahalan Agus Salim, the SGI officer at Marco, located next to the Cailaco Koramil office. Yeohanes Loi Dasi, of the Cailaco Koramil, and Haerola (Chairullah? From Java), commander of the Purugua post of a territorial combat batttalion, also appeared to play significant roles. The latter may have been part of Battalion 144 (see LtCol Saripudin, commander of the related Battalion 143).
Questioned in Jakarta in May 2000 about the Cailaco massacre, Siagian denied responsibility and instead presented fifty pages of documents that he said detailed cheating by Unamet and violations carried out by CNRT that were blamed on TNI. KPP HAM recommended he be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over the Cailaco executions, as well as for attacks he organised on Unamet in Maliana. However, the Indonesian Attorney General did not follow through.
The pattern established in April set the tone for the next few months. On 15 May 1999 Sgt Mau Buti, one of the militia commanders, murdered two independence supporters, Manuel Pinto Tilman and Abilio Cardoso, near Nunura Bridge, Maliana subdistrict (Maliana indictment, clause 65-77).
On 14 June 1999, Siagian spoke at a rally organised by the local Dadarus Merah Putih militia and said that the Indonesian autonomy plan had to be accepted in the district of Bobonaro. If the people of Ritabou and the whole district of Bobonaro did not accept the plan, he said, they would all be wiped out.
As ballot day grew closer, those in charge of the militias began to fear they would lose. At a meeting held in Guilherme dos Santos’ government offices on 10 August 1999, and led by Dos Santos, Siagian, Sutrisno, Joao Tavares, and Jorge Tavares, agreement was reached on how they would react to a loss. All village heads in the district were present, as were most of the militia leaders both military and civilian (including Natalino Monteiro and his deputy Tato Mali). Sutrisno and Tato Mali explained that, up until the ballot, the DMP and TNI together would continue to intimidate the population. In the post-ballot period TNI and the militias would try to provoke proindependence groups and individuals so that Falintil would react. This would then allow the militias to be mobilised to kill the proindependence supporters. The meeting agreed to this program. Guilherme dos Santos and Joao Tavares then spoke of making a list of proindependence supporters to enable a post-ballot ‘sweep operation’. Burhanuddin Siagian said he would supply arms to trusted militia members if such a list was prepared.
Unamet Chief Executive Ian Martin called for LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian’s removal as district commander following a visit to Maliana on 18 August 1999, because he and his men were 'contributing to rather than addressing the impunity of the militia, some of whom were serving members of the TNI. ....'. On that day militias had forced Unamet staff in Maliana to retreat to their compound and a student was killed. An internal Unamet civpol report dated three days earlier had said it had been revealed at a meeting at Siagian's headquarters that the army 'will start operations all over the Bobonaro district' on 1 September. Ian Martin continued: 'I now wrote to [head of Indonesian Task Force Ambassador Agus] Tarmidzi and CMLO Rezaq to [MajGen] Zacky [Anwar Makarim], listing names which included the district commanders in Bobonaro and Cova Lima.'
Unamet personnel had experienced harrassment from this officer from the beginning. They believed Siagian and Lt Sutrisno had planned a militia stoning attack on the newly established Unamet office on 29 June 1999, in which several locals and one foreigner were injured.
Siagian was replaced by LtCol Bambang Supriyanto on 25 August 1999. Supriyanto was indicted with Burhanuddin Siagian and many others before the Dili special panel on 10 July 2003 for his command role in the Maliana police station massacre of 8 September 1999. However, Siagian remained in Maliana until the end of Indonesian rule and continued to take part in criminal activities there. He had repeatedly threatened to do precisely what took place there, and he was there as it happened. The following story, mostly taken from the Maliana indictment, has therefore been kept under Siagian’s entry, rather than under Supriyanto’s.
Siagian’s reappearance in public on the day of the ballot coincided with reports of a fresh distribution of weapons to the militias, who were observed by Unamet staff in Bobonaro openly carrying both traditional and automatic firearms. Over the next three days those militias burned several houses and killed at least two Unamet local staff, leading Unamet to withdraw from Maliana for their own safety.
Just after the UN ballot, Siagian told several Unamet local staff that they would be killed. Indeed on 2 September Lt Sutrisno and his deputy Sgt Asis Fontes took part in murdering two Unamet staff named Ruben Barros Soares and Domingos Perreira in Raifun Village, Maliana subdistrict (clause 114f). On the same day four of the indicted TNI sergeants in charge of militias murdered two proindependence organisers named Mateus de Concenco and Silvano Mali Talo (clauses 102-112).
On 31 August, TNI, police and DMP militias drove around Maliana in vehicles with loudspeakers, telling people to move to the police headquarters if they were proindependence, or to the military headquarters if they were proautonomy. However, few people responded. So on 3 September militias went on the rampage around the district, burning and looting homes and forcing people to move to the police headquarters. As a consequence, the police station grounds were soon full of people. The overflow was directed to the hospital and the sports stadium across the road. Armed militias were moving through the crowd constantly.
The same wave of terror also forced Unamet staff finally to abandon Maliana and retreat to Dili.
On 6 September, with the result of the ballot clear, Siagian attended a meeting in the main building of the police headquarters. District police chief LtCol Budi Susilo was there, as were Guilherme dos Santos, Joao Tavares, Jorge Tavares, Natalino Monteiro, and Tato Mali. Budi Susilo asked that the refugees be moved to the back of the compound, as he was expecting an influx of police personnel from the outlying police stations (polsek).
Two days later SGI officer Rizal, Natalino Monteiro, and Tato Mali led a briefing of militia leaders (including soldiers) at Natalino’s home. Rizal gave the militias a list of proindependence people and told them to go the Maliana police headquarters to find and kill them. The list included CNRT leaders Manuel Magalhaes and Manuel Barros, and Ritabou village chief Domingos Perreira. The militias were then taken to the subdistrict military headquarters in Maliana (Koramil 1636-01) in two vehicles, one of them Natalino’s. There they met other militias who had come earlier. Lt Sutrisno and Lt Yusuf were there too. Rizal organised them into groups and gave them detailed instructions about how to locate and kill those on the list, saying: ‘And now we go on operation to the polres, and the men on the list are now staying at the polres’. He read out the names on the list, including Carlos Maia, and the Maliana subdistrict chief Julio Barros, all prominent proindependence people. Sgt Francisco Fernandes also played a prominent role in the detailed briefing and organising, as did Tato Mali. Militia members were told to apply camouflage paint to their faces.
All those proindependence supporters named above, and many others, were killed in the subsequent attack, which took place in the late afternoon and was commanded directly by Lt Sutrisno. Sgts Dos Santos, Frederico Pires, Mau Buti, Francisco Fernandes, Manuel Lopes and Jose Simao also played prominent parts. Sgt Francisco Fernandes and Rizal afterwards commanded DMP to conduct the disposal of the bodies – they traveled in the vehicle carrying the bodies to Batugade while DMP militia members traveled in another car. The officers ordered the Saka Loromonu militias under Ruben Tavares and Ruben Monteiro to take the bodies to the beach near the old Portuguese fort, where they were tied down with bags filled with sand and taken out to sea in fishing boats.
A witness told an Australian journalist she remembers distinctly seeing Burhanuddin Siagian, with Sutrisno and local police chief LtCol Budi Susilo, circulating among the crowd as militias went through the camp with death lists. A later account says only that a witness recognised Burhanuddin Siagian and militia leaders Natalino Monteiro and Francisco Soares driving past the police station and stopping at the TNI post 100m away to talk with soldiers just before the attack commenced. Siagian and Sutrisno allegedly ordered the bodies loaded onto trucks and disposed of in the sea at Batugede. One witness said he counted 47 bodies hacked to death by machetes on that day, but the local CNRT branch has the names of only 19 killed there.
On 9 September there was a followup massacre. A number of people had managed to escape the first massacre. After finding each other behind the school at Holsa village, they walked together to the Soso bridge. They then split up into smaller groups, fearing for their safety. At 1pm a villager told militias gathered at Natalino’s house in Ritabou that some escapees were at Mulau village, two kilometres from Ritabou. Sgt Miguel Soares then led militias to find these escapees and kill them. He personally shot them with his automatic rifle. After dark a yellow dump truck under the command of TNI picked up the bodies and disposed of them at Batugade like the others (again helped by Saka Loromonu). One account says thirteen died at the waterhole at Mulau.
On the same day Sgt Frederico Pires and Cpl Romeu da Silva took part in murdering Avalino Tilman and Victor dos Santos at Odomau village, Maliana subdistrict. On 13 September Sgt Frederico Pires ordered the murder of two further escapees from the Maliana police station, Francisco Teresao and Lemos Guterres, at Rokon suvillage, Holsa village, Maliana subdistrict.
In addition, the following men under Siagian’s command have also been indicted or convicted in Dili:
- 2d Lt Bambang Indra, sub-district military commander (danramil) in Lolotoe, near Maliana, was accused by the Serious Crimes Panel in Dili of repeated sexual crimes against three women between May and July 1999. These and a substantial number of other crimes (including murder) were allegedly committed together with militia leaders Joao Franca da Silva and Jose Cardoso Ferreira. Court documents say: 'The TNI in Lolotoe Sub-District under the command of 2nd Lt. Bambang Indra provided KMP [Kaer Metin Merah Putih] militia with logistic support.' Several of the incidents of torture and detention described in the indictment took place at Indra's Lolotoe sub-district military command headquarters.
- Francisco dos Santos Laku, a TNI intelligence officer in Maliana, was on 10 July 2001 sentenced to 8 years prison by the Serious Crimes Panel in Dili for handing over Celestino Fernandos to a group of militiamen at the village of Berame near Balibo on 7 September 1999. He told them to kill Fernandos, or else he would kill them all upon his return. They did as Laku told them.
- Paulino de Jesus, TNI member based at Lourba village near Bobonaro town, was on 24 June 2002 indicted in Dili for crimes against humanity for murdering Lucinda Saldanha on 10 September 1999.
Burhanuddin Siagian belonged to the 1981 graduating class at the military academy (Akabri). In 1995 he became commander of the Seventh Cavalry Battallion in Greater Jakarta. He was appointed district military commander in Bobonaro on 1 October 1997.
His career has not suffered as a result of his actions in East Timor. After the Indonesian pull-out he became chief of staff at the Denpasar district military command (Kasrem 163/ Wira Satya). In May 2000 it was reported he would be promoted to colonel and become operational assistant at the Jakarta regional military command (Kodam Jaya).