Subject: LUSA: Common Past Recalled at Santa Cruz Cemetery

04 Sep 01 15:36 East Timor: Common Past Recalled at Santa Cruz Cemetery

The second anniversary of the announcement of results of East Timor's 1999 independence plebiscite was marked Tuesday by a gathering at the symbolic Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili to reflect on "the past that belongs to us all".

Around a hundred people congregated in a small chapel at the cemetery, scene of a 1991 massacre of peaceful protesters by Indonesian occupation troops. However, the priest conducting the religious ceremony and subsequent homage to those who died in the struggle against Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias stressed that the common past was also one of hope and pride.

Father Joao Felgueiras also urged young people not to forget their origins. "Bring your children here and show them what the history of these heroes is", he said.

Also present was the Frelitin party secretary general, Mari Alkatiri, who declined partisan commentary, recalling instead the common past of the resistance.

"History doesn't belong to anyone, it belongs to all the people", Alkatiri stated.

Meanwhile, outside the cemetery, by a small fire that burnt in memory of the fallen, a child provided a brief and simple summary of the half-island's past. "East Timor, tiny country but brave", the child read from the first lines of a poem.

UN officials announced two years ago the results of the August 30, 1999, plebiscite in which the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence, leading to the end of the 24-year Indonesian occupation. However, the weeks immediately after the results were announced were marked by a campaign of terror and devastation conducted by anti-independence militias backed by the Indonesian military.

East Timor has since 1999 been governed by a UN transition administration (UNTAET) mandated to oversee the transition to full independence, now expected in the first half of next year.

Last Thursday, on the second anniversary of the plebiscite, East Timorese voters went to the polls to elect the 88 members of a future Constituent Assembly.

CJB -Lusa-

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