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SANTA CRUZ CEMETERY

Graveyards seem to be everywhere in East Timor. They can be seen in the front yards of residential compounds, in the middle of farmlands and cemeteries as in this picture. Three common items can be found on a grave; a bible, a photograph of the departed, and plastic flowers.

October 28, 1991.

Sebastiao Gomes, a young pro-independence activist, was killed by Indonesian police at Motael Church in Dili.

Three weeks later, November 12, 1991.

For the fist time since Indonesia occupied East Timor in 1975, the Portuguese parliamentarians were due to visit the country. Although the visit was eventually cancelled due to strong objection from Indonesian government, the Timorese decided to proceed with a pro- independence march, in view of the unusual presence of a number of journalists who had come in secret to cover the parliamentary visit. The march took place on November 12 after a 6:00 am Mass at the Motael Church. The marchers, with banners in hands, consisting of some 2000 youth aged mainly between 14 and 25, wound their way through the town, past the Governor's office and stopped at the Santa Cruz Cemetery. As announcements made for the ceremony of prayers and flower-laying that was to take place inside the cemetery, automatic rifle fire broke out, and for 2 to 3 minutes, soldiers "under orders from their officers" fired directly into the crowd. The cemetery was surrounded, and people, hiding behind tombstones or fleeing in any direction, were chased by soldiers, who brutally beat and shot many. This tragedy became the catalyst for intense international attention towards East Timor.