Subject: Foreign relief workers are free to return to NTT (West Timor)

The Jakarta Post April 18, 2001

Foreign relief workers are free to return to NTT

KUPANG, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): It is safe for foreign relief workers to return to East Nusa Tenggara and help the Indonesian government resolve the refugee problem there, Governor Piet A. Tallo said on Tuesday.

He said security personnel were prepared to safeguard the relief workers, particularly ahead of the planned registration of East Timorese refugees on May 21.

"We will try our best to guarantee the safety of all foreign relief workers, and are ready to accept their return here," Tallo told journalists.

He said seven international organizations had resumed their work in the province since last year's attack that claimed the lives of three United Nations humanitarian workers.

The seven organizations including the United Nations Children's Fund, Care International, Save the Children and the Catholic Relief Service, all of whose foreign staff returned to the province in February.

"Hopefully, we can hold the registration on May 21, with the help of international organizations, so we can end the refugee problem," Tallo said.

When the government registers the remaining 150,000 East Timorese refugees in the province, the refugees will be asked to declare whether they will remain Indonesian citizens or return to East Timor.

A number of foreign workers are expected to help with the registration to ensure the fairness of the process.

Kupang Military Resort chief Col. Budi Heriyanto said the Indonesian Military (TNI) would station approximately 130 soldiers in each refugee camp in the province to back up the police during the registration process.

"We have even offered them (foreign relief workers) full protection in their office compounds so they can do their jobs. We guarantee their safety if they want to return to the province," Budi said.

He asserted that he had sufficient personnel to ensure security in all refugee camps in the province, adding that his men would continue their sweeps for weapons.

Kupang Police chief Brig. Gen. Jacki Uly was similarly optimistic, saying the police would take every measure necessary to maintain security in the province.

Following the deaths of the three UN workers on Sept. 6 last year, the world body passed resolution No. 1319, which demanded the government disarm and disband pro-Indonesia militias.

The incident resulted in the departure of all foreign aid workers from the province. The UN continues to regard East Nusa Tenggara as "unsafe" for aid workers.

Indonesian Military spokesman Air Rear Marshal Graito Usodo took a much less friendly stance than Governor Tallo, questioning the activities of foreign humanitarian workers in the area.

"TNI Headquarters has received intelligence reports that the organizations conceal their political motives behind their humanitarian activities," Graito said.

When asked to comment on Graito's allegation, Governor Tallo said that was a problem for TNI, as humanitarian issues could not be mixed with politics.

"If the TNI has received such reports it should conduct an investigation," he said.

Tallo added that the East Timorese seeking refuge in the province could decide for themselves whether to cooperate with foreign aid workers. (dja/30) 

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