E. Timorese Honor Massacre Martyrs
Nov. 12, 1999
DILI, East Timor (AP) _ With sorrow and pride, the people of East Timor on Friday honored the memory of more than 200 young people shot down at a peaceful protest in 1991 that drew attention to the brutality of Indonesian rule.
It was the first time the anniversary could be commemorated in East Timor without fear of retaliation.
``Sacrifice is necessary for independence,'' East Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo told 10,000 people at a Mass.
Belo described as martyrs and heroes the young people who were killed by the Indonesian soldiers. ``Many have died, especially the youth,'' he said at a church in Dili, East Timor's capital. ``They represent the hope of East Timor.''
The East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum Aug. 30. The last Indonesian troops left in October and Jakarta turned over the territory for the United Nations to administer until it is ready for self-rule.
The 1991 massacre at Santa Cruz Cemetery was a watershed event in Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, which began in 1975.
Until then, atrocities committed in the territory by Indonesian authorities were barely noticed by the outside world because Indonesia limited access to the region.
The killings at Santa Cruz, however, were witnessed by several foreign journalists, one of whom videotaped the event and smuggled out the footage, giving the incident international exposure.
The people massacred at the cemetery were mainly students and youths who were making a calculated political protest by attending the funeral of a comrade killed by Indonesian soldiers.
The soldiers opened fire without warning, and the most reliable independent estimate is that 271 people died. Scores of others were detained and tortured afterward and disappeared, apparently put to death.
Pedro de Oliviera, a survivor, recalled how his friends were killed. He was wounded but managed to escape.
``They didn't just shoot. They used knives to cut people up in Santa Cruz,'' de Oliviera said. ``I'm sad today, but this happened so we could have independence. They died for us.''
Mourners followed a somber Mass with a march to the cemetery along the same route taken by the young activists before the massacre.
At the cemetery the mourners paid their respects at the grave of Sebastiao Gomes, the young man whose slaying inspired the 1991 march.