Subject: SCMP: Santa Cruz Massacre Woke Up the World

South China Morning Post May 20, 2002

Santa Cruz massacre woke up the world


The moment when the world woke up to the travesty of Indonesia's occupation of East Timor was November 12, 1991 - the day Indonesian soldiers opened fire on a peaceful crowd of mourners at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili.

Back in Jakarta, Indonesians who wanted to find out what was conducted in their name could read only a weekly magazine, Jakarta Jakarta, which offered news coverage alongside a juicy mix of models and entertainment.

Its editor, Seno Gumira Ajidarma, took the calculated risk of publishing eyewitness reports of Indonesian soldiers finishing off gunshot victims with rifle-butt blows to their heads. His reports spoke of victims forced to drink the blood of fallen friends, of young men being stripped naked and beaten, with pens rammed into their genitals, forced to watch friends stabbed to death by soldiers.

For this temerity, he was sacked by his own publishers, the Kompas media group, which was fearful of military repercussions in the highly controlled Suharto era.

Mr Ajidarma's decision to publish was pioneering for those times in Indonesia.

Recalling his decision to publish the truth about Santa Cruz, Mr Ajidarma first jokes that he needed something to fill a hole in his magazine.

But it soon transpires he knew well what he was doing - just as he did seven years later when he published reports of the anti-Chinese attacks and rapes of 1998 in Jakarta.

"I felt if I, who was so far away, had to take such risks already, what could it have been like for the East Timorese?" he said. He is glad that East Timor is now achieving its goal of independence, even though the price paid in widespread poverty is high.

"I was happy when East Timor won its referendum [in 1999], but so many other Indonesians regret it. There is a heavy sense of something lost. This is the internalisation of the propaganda of the Suharto Government.

"It's not the fault of individual Indonesians who never found any information in their newspapers," he said. Most did not know about the torture until he told them about it, he added.

"Even now, many Indonesians don't really care [about independence for East Timor]; only the military and some politicians try to make an issue out of it. Soldiers really regret the loss of East Timor, that is something concrete."

It was easy for the international community to express outrage at the Santa Cruz massacre. It knew that at least 50 civilians were killed, about 100 seriously injured and another hundred disappeared. One of the seven foreigners present was killed but the others immediately left and showed the world a video of what happened.

The generals denied any wrongdoing in what they still call "the incident", then offered a few scapegoats through the admittedly unprecedented device of an independent rights investigation from Jakarta.

But that was all as a sop to international opinion. Indonesians have good reason to shy away from probing the recent past too much.

"It goes back to the trauma of 1965 [when at least half a million alleged communists were massacred by army-backed civilians to bring Suharto to power].

"Every family in Indonesia lost someone or knows someone who did, and we couldn't talk about that for 32 years.

"Then when the time comes to speak, we only know the language of violence - we were killed and so we kill," Mr Ajidarma said.

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