To mark the 20th anniversary of the infamous Santa Cruz Massacre, we present here a guide to recent commentary and some archival resources on this landmark event.
The shooting by Indonesian troops of an unknown number of unarmed Timorese demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili on 12 November 1991 was a watershed event in East Timor’s modern history.
While other massacres and much larger losses of life occurred in earlier years of Indonesian rule, the Santa Cruz Massacre became the iconic representation of the military occupation of East Timor.
The essential difference between this event and earlier crimes was that it was witnessed and recorded by independent (ie non-Timorese and non-Indonesian) reporters and other observers.
The impact of this event on East Timor’s future was decisive. In the words of former Indonesian foreign Minister Alatas, thereafter “international support for Indonesia’s position inexorably declined while that for the independence movement in East Timor markedly increased”. (2)
Long-term preservation of the documentary source materials is crucial to retaining for future generations a detailed knowledge and understanding of this event. Some of these documents may also serve justice if the perpetrators of the crimes on this day in 1991 ever face a proper and fair trial.
Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl – Timor-Leste (CAMS-TL)
British film maker Max Stahl’s dramatic video footage of the massacre was crucial to international knowledge of the event. Copies of the original footage and productions including key scenes are held at CAMS-TL in Dili.
The French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) houses copies of some Max Stahl Timor footage. INA provides sample sequences for viewing online – including the original Santa Cruz footage and subsequent interviews with survivors.
Some Stahl footage can be found on YouTube, including this low resolution sequence.
Resistance Archive & Museum (AMRT)
AMRT provides online access to vast numbers of digitised documents, including Santa Cruz material.
Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR)
The library and archives of Timor’s CAVR (now managed by a Post-CAVR Secretariat) hold original records on Santa Cruz, including eye-witness accounts. An account of the event and a guide to sources can be found in CAVR’s monumental 2005 report Chega!. See especially Chapter 3 (p.115ff) and Chapter 7 (p.199ff).
ACFOA Human Rights Office
The Human Rights office of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (now ACFID), headed by Pat Walsh, collected extensive materials on Santa Cruz during the course of its long-standing advocacy work for East Timorese justice and self-determination. CHART produces here for the first time a guide to the content of these files.
This collection of material remains in private hands but under CHART custody where it will be the focus of an extensive digitisation program in 2012 for easy access in Timor-Leste and elsewhere.
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
ETAN began in the USA in response to the Santa Cruz massacre and soon became a key reference point for international East Timor activism and advocacy.
Microfiche copies of some Santa Cruz material may be found in Jill Jolliffe’s archival collection. See pages 35-36 of the guide to her collection – The East Timor Question, 1975-1996.
The Jolliffe collection is held by a number of academic and major libraries in Australia and elsewhere.
National Archives of Australia (NAA)
NAA holds large volumes of material on East Timor. However access to its holdings are generally covered by a standard ‘closed period‘ of twenty to thirty years after the events documented. Santa Cruz files will not be open for access until 2016-17.
With the exception of documentary fragments held in collections outside Indonesia, we have no knowledge of accessible official or unofficial Santa Cruz records in Indonesia.
Other sources and commentary?
Here is a list of other instances, from disparate sources, of online Santa Cruz materials and commemorations of the 20th anniversary. More to be listed in coming days.
Forensic studies report (2010) by Soren Blau & Luis Fondbrider
Amnesty International Statement (2011-11-12)
La’o Hamutuk reflection (2011-11-12)
TSF Radio Noticias (Portugal) – includes some great still images of Santa Cruz events.
Sapo Noticias Timor-Leste (Portuguese language feature)
CAN YOU HELP?
If you know of other significant archival collections with Santa Cruz content, please advise us and we will add them to this guide.
(1) Martine Perret / UNMIT, 2008. See online source.
(2) Ali Alatas. The pebble in the shoe: the diplomatic struggle for East Timor. Aksara Karunia, Jakarta, 2006, p.64.