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Organizing Demonstrations Against the Indonesian Government

Constâncio Pinto, East Timor Survivor

Well, the struggle never ends. Even though Indonesia destroyed all the bases in 1978, some people came back to the city, managed to continue with the struggle. And at this time people concentrated on the underground movement, peaceful actions and so on. And so we began in 1979—basically, the people begin to organize themselves in small cells: students, teachers, and you know, began to organize.

So I began to involve in this—it was very late; it was 1983 that I began to involve in the underground movement. And so we—I had six other people, so we thought that it would be good to have a unified force so that we can organize a big demonstration, let’s say. And so we started with—our contact was especially with the students and the other groups. And in one year, I think, in one year we were able to have—to link almost every existing organizations there. Not organizations, but groups. And so we started with the peaceful demonstration. And the first peaceful demonstration was in 1989 when Pope John Paul II visited East Timor. It was a starting point of the non-violence action at that time. Very few people joined us in that demonstration. But then in the second and third demonstration, people began to involve; the number increased over time. So, on November 12—that was the biggest one, the demonstration that we had at that time—about 7,000-8,000 people joined the demonstration. It was a very peaceful demonstration. Unfortunately, 271 students and demonstrators were killed by Indonesian soldiers. So the November 12 demonstration and what’s proceeded with the massacre basically showed the international community how the Indonesian army behaved in East Timor since 1975 up to 1991. The reason why I said that because there were some people inside East Timor, foreign journalist, including Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman; Max Stahl who was there, a filmmaker who filmed the massacre and been able to smuggle the tape out to London and broadcasted it from London. And it was amazing to see that the international community only at this point reacted against Indonesia, only because they saw the images of the massacre that they believe that; in fact, Indonesians have been killing the population in East Timor over the years, from 1975 up to 1991.

Constâncio Pinto
Organizing Demonstrations Against the Indonesian Government