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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Jose Ramos-Horta

Interviewed January 8, 2010

In November ´91– the Indonesian Army– perpetrated– one of the one worst massacres in Timor-Leste. It was not the only one. It was one of many, many massacres. Some of the massacres that occurred here, from day one, December 7, 1975, many more people were killed then. Many people were killed throughout the country with– bombs, like in Matibia Mountain (PH)– they used napalm– or in Craras (PH) when an entire village was wiped out.

The difference is the Santa Cruz massacre in November seventy– November ´91 at Santa Cruz cemetery, there was a courageous cameraman there who film everything. He buried the film to avoid Indonesian confiscating it. At night, he went back to cemetery and recover it. And it became headline all over the world.

That was a turning point. But as it happened with many other situations, the world would continue on business as usual. Because how long can people retain images or emotions in their mind? It can be a few days, can be a few weeks maximum. Someone die, everybody– honor, everybody go to funeral, visuals all over. But it always happen. A few days later, a few weeks later, who remember?

So, our task at the time– and I said in Portugal during an interview press conference that, “We are not going to allow this to be forgotten.” So we increase our work and the images of the massacre, of course, helped. But the most important turning point– was the Nobel Peace Prize in– ´96.

That was the single most important event that put Timor-Leste on the map around the world. But even that maybe would not have been enough. Soon after the ´96 Nobel Peace Prize came the economic financial crisis in– ´97, ´98, came the change of regime. The Santa Cruz massacre, the Nobel Peace Prize, the financial economic crisis in ´96, ´97, ´97, ´98– this is what– the combination of this brought about– paved the way for the change of– government policies around the world.

But particularly, it showed the Indonesian side that Timor-Leste was too costly, is not worth. But equally for a country as proud of Indonesia, because let´s have no illusions either. The Indonesian side change also because of w– the way Indonesia. It´s a very proud country. Even during the Suharto time, Suharto was not an isolationist. He opened the doors of Indonesia to the rest of the world. He wanted to develop the country.

He allow in– foreign visitors. They had very busy diplomatic agenda. Indonesia was a member of the non-allied movement, of the Islamic Conference. They always tried to– get elected into U.N.– bodies. There was a lot of– foreign embassies there, international business. If Indonesia were like– Burma, under Ne Win and the military, who closed up the moment they took over in the ´60s, if Indonesia were like North Korea, well, I guarantee you that a Nobel Peace Prize would not make a difference to them. The Santa Cruz massacre would not make a difference to them.

Look at the– the Burma situation. Aung San Suu Kyi got the Nobel Peace Prize. There had been massacres in the street in Rangoon. And what? The regime is still there. Can anyone go and invade and liberate the Burmese people? Well, so, when we analyze our situation and each– specific situation, we have– to– be very realistic, pragmatic and– adjust our struggle to our– environment, to our specific situation.