November 12, 2023 – On the 32nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, Timor-Leste’s President, José Ramos-Horta, reflected on the event as a painful memory while emphasizing the resilience and strength of the Timorese youth.

In a message to the press, President Ramos-Horta said, “This day evokes painful memories but also highlights the resilience and strength of our youth.” He recognized the massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery as a scar in the nation’s history and a reminder of the arduous and often painful journey towards freedom and justice.

Timor-Leste commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre and the National Youth Day this Sunday. The President praised the young people who were at the forefront of the struggle, courageously defending the ideals of freedom and self-determination. “Today, we celebrate with you, the new generation of Timor-Leste’s youth. You are the driving force of our country, the inheritors of the independence we fought so hard to achieve. The youth is the flame that keeps alive the vision of a just, prosperous, and united nation,” he emphasized.

President Ramos-Horta urged the young Timorese to actively engage in building the future of Timor-Leste. He called them to be agents of change and visionaries who transform challenges into opportunities, stressing the importance of their role in leading the country’s development.

On November 12, 1991, over two thousand people marched to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Díli to pay homage to Sebastião Gomes, who was killed by forces linked to Indonesia in October of that year. At the cemetery, Indonesian military personnel opened fire on the crowd, resulting in a significant number of casualties.

According to the November 12 committee, 2,261 people participated in the demonstration, with 74 identified as having died on the spot and 127 dying in the following days in the military hospital or due to the pursuit by the occupying forces.

The massacre was commemorated in Díli this Sunday with a march from the Motael church to the Santa Cruz cemetery and a ceremony paying tribute to the victims.