Companion to East Timor - Crackdown after the Santa Cruz massacre

Crackdown after the Santa Cruz massacre

Inside East Timor, Indonesian authorities arrested clandestine leaders including Filomeno da Silva, Francisco Branco, Jacinto Alves, Juvencio Martins, Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha, Simplicio Celestino de Deus, Filomeno Gomes, Fernando Tilman, Renilde Guterres and others. They were tried in Dili, where their lawyers were intimidated and obstructed. They received long prison sentences. The police and military raided schools with a reputation for resistance activity: the Paul VI Catholic Junior High School, the Externato school and the Sao Jose Secondary School in Dili, the Fatumeta Junior High School IV and the Joao Bosco school in Baucau, and others were all targeted. The authorities arrested many youths and sent them away in February 1992, when UN envoy Amos Wako visited the territory.

Approximately 100 East Timorese students who were studying in Indonesian universities held a peaceful protest after the massacre. They displayed banners and attempted to deliver petitions to the office of the United Nations in Jakarta. Indonesian civil society groups, though small in number, were shocked by the massacre and took steps to defend the protestors. They joined the protestors outside the UN Office in Jakarta, and were themselves arrested and interrogated. According to a foreign eyewitness, 'the petitioners then proceeded to the Japanese and Australian embassies, where the gates were closed on them. Arrests followed.' Seventy-one of the student protestors were arrested and detained in the national police headquarters in Jakarta. Indonesian intelligence personnel who had flown in from East Timor interrogated them for three days. Police then arrested six more clandestine members in Bali: Fernando de Araujo (the secretary-general of Renetil) and Jose Pompeia, Anito Matos, Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Jose Paulo and Clemente Soares.

Forty-nine of the 71 students were released after signing a statement in which they apologized to President Suharto and declared their loyalty to Indonesia. They did so merely in order to continue their resistance work; they realized that the independence campaign would be harmed if they were all imprisoned. Those who did not sign remained in detention at the central police station. The Indonesian authorities identified Joao Freitas da Camara and Fernando de Araujo as the ringleaders. They were detained in poor conditions, with bad food, poor hygiene and strict isolation. Despite this, they accepted their predicament 'with peace and serenity. They did not respond to attempts made to get them to change their position,' according to an individual familiar with their situation.

Four days after the protests, 12 Indonesian university student councils signed a petition in Bandung in defence of the protestors. This was done as a result of the leadership of the Yogyakarta Students Association. The petition went so far as to call for an act of self-determination and the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor.1 A team of lawyers from the Indonesian Association of Advocates and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation formed the Joint Committee for East Timor in order to coordinate the legal defence of Joao Freitas da Camara and Fernando de Araujo, both of whom were charged with subversion and subsidiary criminal offences. Although the lawyers were subjected to obstruction and intimidation, they represented the defendants with courage and distinction. Both defendants were nevertheless found guilty of subversion. Freitas da Camara received a sentence of ten years while de Araujo received nine. The other defendants, Virgilio Guterres, Agapito Cardoso and Domingos Barreto, were convicted of crimes against the public order and sentenced to lesser terms in prison.

Indonesia launched an operation to capture key figures in the armed resistance. They were able to capture Mau Hodu Ran Kadalak (Jose da Costa), the political advisor to Falintil's chief of staff, on 23 January 1992. A year after the Santa Cruz massacre, they captured the commander of the resistance, Xanana Gusmao.


1George Aditjondro, Menyongsong Matahari Terbit di Puncak Ramelau. (Jakarta: Yayasan Hak and Fortilos, 2000: 251).