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Remains of 12 Santa Cruz victims finally returned to families for burial

Dili Weekly - November 18, 2016

Paulina Quintao – The November 12 Committee has worked with the government to identify the remains of 12 people killed in the Santa Cruz massacre 25 years ago.

The remains have now been returned to the families for burial according to Timorese tradition.

Committee President Gregorio Saldanha said many of those who died in the Santa Cruz massacre were still unaccounted for.

Sixty-eight people are registered as missing, with the remains of 12 people returned to their families and another two which have yet to undergo DNA testing.

He said it was difficult task as it was not easy for people to provide information about the final resting place of those who died.

"It is time for the government to approach the Indonesian government to reveal the gravesites of all heroes who died in the war [for independence], especially those who died in the massacre of November 12 (1991)," he said at official commemorations marking the 25th anniversary of the massacre and the 11th National Day of Youth at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili.

He said the remains of 10 people killed during other incidents were also recently discovered. The remains are currently being stored at the National Hospital and are awaiting DNA testing.

He said the committee continued to work with the government and families to locate the remains of those who died fighting for Timor's independence.

He also called on anyone with information about the final resting place of victims to come forward so that they could receive a proper burial.

Hundreds of young people died on November 12, 1991 after being shot by Indonesian forces during a peaceful demonstration while marching from Motael church to Santa Cruz cemetery.

The demonstration was triggered after Indonesian forces attacked demonstrators in at Motael church on October 28, 1991, killing pro-independence activist Sebastiao Gomes.

During official commemorations, President Taur Matan Ruak, thanked the families of the dead on behalf of the state for the sacrifice made by their sons and daughters.

"Thank you for your generosity, we will not forget you, your country will not forget you, [and] to generation after will remember you because your sons and daughters are Timor's heroes," he said.

Although the Santa Cruz massacre sparked international attention and shone a spotlight on human rights violations in Timor-Leste, he said a number of other massacres like Cararas also occurred during Indonesian occupation.

The President used the historical day to call for survivors to join together to fight for people's well-being as although the country now had its independence, many Timorese continue to live in poverty.

Meanwhile, local youth Juvinal Soares said the government had an obligation to locate the remains of all people who died for their country and are still unaccounted for, not just those who died on November 12, 1991.

"I think it is the state's obligation to find out the grave of the heroes and give them a proper place for burial because they died defending the country not because they were sick," he said.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/news/14184-remains-of-12-santa-cruz-victims-finally-returned-to-families-for-burial