Subject: JP: Hatred of Indonesian troops remains among Timorese

The Jakarta Post March 1, 2001

Opinion

Hatred of Indonesian troops remains among Timorese

DILI, East Timor (JP): Indonesians, who grew up believing they helped East Timor out of a civil war, must wake up to the fact that they are perceived as former colonizers. On the other hand East Timorese are convincing Indonesians that they can be good neighbors.

A visitor to Dili finds that although the language is the same, separate identities, separate citizenships, have been established.

"So when are you going back to Indonesia?" an Indonesian is asked, who finds increasingly that the reference "to Jakarta" in earlier days was only appropriate in "the Indonesia era."

After a year of separation, the anti-Indonesia feeling has toned down, as people distinguish their hatred: "It was what the military did; we're fine with the people."

New and old Indonesian pop songs are heard everywhere in turn with Timorese pop songs from albums produced in Surabaya, East Java.

It will be some time before local artists can again produce their work, when families can be reunited and when people can resume trade with neighboring Indonesia.

A farmer in Tutubesi village in Maliana said family members must now help more in cultivating the fields because he has lost access to the usual workers from Kupang.

The Timor Pos media group is pondering plans to publish a tabloid in Indonesia as print and delivery costs from Darwin have been too costly.

Ex-students get into nostalgic yarns of beloved Yogyakarta, where they studied -- and where some were driven away from -- "mie baso" noodles and meatballs, and "the (Yogya) girls."

Tension colors relations with the ongoing trials of those charged with war crimes in Dili and for illegal possession of weapons in Jakarta; while in Timor, people say they want "good relations."

"We need to see our families, and to travel," said trader Americo Hudino in Dili. His friend Dominic Alves Cabral said he wants to resume his agricultural studies in Magelang, Central Java.

An Indonesian journalist is greeted warmly: "Tell my relatives I'm alive," says a Maliana school principal, Mateus Bere Maia.

Vendors in Dili also ask whether it is safe for families to return; some members of the militia have asked relatives visiting them at the border of the possibility of coming home.

Strained relations bring many problems. The main bank is the Portuguese Banco Nacional Ultramarino, and people say payment transfers to and from Indonesia take "forever."

To visit renown dukun, Timorese also need to travel to the town of Atambua, across the border in West Timor.

"I need to get my teeth fixed and my spectacles changed," a Dili resident said. The two dentists in Dili only handle extractions; while eye check-ups are possible only when the U.S. marines come, and the spectacles are provided when they return a few months later.

Hopes for "good relations" with Indonesia will in part be determined by the continuous resentment among Indonesians against the "ungrateful Timorese."

The feeling was evident in a heated meeting between authorities of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and legislators on Feb. 23.

UNTAET had asked for Indonesia's aid for development in East Timor, which was met by a legislator's question on why Indonesia was now being "dragged in" while before it was "treated as an imperialist."

Meanwhile the Timorese now also face demands for security and good relations from their minority, most notably the Muslim community in Kampung Alor, Dili. Their area, comprising a few dozen families from Sumatra and other islands, bustles with activity every lunch time as patrons visit their foodstalls.

The mosque complex where they stayed was the target of a riot on Jan. 1. Three were injured, a mosque window was shattered and many of their foodstalls were torn down. Following the incident the Indonesian consul reportedly received many requests from them to return to Indonesia.

The civil police came too late, community leader Arham told Radio UNTAET, saying they had requested protection before New Year's Eve, following rumors that they were to be attacked.

He denied views that they were "exclusive," saying they were forced to live around the mosque because other people were occupying their homes.

"Please note that the freedom that you have now, we would also like to share. We wish to feel free, to be free to speak, to do business and live in peace," Arham said in tears. (Ati Nurbaiti) 


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