Subject: JP - Condition of 5,100 Timorese refugees in Suai 'worrisome'
From: "Paula" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

Jakarta Post Tuesday, February 2 1999

Condition of 5,100 Timorese refugees in Suai 'worrisome'

JAKARTA (JP): The health of over 5,100 villagers who have taken refuge in the Suai town of East Timor's Covalima regency could deteriorate due to a lack of sanitary facilities in their makeshift shelters, a local priest said on Sunday.

"There are too many people, their condition is worrisome ... soon there'll be diarrhea," Catholic priest Francisco Soares in Suai told The Jakarta Post by phone.

Six people have died, including four who suffered gunshot injuries, since the influx of refugees to Suai began on Jan. 25, according to Francisco.

The refugees are villagers from Covalima regency, some 300 kilometers south of Dili, who were reportedly terrorized and forced to evacuate by military-backed civilians armed with shotguns who arrived from neighboring Ainaro regency.

Despite guarantees of protection from Covalima regency administration and its security authority, Francisco on Sunday claimed some forms of terror were still felt, such as whenever a group of armed men came to check on refugees, saying they were looking for weapons.

The refugees are staying in a half-constructed church, a nearby school and tents set up in Suai, he said.

"All they can do now is wait in uncertainty," Francisco said.

He said he did not know if the latest refugee crisis was sparked by the recent astonishing announcement from the government that it would let go of the troubled territory by 2000 if the wide-ranging autonomy it offered to the province — as a final solution to the 23-year old dispute — was rejected in the ongoing UN-Indonesia-Portugal tripartite talks.

Also on Sunday the Associated Press cited reports that two Indonesian envoys arrived in Lisbon Saturday to set up a diplomatic post, fulfilling an agreement reached during ongoing negotiations with Portugal over the province.

Ruzlan Jenie and Aris Oegrosono were to open a minimal diplomatic post known as an "interest section" in Thailand's embassy later Saturday, after Portuguese envoy Ana Gomes opened a similar post in the Netherlands embassy in Jakarta, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

Meanwhile local and national rights activists and reports have said civilian clashes between ''prointegration/proautonomy" groups and those who were ''proindependence/proreferendum" had worsened with the recent armament of prointegration civilians by the Armed Forces (ABRI).

However, ABRI spokesman Maj. Gen. Syamsul Ma'arif said last week that ABRI had indeed armed civilians "but only temporary in nature" and the move was intended to enable civilians to protect themselves from groups of troublemakers.

Two deaths were recorded by Kompas daily last week: Abel Martins, 45, a teacher in Bobonaro regency's Ribabo village, and police sergeant I Made Koji of Baucau were shot dead.

Another related development of the alarming violence was reported on Sunday. Bisnis Indonesia daily quoted the director general of primary and secondary education, Indrajati Sidhi, as saying that at least 250 Indonesian school teachers from outside East Timor had applied for transfers from the troubled territory, saying they feared for their lives.

"There are currently at least 250 migrant school teachers in East Timor who have requested transfers to other regions," he said. He added that applicants had cited terror, physical attacks and threats as reasons for their request to leave.

"There are even groups of people who went to the house of a migrant teacher, threatening the teacher with taking over his house and possessions," Indrajati said.

Final

With observers saying trouble in the territory would likely escalate, comments of pros and cons on the government's stance on letting go of the province kept pouring in on Sunday.

Regarding the government's offer of wide-ranging autonomy, the Ministry of Home Affairs' Director General of Public Administration and Regional Autonomy Ryaas Rasyid said autonomy would exclude the affairs of defense and security, the judiciary system, monetary and foreign affairs.

"That's it, the authority over other matters will be East Timor's and the concept is now being arranged," Ryaas said in the South Sulawesi's capital of Ujungpandang on Saturday.

But broad autonomy should be taken as a final solution and not a transition to independence, Ryaas reiterated.

On Sunday, youths grouped in the East Timorese National Front for Independence distributed leaflets calling for a demonstration in Dili on Monday. They plan to start marching from Santa Cruz cemetery, where scores of proindependence youths were shot dead in 1991, Antara reported.

In Jakarta on Sunday, opposition figure Sri Bintang Pamungkas said he believed the release of jailed charismatic East Timorese leader Alexandre Jose "Xanana" Gusmao could help defuse tension in East Timor.

At a party function, also Sunday, popular chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Amien Rais said the only way to settle the East Timor issue was a referendum after two or three years to better prepare the populace.

On Saturday, two leading opposition figures, whose parties along with PAN stand a good chance at success in the June general election, said they opposed independence for East Timor.

Megawati Soekarnoputri, the leader of the popular faction of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), and Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organization and backer, of the People's Awakening Party (PKB), said East Timor should remain a part of Indonesia. The current transitional government, Megawati said, had no authority to issue such a policy.

Back to February Menu
Main Postings Menu

Postings of Human Rights Violations in Timor