Constancio Pinto Press Conference with Rep. Cynthia
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all allow me to express my profound gratitude to Rep. Cynthia McKinney for introducing this Bill. I also would like to thank the co-sponsors of this important bill. This bill, is another strong message for General Suharto that the United States Congress will not tolerate the rampant human rights violation in Indonesia and in East Timor as a result of his ruthless and corrupt government.
My name is Constancio Pinto. I am Timorese. I was born and raised in East Timor, half an island in Southeast Asia. East Timor was brutally occupied by Indonesian army in 1975. As the direct result of the invasion and illegal occupation of East Timor more than 250,000 people, proportionately a third of the population of the Island, have died. The invasion of East Timor and the illegal occupation of East Timor was an act of aggression that violated International law and the United Nations resolutions 1415 (XV) which strongly observed the right to self-determination of every people under colonial rule. Ten UN resolutions have called on Indonesia to withdraw its troops from East Timor and respect the right to self determination and independence of the people of East Timor.
I was 12 years old at the time when Indonesia invaded East Timor. For the first three weeks of the invasion more than 60,000 civilians of different ethnic groups
(Timorese, Chinese, Portuguese, and Australians ) and different ages (including children and old men and women) were killed. They were killed inside their houses, they were dropped into the ocean and they were dropped alive from helicopters. Children were smashed against the walls, women were raped in front of their families and killed afterward. I survived the massacre and escaped into the jungle with my parents. In the jungle we faced tremendous suffering, mass slaughter and starvation perpetrated by the Indonesian army. Almost three years, we were bombed by the Indonesian army from the air with bronco OV10 fighter planes, from the sea, and constant attack from the land. As a result there were food shortages. People had to eat wild leaves of trees, roots and wild beans that needed to be cooked for seven times before eat. As a result hundreds o people die of starvation and malnutrition. I survived the starvation and mass killings perpetrated by the Indonesian army. Like many other young Timorese, my life has been greatly affected by the Indonesian invasion.
In 1978, I was arrested by the Indonesian army battalion 410 where we were taking into the concentration camps. We were the lucky ones because we were arrested alive. Nonetheless living condition in the concentration camp were very dire. In the Concentration camp there was no right to free speech and assembly. People who gathered in a group of two or three were often subjected to arrest and disappearance. The people were only allow to have three cups of rice for a week and nothing else. There was no cooking oil, salt and vegetables. In addition people live a situation of terror. People's houses were searched every day, arbitrary arrest, torture, such as people faces sliced with razor blades, finger and tow nails pulled out with pliers during the interrogation and women were raped in front of their husbands and children.
I also have direct experience with torture. In 1991, at the age of 28 years old, I was arrested by the Indonesian police and intelligence and I was tortured from 9 o'clock in the morning until 1 o'clock in the morning of the next day. The torture was immeasurable. They kicked my stomach and my knees with boots; they punched my head and pointed the gun at my head and threatened to kill me and all of my family. The intensity of torture was beyond human understanding. Even though they saw I was bleeding everywhere from my nose, my mouth and my ears, they still tortured me. At one point, two of the Indonesian special forces, the KOPASSUS threatened to throw me alive into the sea. This method of torture is one among many systematic methods of torture carried out by the Indonesian special forces, KOPASSUS. This unit is one of the worst Indonesian armed forces in East Timor. They are the ones who tortured me and who continue to do so to other Timorese.
Today, the Indonesian army views the danger as coming from the students of East Timor and Indonesia. All peaceful actions and freedom of speech and assembly are considered politically dangerous. Thus, peaceful actions by students lead to military repression. One prominent example of this repression was the Santa Cruz massacre which occurred in 1991 where more than 271 East Timorese were gunned down in cold blood by the Indonesian military using U.S. military equiptment. Those who were wounded were taken into hospitals and later some of their heads were smashed with rocks and others were given injected with lethal injection. More than a hundred people were killed this way. Until today, there has not been an independent investigation of the massacre. A more recent example is the killing of the six Indonesian students during a peaceful demonstration in Jakarta last week, and the continuing military crack down on peaceful demonstrators.
To conclude, I would like to reiterate that the United States should end all of its military training and weapons transfers to the Indonesian military, the brutal soldiers who continue to back the Suharto dictatorship and to kill peaceful protestors. The United States should also support democracy in Indonesia and self-determination for East Timor.