Subject: AFP: Timor's losers gather to decide whether to go home or not

Timor's losers gather to decide whether to go home or not

KUPANG, West Timor, Indonesia, January 26 (AFP) - The real losers in East Timor's tumultuous transition to independence from Indonesia, the pro-Jakarta militias and their supporters, met at a rundown hotel here Wednesday to decide what to do now.

The main decision they face, said Basilio Araujo at the launch of the three-day meeting in the Wisma Timau, is whether to try to stay in Indonesia, try to win an agreement to go back as Indonesian citizens, or return home as East Timorese.

The some 200 delegates to the congress in Indonesian-controlled West Timor, are from four groups -- The Allianca (Aliense in Indonesian) which groups former top Indonesian party officials, the FPDK (Front for Justice and Democracy) an umbrella pro-Indonesia group, the BRTT (East Timorese People's Front) and its militia wing, the PPI (Pro-Integration Fighters).

They hope to make a joint decision on which way to go during the three-day meeting to end on Saturday.

But Araujo, and some Allianca members speaking on condition of anonymity, told an AFP reporter that the decision would not be easy, or unanimous.

The local West Timorese population is resentful of the some 110,000 East Timorese here, and weary of the gun-toting militia.

Some former civil servants are getting their Indonesian pensions here, and others have got their kids into school.

But there are no jobs, even for West Timorese. On the East Timor side of the border, the militia -- whose wave of terror after the August 30 independence vote devastated the territory -- are afraid of a hostile reception at best and counter-terror at worst if they return.

The compromise option of negotiating a return with some kind of special status and Indonesian passports, is not expected to find sympathy with the UN transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), or the Indonesian government.

UNTAET chief Sergio de Mello has suggested that leaders of the groups make reconnaisance trips to East Timor -- so that they can separate fact from rumor -- and return to consult with their people in the camps.

He has also suggested that UNTAET could try to negotiate the opening of an office in Kupang, to help those who want to go back, or communicate with those who are there.

Another topic at the Wisma Timau meeting will be whether the group should send a representative to take up the SPDK's vacant seat on the National Consulative Council -- a quasi-parliament in the East Timor capital of Dili with whom de Mello consults on all decisions by the UNTAET.

They have not taken up the seat so far because on September 5, the day after the results of the UN-conducted vote in East Timor were announced, the SPDK announced that it rejected the almost 4-1 pro-independence vote.

Foreign sources here connected with international aid agencies said that over the four months since hundreds of thousands of East Timorese fled or were pushed across the border into camps mainly controlled by the militia, the Indonesian military appear to have been withdrawing their support for the East Timorese militia they once controlled and paid.

The West Timor Administration announced earlier in the month that Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid would attend the opening ceremony.

But the highest Indonesian official present at the ceremony, chaired by Armindo Soares Mariano and marked with the tearful singing of East Timorese songs, was West Timor governor Piet Tallo.


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