August 17, 2001
Open Letter to WBAI and Pacifica
The East Timor Action Network/U.S., a grassroots human rights organization working in solidarity with the people of East Timor for over a decade, is deeply disturbed and troubled by comments attributed to some WBAI staff asserting that no massacre occurred in East Timor on November 12, 1991, that Amy Goodman was not present, or that she misrepresented her role. We know these to be falsehoods and to give them any credence is to both deny history and to slander a courageous journalist.
While ETAN first heard reports of such remarks months ago, we initially chose to ignore them. They were so outrageous and incredible, we assumed that no one would believe them. Unfortunately, for some hatred or jealousy of Amy seems to know no bounds. These petty, vituperative individuals are willing to deny history, attack one of the U.S.'s finest journalists and sully the memory of East Timorese victims of Indonesian military barbarism.
Now, as the premier East Timor solidarity organization in the U.S., we feel compelled to defend the memory of those killed during the Santa Cruz massacre, which even its perpetrators have acknowledged occurred. This massacre, like many others, occurred during the course of Indonesia's U.S.-backed occupation. And yes, for those who would deny it, Indonesia did invade East Timor in 1975 and killed hundreds of thousands. And no, the East Timorese people did not welcome the invasion.
As a public service to any one wishing to confirm for themselves the events of November 12, 1991, we provide the following, only the tip of a very large iceberg of evidence
* On February 29, 2000, Indonesia's president Abdurahim Wahid visited East Timor. He laid wreathes at the Santa Cruz cemetery and the Indonesian military cemetery across the street, saying, "I would like to apologize for the sins that have happened in the past, to the victims or the families of Santa Cruz and those friends who are buried in the military cemetery. These are the victims of circumstances that we didn't want."
* The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions investigated the Santa Cruz killings while visiting Indonesia and East Timor from 3 to 13 July 1994. He reported (E/CN.4/1995/61) that Indonesian troops opened fire on the crowd and that the "shooting continued for between 5 and 15 minutes," followed by "further shooting, beating and stabbing." Additional people were killed on the way to and at hospitals.
* On October 27, 1994, a US District Court judge in Boston ordered Indonesian General Panjaitan to pay $14 million in damages to the mother of a 19-year-old student who was among the victims of the 1991 massacre.
* Filmmaker Max Stahl's documentary footage of the massacre -- which he had buried in a freshly dug grave to avoid seizure by Indonesian authorities -- was broadcast throughout the world in 1991. It is available in the following documentaries Cold Blood (Yorkshire Television), Death of a Nation (Carlton TV), Punitive Damage (Occasional Productions, New Zealand). All are available from ETAN
* Ali Alatas, Indonesia's former foreign minister and chief apologist for the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, acknowledged that his job became much more difficult "because of the Santa Cruz Incident in November 1991. That was a turning point in our diplomacy over the East Timor issue. Pictures were circulated abroad showing our soldiers shooting protesters and beating up reporters. Since then, international political support had been on the wane." (Tempo Magazine, Sept 18 - 24, 2000, Ali Alatas 'Santa Cruz Incident a turning point in our diplomacy.')
* East Timorese organizations, at great risk, clandestinely did a survey of those killed, injured and missing during the massacre. The results were distributed by the group A Paz e Possivel em Timor-Leste (Peace is Possible in East Timor) in November 1992. They listed 271 killed, 278 wounded, 103 hospitalized; 270 "disappeared". Real people, shot by real bullets, really dead.
As to Amy's presence at Santa Cruz on November 12, 1991, numerous ETAN members, journalists and members of Congress have spoken to independent witnesses and victims of the Indonesian military assault on peaceful mourners at the cemetery. All have remarked on Amy Goodman's and Allan Nairn's presence that day and confirm aspects of their accounts. For years, these witnesses have also testified they saw Indonesian soldiers firing on unarmed civilians and that large numbers of people were killed or injured.
If this is not convincing enough, we are at a loss. As with Holocaust deniers, some, for their own small-minded reasons, will continue to deny such atrocities and slander those who report them.
ETAN will continue to address the daunting challenges facing the East Timorese, even as their country moves towards full independence (thanks in no small part to the reporting of journalists like Amy Goodman). We urge all who wish to support East Timor to join ETAN in campaigning for an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for massacres like Santa Cruz; for the safe return of tens of thousands of refugees who remain at the mercy of armed militia in Indonesian West Timor; and for an East Timor that controls its own destiny.
In a November 3, 2000 letter to the Pacifica board and management, we urged that Amy be allowed to do her job free of the petty harassment that for too long has characterized Pacifica management's treatment of her. We cited her "courageous and insightful reporting" and its influence on the creation of ETAN and changing U.S. foreign policy. We noted that "More Americans have learned about East Timor, and about the U.S. role in arming Indonesia, from Amy's reporting than from any other source." Pacifica never responded to our letter, and as this week's pulling Democracy Now! off the air demonstrates, it is unwilling to cease its campaign against Amy and her colleagues.
For that reason, we urge current Pacifica and WBAI management to resign and allow the restoration of a Pacifica Network which will fully support journalists who, in Amy's own words, "go where the silence is, and say something."
John M. Miller