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East Timor Minister Constâncio Pinto Reflects on 25th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre

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While covering the United Nations climate summit, we speak with Constâncio Pinto, minister of commerce, industry and environment of Timor-Leste, or East Timor. East Timor was compared to Western Sahara for decades. Both countries were occupied in 1975, Timor by Indonesia and Western Sahara by Morocco. Both populations supported U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for referenda for self-determination, which Timor got in 1999 and voted overwhelmingly to become independent. The people of Western Sahara, however, are still calling for that referendum to take place. Minister Constâncio Pinto just came from East Timor, where on November 12 he was involved in the 25th anniversary observance of the Santa Cruz massacre, where the Indonesian military attacked, using U.S. weapons, gunning down over 270 Timorese. Pinto was a lead organizer of the peaceful procession that got gunned down.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Wednesday, I spoke to Constâncio Pinto, the minister of commerce, industry and environment of Timor-Leste, or East Timor. East Timor was compared to Western Sahara for decades. Both countries were non-self-governing territories. They were occupied, both, in 1975—Timor by Indonesia, Western Sahara by Morocco. Both populations supported U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for referenda for self-determination, which East Timor got to vote in 1999 and voted overwhelmingly to become independent. The people of Western Sahara are still calling for that referendum to take place.

East Timorese Minister Constâncio Pinto just came back from East Timor, where on November 12th he was involved in the 25th anniversary observance of the Santa Cruz massacre, where the Indonesian military attacked, using U.S. weapons, gunning down over 270 Timorese. He was a lead organizer of the peaceful procession. I asked him his thoughts on the anniversary.

CONSTÂNCIO PINTO: Well, the Santa Cruz massacre, for us, is a national day. It’s a turning point for the struggle of Timor-Leste pursuing the independence. It took so long, over 20 years, to get the world to know the suffering that we have endured during the Indonesian occupation, and, therefore, we honor this day, the 25th anniversary of the massacre, where 270 lives was taken by the Indonesian army in a cold-blooded way. We continue to do this in order to keep the flame of our spirit, nationalism and patriotic sentiment among the young people, because the young people, sometimes they think that the independence was a gift given by the Indonesians. So we have to tell them, maintain this spirit that the independence was a process, and it took a long time. And many of our family, our Timorese citizens, lost their life for that, for this independence.

And, of course, we continue to celebrate this also in honor of the contribution of the international community, especially the journalists, people like yourself, Amy Goodman, Max Stahl and others, because you were the people who, although Timor-Leste was so difficult to get into, you managed to go to Timor and cover the stories and then publish it abroad. Without you, I think the world may have not yet known what’s happened in Timor-Leste. The independence of Timor-Leste may also delay. So, that’s why we continue to do this, I think. And for us, 25 years is an important day for us, 25 years.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Constâncio Pinto, the minister of commerce, industry and environment of Timor-Leste, or East Timor.

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