Subject: No Vacant Island for E.Timor Refugees

Detikworld, September 18, 2000

No Vacant Island for E.T Refugees

Reporter: Iwan Triono / Fitri & BI

Jakarta--A member of West Timor Legislative Council, Drs. Anton de Rosario announced that no vacant island in nearby region is decently suitable for East Timorese refugees. There are islands however located outside the region that would be appropriate for the refugees. Meanwhile a leader from a Catholic Youth Association, said that it will not be an easy task to relocate the refugees from Timor.

Rosario statement was to respond, a suggestion by West Timor local administration to relocate the refugees to nearby Solor Island. However the suggestion have been met with strong opposition from Solor residents.

Interviewed separately on Saturday (17/9/2000), the head of West Timor Catholic Youth Association, Drs. Dill Masman said it will not be an easy task to relocate East Timorese refugees to an unpopulated island.

He said that West Timor local administration have visited Wetar island, southeast Maluku and its local residents have expressed their willingness to accept the refugees. "However, the refugees have been very reluctant to move to Wetar," Dill Masman explained further.

Dill Masman rather skeptical with the policies used by the central government to deal with refugee relocation issue. He believes that the central government had been acting alone and without soliciting any prominent members within the refugees. There must be an information on how the refugee will be assimilated into the community where they going to be accommodated.

According to Masman, one way to bring out the information is to hold a talk with leaders and elders from Timor Noble Union (Untas). These prominent figures then would be able to convey government plans to relocate the refugees to camps within West Timor island. He believes that the refugees will be placed in Kupang, Kefamenanu and Belu camps. "I can see that it will be hard to persuade the refugees to leave Timor," Dill Masman said.

He added that as of now, barely refugees are willing to move to Wetar island although they have been offered the option since several months ago. So, the plan to relocate the refugees to an unpopulated island is one-sided plan from the government and it has not been agreed by the refugees.

Masman did not explain the reason behind refugees unwillingness to move to Wetar island, an island about 100km north of Atambua. The offer had been on the air for some months and up to date only a handful of refugees had taken up the offer. It shows that the relocation plan had been decided by the central government without any consultation with the refugees

"I'm pessimistic to say whether providing an island for East Timorese refugees will have a positive respond from refugees," argued Dill Masman

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