Subject: Refugees task force flies to Atambua

Indonesian Observer October 14, 2000

Refugees task force flies to Atambua

JAKARTA (IO) - The Indonesian government yesterday dispatched a 47-member task force to resolve problems among 130,000 East Timorese refugees at camps in Atambua and other refugee camps in East Nusa Tenggara (West Timor).

The joint team, made up from officials of 16 ministries, joined police and military officers for the flight to Atambua from Halim Perdana Kusumah air force base in East Jakarta early yesterday.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Social, and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, saw the team off. He said their main task was to re- register the refugees to determine who wanted to return to East Timor and who wanted to remain in Indonesia.

The refugees are the last of around 300,000 East Timorese who have crossed the border into West Timor province following the referendum in August 1999 when militias rampaged through East Timor angered by the territory's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia.

"We are hoping that the re-registration program could begin either in late October or in early November. Indonesia is not playing around with this matter. For me, the solution to the refugee problems must not be delayed due to an international political problem," he said.

He said the team would further investigate the killings of the three UN refugee workers in Atambua on September 6 by rampaging militiamen opposed to independence for East Timor.

Police have arrested a seventh suspect over last month's killings of three UN relief workers in West Timor. Belu district police chief Superintendent S.M. Simatupang was quoted by Antara as saying that the man, whose identity was not released, was arrested at Wemasa village in the southern part of the district on Wednesday.

"It is true that we have been able to arrest another suspect on Wednesday as the result of our investigation," Simatupang added.

He said the suspect was a member of the pro-Indonesia East Timorese community in West Timor and added that his arrest had proceeded "smoothly," without any resistance.

Hundreds of machete-wielding pro-Indonesian militiamen attacked the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the West Timorese border town of Atambua on September 6. The attackers killed three foreign UNHCR staff members.

The killings sparked international condemnation, with the UN Security Council demanding Jakarta disband and disarm the militias.

The Security Council also said it would dispatch a mission to West Timor over the incident, but so far the government has staved off the visit by saying it would not be conducive to settling the case.

The government said it is currently disarming civilians in West Timor where some 130,000 East Timorese remain in squalid refugee camps that Jakarta says it soon intends to close.

The refugees were part of the more than 250,000 East Timorese who were forced to flee militia violence that followed the pro-independence results of a UN-administered ballot in East Timor on August 30 last year.

Militia members have since fled to West Timor where rights and relief workers said they continued to terrorize and intimidate refugees.

Simatupang said police would continue their investigation into the murders and added that other suspects may join the list.


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