This November 12 marks the fifth anniversary of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in Dili. On that and following days several hundred innocent East Timorese civilians were murdered by the brutal Indonesian troops which have illegally occupied our country for the last 21 years.
Since 1975 the people of East Timor have been subjected to many massacres which the Indonesian military could deny. Again this time, their response was one of deceit and pretense that nothing had happened. Yet the world was deeply shocked by the images of the cold blooded murder that took place on that November day, shown on international television thanks to the courage of journalist Max Stahl. The Indonesian authorities, forced to acknowledge that an incident' had taken place, tried to offer excuses devoid of credibility. They continue doing this to this day when their brutality in East Timor is reported. Most foreign governments, keen on their lucrative business ties with Indonesia have so far tried to protect the Suharto dictatorship from criticism, despite ample evidence about the genocidal nature of the occupation of East Timor, and the clear signs of dissatisfaction of the oppressed people of Indonesia itself.
The Santa Cruz massacre which we remember today was a turning point in the struggle of the East Timorese people for their right of self-determination and independence. The outrage and revulsion it produced led to the development of an international support movement to expose the up to then little known East Timor reality. Over the next five years the international East Timor solidarity movement, in close cooperation with the East Timorese leadership abroad and many others such as journalists, academics, parliamentarians, and Churches, have made huge advances in promoting the East Timor cause internationally. These campaigns have also helped the world to become aware of the oppression of the Indonesian people by the military backed Suharto dictatorship. Even formerly cautious governments are finally starting to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation in East Timor and Indonesia.
The major turning point for the East Timor campaign after Santa Cruz came recently with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to our people though Bishop Belo and myself, marking the beginning of a new phase in our struggle. This prestigious distinction is meant as an expression of recognition of the legitimacy of our cause, and a reminder to the international community that steps need to be urgently taken to resolve the East Timor problem. Our present challenge is to make the best use of this high mark of recognition to fulfill the hopes of the Nobel Committee that the prize will assist the resolution of the East Timor issue, bringing peace, freedom and justice to our people.
On this fifth anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, I pray for those whose lives were so brutally and unjustifiedly ended. They were mostly young and full of hope for a future of freedom and peace. I also wish to remember the many martyrs of East Timor who lost their lives throughout all these years that have followed. Unfortunately, their numbers have not diminished. Almost every day sad news about arbitrary arrests, torture and murder of innocent civilians by the Indonesian military reach the outside world.
On this important day, I call on you to enter with renewed vigour into the new phase of our campaign for freedom from oppression and the right of self determination and independence for the people of East Timor which has just begun.
I call on governments to take note and start decisive action on the unsustainable situation facing our people and our brothers and sisters in Indonesia. An international concerted effort is required to bring an end to the excesses of the oppressive and corrupt Indonesian regime, and to guarantee the East Timorese the enjoyment of their right of self-determination. Only by addressing the root causes, namely the injustices that have been allowed to prevail for too long, will a genuine and peaceful solution for the East Timor problem be found.
On this solemn day of remembrace let us pause and reflect. Let us remember all those who have lost their lives in this unnecessary conflict, and those who are at present deprived of freedom. Let us share our thoughts with the great leader of the East Timorese people, Xanana Gusmao, and renew our efforts to seek his prompt release from prison, together with all others illegally deprived of freedom by the Indonesian regime.
With respect for those who lost their lives to bring freedom to East Timor, let us advance in confidence to our victory for peace, knowing that justice is on our side!
New York, 12 November 1996
ETISC -East Timor International Support Center
GPO Box 2155 Darwin Australia 2155