JAKARTA (JP): Calm has returned to East Timor in the past 48 hours after martial law was declared in the violence-torn territory, the military and locals said Thursday.
Chief of the Security Restoration Operation Command in East Timor Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri told The Jakarta Post from the territory's capital Dilithat ""the situation has not been fully restored, but it is now much better"".
Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Wiranto said following a call onPresident B.J. Habibie at Merdeka Palace that there were no further signs of unrest or the sound of gunfire. He said troops were escorting refugees to their destinations and providing them with food.
""The situation has greatly improved in East Timor, particularly Dili. I believe the condition will return to normal in the near future,"" Wiranto, concurrently defense and security minister, said.
He said security personnel were instructed to use tough measures against anyone found breaking the law.
The government imposed martial law in the former Portuguese colony at midnight on Monday following an orgy of violence and vandalism which causeddozens of deaths and a massive exodus to the territory's western border with East Nusa Tenggara.
Wiranto said his main concern was food shortages facing displaced people,who fled their homes in fear of attack from rampaging armed militias.
A local staff member of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET)told the Post by phone from Dili that the situation was relatively calm butgunshots were still heard outside his office where he was sheltered.
He suspected thick smoke outside was from burning houses.
""The closest gunshot I heard was about 300 meters from here,"" said the man, who identified himself as Monis. ""The feeling of fear remains because the sound of gunshots continues.""
Streets and houses are deserted and economic activities have yet to resume, with banks and shops shut, he added.
""But thank God the electricity and telephones are functioning again aftera total blackout for almost 24 hours on Wednesday.""
The local water company, seaport and airport have also gradually resumed business, he said.
He said that in an unusual humanitarian operation, the military deliveredfood supplies on Thursday to UNAMET headquarters, where dozens of people have taken refuge.
""It's the first time that TNI has given food supplies but I don't know what the food was,"" he added.
The semblance of order came despite continuing reports of attacks on civilians.
Speculation was rife on Thursday concerning the fate of the 83-year-old father of East Timor proindependence leader Jose Alexander ""Xanana"" Gusmao. AFP quoted an unnamed source close to Xanana as saying that Manuel Gusmaowas killed in Dili on Wednesday.
""Manuel's body has been found and we have cross-checked that the body is his,"" the source said, adding that UNAMET officials searched for Manuel forsix days before they found his body.
The source could not give the specific time and cause of death of Gusmao,who lived in a house in front of Dili Cathedral with his wife, daughter andson-in-law.
Another source close to Xanana earlier said that Gusmao's name was on a list of people killed which was compiled by nuns and priests fleeing the territory.
One of Xanana's lawyers, Johnson Panjaitan, told the Post he received thereport of Gusmao's death but was seeking more information.
""The news has been confirmed but we still need to clarify some details,"" Johnson said.
Another Xanana lawyer, Hendardi, refused to speculate about the report, saying he needed to check it with his sources in Dili.
""It's difficult to contact Dili. My staff are still trying,"" he said.
Syahnakri denied the report of Gusmao's death. ""He has been evacuated butwe're still trying to confirm to where.""
Meanwhile, the Catholic Canossian order said on Thursday four of its nunswere killed in a pro-Jakarta militia attack in Baucau, about 90 kilometers east of Dili, on Wednesday.
CNN reported that the head of the Catholic aid agency Caritas in East Timor, Father Francisco Barreto, was also killed by the pro-Jakarta militiain an attack outside Dili on Wednesday.
Sister Gabriella, head of the Canossian convent in Jakarta, told the Post that she received the report of the killings from the order office in Australia.
""We do not know whether the report is true, but there are 70 Canossian sisters working in East Timor whose fate is unknown,"" she said.
Fourteen Canossian sisters arrived in Jakarta from refugee shelters in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on Thursday, while 27 others arrived at midnight from Dili, she said.
Caritas Australia chairman Bishop Hilton Deakin said in a statement on Thursday that he also received reports that other local Caritas East Timor staff members might have been killed. (emf/prb/gis/lem)