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Protesters attacked at Santa Cruz cemetery

Green Left Weekly - April 13, 2005

Max Lane – Around 200 East Timorese protesters were attacked on April 9 by police, including special branch paramilitary forces. The protesters had gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery, the site of a 1991 protest where participants were massacred by Indonesian military, to commemorate the massacre and protest the East Timorese governments invitation to Indonesian President Yudhoyono to visit the country. Yudhoyono was scheduled to visit Santa Cruz cemetery.

The police stated that the demonstrators had no permit for a protest, although a law requiring such permits had not yet been passed by parliament. After the police seized banners and forced the protest to disperse, the activists relocated to the offices of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST). The police and members of the rapid response unit then surrounded the PST offices. PST secretary-general of the PST, Avelino de Silva, told Green Left Weekly during the stand-off that he had tried three times to enter his office but had been stopped.

Other sources have told GLW that East Timorese government representatives had visited the PST offices earlier in the morning and ordered that there be no protests against Yudhoyonos visit.

From inside the office, students and youth from activist non-government organisations and from the Socialist Youth Organisation draped a banner that read: No impunity Justice for the victims.

Speaking from inside, Tomas Freitas, from the Lao Hamatuk organisation, told GLW reporters in Darwin that the demonstration was protesting against the East Timorese governments policy of reconciliation with the Indonesian government, because it involved dropping the demand for an international tribunal to judge human rights violators during the period of the Indonesian occupation.

Democracy is dead in East Timor, Avelino told GLW. In Jakarta you can demonstrate against SBY [Yudhoyono], but they have made him a god here. They have allowed no banners anywhere protesting SBYs visit, but have forced people to put up welcome banners everywhere. When people gathered outside our office just a while ago, they too were dispersed by force.

The blockade around the PST office was maintained until Yudhoyono left East Timor. On April 9, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website carried an Agence France Press report that claimed: A planned protest during Dr Yudhoyono's visit to the cemetery with East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta did not materialise. Instead, he has been greeted warmly by about 100 East Timorese, some of whom shook his hand.