Subject: Indon to register E.Timor refugees in W.Timor; housing for 4000 families only

also: Cash-strapped Jakarta can only accommodate 4,000 refugee families

Associated Press October 10, 2000

Indonesia To Register East Timor Refugees In West Timor

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesia is ready to start registering tens of thousands of refugees in squalid camps in Indonesian West Timor to determine whether they want to return to East Timor, an official said Tuesday.

Resettlement Minister Erna Witoelar said international observers would be invited to observe the process to ensure its credibility.

Indonesia is under intense international pressure to close down the West Timor camps and resettle the refugees. Foreign governments, as well as the United Nations, also demand that Indonesia disarm militia gangs that have terrorized the refugees and prevented their return to East Timor.

"We are aiming to solve the refugee problem totally," Witoelar said. "By the end of 2001 there will be no more refugees."

The United Nations estimates there are currently 120,000 East Timorese sheltering in the camps on the western side of Timor island.

They fled their homeland after the militia gangs devastated it when the territory overwhelmingly voted in a U.N.-organized ballot to end Indonesian rule last year.

Critics claim the gangs are now intent on destabilizing U.N.-administered East Timor's transition to self-rule.

Witoelar said some refugees want to remain in Indonesia and the government had to find a way to resettle them in places where existing populations would not be adversely affected.

She said assistance to resettle refugees would have to be matched with help for existing populations so that social jealousy, that sometimes leads to violence, can be avoided.

Cash-strapped Jakarta can only accommodate 4,000 refugee families

JAKARTA, Oct 10 (AFP) - Indonesia can only provide housing for roughly one-eighth of the 130,000 East Timorese still in refugee camps in West Timor and other areas, a minister said Tuesday.

Minister for Settlements and Regional Development Erna Witoelar said her cash-strapped government can only foot the cost of providing homes for roughly 4,000 families, or one-eighth of the some 130,000 East Timorese refugees still in camps on Indonesian soil.

"For resettlement we have not received any resources from any international organisation and that's why we are still struggling with that," Witoelar told a foreign business community breakfast in Jakarta.

"There is not enough (funds), there are 89 billion rupiah (10.09 million dollars) that has been allocated ... and it is only capable to develop about four thousand houses for those who want to stay," Witoelar said.

Indonesia is under intense international pressure to repatriate or resettle about 130,000 refugees who have been living in squalid camps in West Timor and other parts of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province for 13 months.

They were among more than 250,000 East Timorese forced out of their homeland by pro-Jakarta militias in the wake of the half-island territory's vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

The NTT government's social affairs chief, Yos Mamuluk, told AFP 33,493 families make up the 130,000 refugees spread across West Timor, Flores and Alor islands.

Witoelar's figures indicate almost 30,000 families, or some seven-eighths of those in NTT, have little choice but to return to East Timor if the camps are dismantled according to Jakarta's pledges.

"If we are dependent on the government only it will not be possible to resettle all of them because what we have to do is for our own benefit and for the people of East Timor and NTT ... everything should be balanced," Witoelar added.

She said Indonesian authorities needed to consider the risk of jealousy among Indonesian residents in what is ranked one of the sprawling republic's poorest provinces.

"That's why we also have to improve the houses of the local people because they are even as poor as the refugees themselves so every time we build 400 houses for refugees we also have to build another 400 houses for local people," she said.

The minister said several islands within NTT province were being considered as resettlement sites for refugees, but played down suggestions that they would be sent to the bleak Wetar and Buru islands.

"Not Wetar and not Buru yet," Witoelar said without elaborating.

Wetar is a sparsely inhabited island, close to the northeastern coast of East Timor, with little facilities and infrastructure. Buru was a prison camp island for political prisoners early on in the 32-year rule of former president Suharto.

Witoelar also said a fresh registration process would begin in one month to determine which refugees wanted to return to East Timor and which wished to remain in Indonesia.

"I personally think the local government and religious leaders with local non-government organisations can do that better than any of the central government or international organisations," she said.

Witoelar said she believed many refugees would choose repatriation, provided their rights and security were guaranteed in the UN-administered territory.

"In reality they want to go home, but they're not just scared of the militias they're scared of their political enemies because of security in East Timor," she said.

"They should be guaranteed to the right to live and conduct politics in a healthy (way)."

The pro-Jakarta militias continue to control the refugee camps in West Timor, rights and relief workers have said.

The camps are also used as bases for militias to launch cross-border raids into East Timor, in which two United Nations peacekeepers have been killed.

International pressure for a swift resolution of the refugee and militia problems escalated when rampaging militias killed three UN refugee workers in West Timor on September 6.

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