With so many massacres going on in various parts of the world , ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the November 12 , 1991 Santa Cruz Cemetery massacre of 270 pro-independence marchers by Indonesian troops held in the Timor Leste capital of Dili and in the Northern Territory capital , Darwin , received little coverage by the Australian media.
At the Dili ceremony was American journalist Allan Nairn who with fellow American reporter Amy Goodman were at the cemetery the day of the massacre . Nairn received a fractured skull when he threw himself over the top of Goodman to prevent her being beaten about the head by the rifle butts of the Indonesians .
In a live cross to Nairn by Amy Goodman who hosts Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour heard across more than 900 stations in North America , this is part of what he had to say about the slaughter re-enactment :
"...These were young people, many of whom were not born at the time of the massacre, or they were little kids. They played the part, the soldiers and the marchers, and they had studied their history. At the end of this pageant, it looked like it did on that day. That street, the actual street in front of the cemetery, was covered with bodies.
" But these bodies rose up. They started singing. People who were playing the soldiers came forward, they broke their guns. And the spirit was not solemn. It wasn’t mourning. There was crying, but it was like a celebration of power. People often make the mistake of underestimating their own power. That was not the atmosphere here. People were celebrating it, because what the Timorese actually did after the real Dili massacre was they sparked an international movement.
" In the U.S., we were able, through grassroots pressure, to get the Congress to cut off U.S. military aid to the Indonesian military one step at a time, and eventually ended the occupation of Timor. They won their independence.
"It also brought down the dictator, Suharto, of Indonesia, because when the Indonesians themselves rose in rebellion against him in Jakarta in '98, he looked into the faces of those Indonesian protesters, and he imagined he saw the eyes of the Timorese. He was afraid, if he opened fire on the—on his own protesters, his remaining U.S. aid would be cut off.
"His security man told me later they specifically feared it would be another Santa Cruz, that they'd pay too heavy of a price, because the Timorese had already made them pay a price. So Suharto trembled, he hesitated, and he fell, because the people in Jakarta were emboldened. They kept coming out in the streets in waves, and they ended that dictatorship.
"And all this radiated from the actions of the East Timorese, who on that morning seemed like they were crushed..."
(Footage of the 1991 massacre was smuggled out through Darwin and shocked the world , resulting in the US cutting off military aid to Indonesia and eventually independence .)
Amy Goodman has been in Dakota recently covering the protest by the Sioux about the pipeline being run across their territory and officials there have charged her in what is seen as an attempt to stop reporters doing their job .
Participating in the Darwin anniversary , part of which was held at the cemetery and attended by members of the large Timorese community , was agronomist Robert Wesley-Smith, a longtime activist for East Timor from 1975 .