Subject: AFP: Thousands commemorate Dili cemetery massacre

Agence France Presse November 12, 2000, Sunday

Thousands commemorate Dili cemetery massacre Bronwyn Curran

DILI, Nov 12

Thousands of East Timorese clutching flowers and photos followed independence leader Xanana Gusmao in a procession here Sunday to commemorate a massacre in the city's Santa Cruz cemetery, nine years ago.

On November 12, 1991 Indonesian soldiers opened fire on protestors in the cemetery, killing what activists say was more than 200 people, while the Indonesian military put the official figure at between 50 and 60.

Video footage of the cemetery attack was broadcast around the world and drew international attention to the brutal oppression that East Timorese were living under during Indonesia's 24 rule over their half-island territory.

An estimated 250,000 East Timorese lost their lives opposing Indonesia's rule, according to human rights activists, and on August 30 last year their struggle was won when 78.5 percent of the population voted to break away from Indonesia in a UN-held ballot there.

The price for last year's independence vote was at least 600 lives and the flattening of the territory when Jakarta-backed militia launched a wave of arson, looting, destruction and killing.

Fourteen months later Dili is still a shell of a city, with gutted buildings, piles of rubble, rusting corrugated iron, and burnt out homes still waiting repair lining its streets.

But with the city's new freedom more than 2,000 people were able to congregate at the white-washed Motael church on Dili's waterfront for a 90-minute mass to mark the ninth anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre.

Crowds spilled out from the churchyard onto the waterfront park, where teenage boys knelt in prayer, girls clutched sprays of bougainvillea and hibiscus, and relatives carried wreath-encircled photos of the missing and the dead.

Gusmao held a cross of red bougainvillea leaves as he led the procession out of the churchyard on a slow march to the cemetery several kilometers away.

More crowds lining the streets fell in behind him, reciting prayers, singing quiet hymns, and swelling the procession to around 10,000 by the time it reached the cemetery, witnesses there said.

Attending the service by Nobel peace laureate, Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo was fellow laureate Jose Ramos Horta, now the territory's foreign minister.

"This is the first time I'm here on the anniversary of that massacre," said Horta, who lived in exile in Portugal and Australia during Indonesian rule.

"Now it is commemorated in peace and freedom and security with no fear. That alone is a dramatic difference," he said.

"I have a heavy heart, but I am still incredibly happy with the fact that against all expectations, against all predictions, East Timor is free."

He said killings continued after the massacre, bringing the total dead to around 500.

"Based on information from the church, from Bishop Belo, from the resistance, at least about 500 died on the day of the massacre and in the following days.

"It did not stop at the cemetery, it did not stop on that particular day."

Carrying photos in the procession were relatives of people who disappeared many years before the Santa Cruz massacre.

"When I was seven years old I saw two soldiers take my 20-year-old brother away," Augusto Xavier said.

"For 20 years we've had no news on whether he's dead, or buried, or injured, or still living."

She said her brother's kidnappers, East Timorese soldiers recruited by the Indonesian military, are now living in West Timor, where they fled last year with the pro-Jakarta militia.

"If they want to come back here they have to bring my brother back first," she said. "I'm not interested in asking them where he is, I want him back. Or if he's dead they must show us his bones," Xavier said.

Theo Gauzio de Fatimo Lobato carried his missing father's photograph.

"He disappeared on the 19th of September in 1983. Indonesian soldiers took him into the forest, and he's never returned."

"He was still young then, he'd only be middle aged now," Lobato said.

"I'm still so angry. Sure, we can have reconcilation. But in my heart I am full of pain."


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