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Massacre de Santa Cruz, novembre 1991, Timor

Say Sorry For Policy Of Silence


By Selwyn Manning.


First published on Spectator.co.nz…


Former United States President Bill Clinton.Former United States President Bill Clinton will head a US delegation to East Timor to take part in Independence celebrations. The celebrations are a victory for democracy, for humanitarianism, and above all the East Timorese. But this Independence Day must also be a day of remembrance: Our own New Zealand government’s policy of silence, nurtured significantly in the 1990s by the then New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon, placed trade above humanitarianism while Indonesia slaughtered thousands in the 23 years of occupation, since invading East Timor in 1975.


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On May 20, East Timor will become the first new nation of the millennium. Clinton, joined by his last ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, is scheduled to congratulate East Timorese on their hard-won victory and provide encouragement for further social stability, infrastructure development, industry and economic growth.


But western nations ought to be reminded of their reluctance to interfere in Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor on December 7 1975 and the excesses of the 1990s, and for this apologies ought to be forthcoming.


Indonesian dictator Suharto had been given the green light to invade, only the day before, by the then United States President Gerald Ford and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. What followed was 23 years of a US-Indonesian alliance that supported the oppression of East Timorese. The US looked the other way when massacres were orchestrated against unarmed citizens including New Zealanders and Australian journalists. New Zealand too embraced open and progressive trade with Indonesia and maintained a policy of silence over atrocities in East Timor. The United States supplied 90% of the weapons used during the initial invasion and continued to provide Jakarta [Indonesia’s capital] with billions of dollars in weaponry.


The result? More than 200,000 [one third of East Timor’s population] were murdered. Evidence of this was revealed within formerly classified documents released recently by the United States National Security Archive.


Former New Zealand Deputy Primie Minister, and current Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon.New Zealand is not clean on this issue. Former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don McKinnon [Now Commonwealth Secretary General] insisted that a “non-critical” policy was observed regarding Indonesia and East Timor. McKinnon, preoccupied with trade not humanitarian issues, refused to add clout to the voice of a New Zealand family that had lost loved ones during a massacre in Dili, East Timor’s capital.


New Zealander, Helen Todd's son Kamal Bamadhaj was killed in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, when Indonesian troops opened fire on protesters marching for independence on November 12, 1991. The story of his death was told in the documentary Punitive Damage, a collaboration between his mother and filmmaker Annie Goldson. Helen Todd lobbied McKinnon to apply pressure on Indonesia. She wanted justice and conviction for those responsible to the massacre and the death of her son. McKinnon was not moved. Trade was the all important issue, not the death of Kamal Bamadhaj and certainly not human rights.


When video footage and photographs of a November 1991 massacre in Dili were smuggled to the outside world by reporters who survived the bloodbath, international support for East Timor's independence grew dramatically. But McKinnon and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials did little apart from attempt to steady unease.


Santa Cruz massacre of November 1991.Following the 1991 massacre, a group formed called East Timor Action Network. It successfully lobbied the US Congress to block some weapons sales and military training to Jakarta. But New Zealand continued to seduce Indonesia, establishing strong trade ties, exploring sounder diplomatic alliances, training Indonesian pilots and refusing to comment on Indonesia’s occupation and continued policy of state-sanctioned murder of East Timorese.


See John Pilger video of Portugal president Jorge Sampaio on genocide in East Timor.


See John Pilger video of former Indonesian government minister Nugroho Wisnumurti’s denial that genocide took place in East Timor or that Indonesian troops murdered anyone at the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991.


Even after East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on August 30 1999 [78.5 per cent of East Timor's registered voters approved independence for the region in a UN-backed referendum] when the Indonesian military (TNI) and its militia proxies laid waste to the territory, killing at least 2,000 and forcibly displacing more than two-thirds of the population – New Zealand’s Don McKinnon tried to damp down outrage.


The wave of violence staggered the world. Eye witnesses reported bodies piled high in Dili's police station cells, stacks of bodies went up to the roof. The Sydney Morning Herald reported arms and legs dripping blood.


At that very moment APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation heads of governments meetings were then being held in Auckland, New Zealand. There two thirds of the world’s countries came together to discuss globalisation, economic trade liberalisation. Bill Clinton, the then Russian Federation Prime Minister and now President Vladimir Putin, the Late Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, and Chinese President Jiang Zemin were all there.


McKinnon insisted that APEC had gathered in Auckland to discuss economic liberalisation not Indonesian relations with East Timor. McKinnon, charged as host nation with coordinating the meetings was determined to keep East Timor off the agenda. But as the world’s leaders gathered, McKinnon was out manoeuvred largely by pressure from ASEAN nations determined to halt the killings in East Timor and salvage ties and ease threats of economic sanctions against the developing economy of Indonesia.


A “Crisis Meeting” was demanded by the world’s heavyweights. McKinnon was forced to organise a meeting in the Auckland Town Hall adjacent to the APEC heads of governments meetings in the Aotea Centre. Britain’s Foreign Minister Robin Cook was on his way – expecting to take part in a meeting. McKinnon was forced to comply. In a face-saving measure McKinnon chaired the meeting. The tolling of Auckland City church bells on the hour every hour throughout that Crisis Meeting was a moving reminder to all the leaders who sat inside the Auckland Town Hall that the world’s people were watching.


The results were kept secret.


On exiting from the meeting, reporting for Scoop Media [see www.scoop.co.nz] I asked US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright what was the outcome of the meeting. She replied: “Chairman Don McKinnon will expand on this later.” He never did. But we found out from the international contingent’s spokespersons that a wedge had been driven between the economically obsessed ASEAN nations and the humanitarian concerns of the western Pacific UN leaning nations. New Zealand remained silent.


Clinton followed by cutting all military ties with Indonesia and severed economic co-operation and aid with Indonesia. Japan raised concerns about taking this approach. Japan warned that the international community must “consider the serious consequences” of withholding International Monetary Fund aid to Indonesia. It said such an action would have dire consequences for the security and economic development of the Asia/Pacific region.


Japan at that time contributed $2 billion US in humanitarian aid to Indonesia. That made up 60 percent of the net aid contribution the country received.


Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi reiterated for Indonesia to: “accept international calls for calm in East Timor.” “To do so,” he said, “is not something which Indonesia should be ashamed.” Mr Obuchi said the situation in East Timor was “unacceptable”. That the responsibility of restoring order lay with Indonesia: “If it cannot restore order then we should again ask Indonesia to allow the international community to restore order on its behalf.” But again he warned: “If international pressure on Indonesia causes the economic hardship onto Indonesia’s people, then unknown consequences would develop.” Japan would only go as far to say it would provide “logistic support to a United Nations lead force in East Timor.”


China took the strongest stance of the ASEAN nations with its President Jiang Zemin stating: “That the will of the East Timorese people should be honoured and that the International community should now move to restore order in East Timor.”


McKinnon became insignificant, and remained silent.


The world leaders, gathered in Auckland for the APEC leader’s summit meetings, waited for a statement from Indonesian President B.J. Habibie on whether an international peacekeeping force would be asked into East Timor to help restore peace.


Press secretary to Britain’s foreign minister Robin Cook, Kim Darroch, told me in a telephone interview to Whitehall that Britain had little information regarding which way President Habibie would swing. Darroch said the British Government had agreed to send one infantry company, consisting of around 150 to 200 soldiers, to back an international peacekeeping contingent to East Timor should President Habibie request assistance. Darroch said the British naval ship, HMS Glasgow, was also close to reaching the waters off East Timor. The ship had restocked in Singapore two days previously and was heading to sea.


Meanwhile, back in Auckland, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, awaited the Indonesian response. McKinnon continued to be silent. Shipley’s press secretary, Simon King, said she would not make any statements on the situation before receiving the Indonesian statement and would not likely comment on what stance New Zealand would take.


An important point was this week raised by the spokesperson for East Timor Action Network, John Miller. He issued a statement saying: "When former President Clinton, joined by his last ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, congratulates the East Timorese people on their hard-won victory, we must remember that as the most important supporter of Indonesia's illegal occupation, the US, owes the new country an enormous moral debt. We urge the Clinton delegation to acknowledge it." Miller said: “Since September 1999 Washington has provided significant assistance to East Timor's reconstruction, but such aid does not begin to compensate the East Timorese people for the suffering wrought by 24 years of US support for Indonesian military occupation."


exiled East Timorese resistance leader and Nobel Laureate, Jose Ramos Horta casts his vote in East Timor elections.Of course recent history shows that New Zealand, as did Australia and the US, contributed significantly to a United Nations peace keeping force in East Timor. Successful elections have been held. And on May 20 East Timor becomes this century’s first new nation. That is a wonderful outcome for a country that has suffered and endured much.


But it would be wrong for people to forget the role that western nations - led by the United States and bolstered by nations like New Zealand - played in the invasion of 1975 and subsequent massacres like that and the Santa Cruz Cemetery in 1991. The policy of silence that New Zealand then supported, and the United States’ arming of the Indonesian military, allowed in large part the continued oppression of the people of East Timor. These are now brighter days. Lest we forget.


Mr. Stephen J. Woodhouse, during his tenure of duty in Indonesia (1995-1999), is considered to have rendered great services in improving and enhancing the good cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and UNICEF.




Subject: AFP - Australian journalist accuses Indonesia of Timor refugee crisis
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 20:24:23 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

Australian journalist accuses Indonesia of Timor refugee crisis

SYDNEY, Jan 29 (AFP) - An Australian freelance journalist Friday accused Indonesia of supporting paramilitary groups carrying out atrocities in East Timor and creating a refugee crisis.

Army-trained death squads operating in East Timor's southwest were systematically terrorising villagers and had forced thousands to seek refuge in the town of Suai, journalist John Martinkus told ABC Radio from Dili.

Martinkus said about 4,500 villagers from the region were now camped out in Suai, having fled paramilitary East Timorese supported by the Indonesian military.

"The paramilitaries are going from village to village, terrorising the villagers, beating some people, shooting their rifles in the air, those sorts of things," he said. "That's why you've got the refugee problem happening in Suai."

Martinkus' report from the East Timorese capital Friday was the first independent confirmation of recent atrocities in the former Portuguese colony's southwest.

It stood in stark contrast to this week's announcement by Indonesia that it may be willing to give East Timor the independence it has been fighting for since it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year.

East Timorese opposition leaders have charged 22 deaths in the Suai region were carried out by a army-backed group calling itself "Live or Die with Indonesia" in the last month.

Four people have been killed in the Suai region in the last week alone, according to Martinkus.

Three men were killed Monday in one village after they tried to flee when Indonesian soldiers surrounded the hamlet, he said. Their mutilated bodies were later put on display by the death squads in an effort to frighten villagers.

"Their object seems to be to create a climate of fear for whatever strategic purpose that is," said Martinkus, adding that Suai was full of terrified people.

He said a former member of a paramilitary death squad had told him he was recruited by Indonesian police in Suai and trained by Indonesian army officers in Dili.

The former member, who was in hiding and had fled before he could take part in any operations, told Martinkus he and his colleauges were provided with traditional Indonesian issue weapons and paid a wage.

"He was basically told they would be going into villages to flush out pro-referendum (on independence) elements who were causing trouble. That was what he said to me through a translator," Martinkus said.

The men in the paramilitary groups were mostly 18-25 and often illiterate, the journalist said. "They're recruited from some of the more remote areas basically with the promise of a job."

The East Timorese refugees in Suai were "absolutely terrified that the parmalitaries are going to overrun the camp," Martinkus said.

"They haven't tried at this point to move into Suai. But the people there believe it's inevitable."

Addressing journalists at the United Nations on Thursday, Indonesian UN delegate Nugroho Wisnumurti acknowledged the south-east Asian country viewed East Timorese independence as a "worst case scenario".

Jakarta considered the best possible option autonomy within Indonesia, he said.

Indonesia drew praise worldwide earlier this week when the government said it was prepared to give East Timor its independence.

Leaders of the East Timorese resistance greeted that announcement skeptically, saying they would need further proof of Indonesia's good intentions before they would believe Jakarta.

©AFP 1999


The Santa Cruz Massacre
November 12, 1991



"When film footage of the massacre at Santa Cruz*. was broadcast to audiences around the world it provoked a significant international outcry against the practices of the Indonesian military in Timor-Leste.... However, ... even in the face of strong international demands to bring those who had killed unarmed demonstrators to account, the institutional practices of ABRI/TNI provided the majority of perpetrators who were most responsible with effective impunity."
-- Chega! Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR)

News report on Santa Cruz massacre
TV news report on Santa Cruz massacre.

On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops fired upon a peaceful memorial procession to a cemetery in Dili, East Timor that had turned into a pro-independence demonstration. More than 271 East Timorese were killed that day at the Santa Cruz cemetery or in hospitals soon after. An equal number were disappeared and are believed dead. This massacre, unlike many others which occurred during the course of Indonesia's U.S.-backed occupation, was filmed and photographed by international journalists. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn, two U.S. reporters, were beaten during the massacre.

The Santa Cruz Massacre sparked the international solidarity movement for East Timor, including the founding of the East Timor Action Network, and was the catalyst for congressional action to stem the flow of U.S. weapons and other military assistance for Indonesia’s brutal security forces. Ali Alatas, former foreign minister of Indonesia, called the massacre a "turning point," which set in motion the events leading to East Timor's coming independence.

The people of East Timor now have their freedom and are an independent nation, but they have yet to see justice for decades human rights crimes inflicted on their people and country by the Indonesian military.


Casualties of the November 12, 1991 Massacre at Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili, East Timor
The attached lists were compiled by the Portuguese solidarity group "A Paz e Possivel em Timor-Leste" (Peace is Possible in East Timor). It was published in leading Portuguese newspapers in November, 1992. Jose Ramos-Horta described how the data was obtained:

"... has been compiled by 12 teams of East Timorese students, school teachers, priests, nuns, nurses, paramedics, hospital staff, workers a the morgues, totaling 72 researchers, working round the clock for three months, interviewing household members in each "bairro," immediately after 12 November 1991.

The preliminary report reached Lisbon in February and was handed over to two specialist groups in Portugal that have been investigating human rights abuses in East Timor for more than 10 years. A copy was channeled to Amnesty International for independent verification.

It took six months for mass of the detailed information sent from East Timor to be processed and analyzed. The researchers took extreme care in double-checking each piece of information."


Background and more

Read what East Timor's truth commission (CAVR) said about the massacre (PDF) (see pages 199-229)

Thousands commemorated the 17th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre with a march from the Motael Church to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. Many mourners carried photographs of loved ones who died or who disappeared on 12 November 1991. UNMIT Photo/Martine Perret.

The Age: Graves May Give Answers To Dili Massacre, also East Timor: Massacres and Miracles by Shirley Shackleton (April 2009)

ANTI: Chega Debate Points to the Cemetery Where the Santa Cruz Massacre Occurred (November 12, 2008)

Timorese families saddened by fruitless mass grave hunt (September 1, 2008)
In search of a mass grave near Dili (August 2008)
Spirits of the dead summoned to heal old wounds (August 2008)
In search of a mass grave near Dili (August 2008)

Timor's mass graves to be excavated (February 18, 2008)
Hope in hunt for graves of East Timor massacre (December 22, 2007)

Knowing Where the Bodies Are Buried. The Indonesian Generals -- and Putin -- Laugh, Allan Nairn (December 03, 2007)

Concern: Remembering the Santa Cruz massacre (Nov. 2007)

15th Anniversary of Massacre

ETAN: On 15th Anniversary of Timor Massacre Rights Network Calls for Justice; ETAN Urges Administration, New Congress to Support International Tribunal

Fifteen Years Later East Timor Massacre Victims Still Waiting for Justice By Ben Terrall and John M. Miller

Democracy Now!: 15 Years After East Timor Massacre, Calls for Accountability Continue (November 13th, 2006) Audio and video

The Wire: East Timor 15 years on from the Dili massacre Produced by Erica Vowles  (November 13th, 2006) Audio

Eyewitness Accounts

STL: Domingos Barreto jailed just for being at 12 November 1991 Demo (May 2008)

Amy Goodman's radio documentary Massacre: The Story of East Timor

Back From the Dead - a survivor interviewed

Senate Testimony of Allan Nairn - witness to the Santa Cruz massacre.

Excerpt from East Timor’s Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance by Constâncio Pinto and Matthew Jardine

Interview with Max Stahl

In 2005, EAAF carried out a preliminary mission to East Timor to begin an investigation into the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991 (PDF)

In 1994, a U.S. court issued a $14 million judgment against  General Sintong Panjaitan for his role in the massacre.

Tenth Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre Prompts Calls for Justice for East Timor

Coverage of 10th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre

Congressional Letters on 10th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre: House; Senate (11/29/01)

Death of an Activist - Kamal Bhamadhaj (May 2000)

A Mother’s Lament at the Ninth Anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre (and other video from the 9th anniversary remembrance events)

John Pilger on the massacre with photo and film clip

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!  and the Santa Cruz Massacre


Photos from November 1998 re-enactment

More on Justice and Human Rights page

Order video & audio documentaries with footage of the massacre

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