|Subject: AP: E Timor Leader Moniz: Refugees
To Return On Peaceful Poll
Associated Press August 22, 2001
E Timor Leader Moniz: Refugees To Return On Peaceful Poll
DILI, East Timor (AP)--An East Timorese anti-independence leader Wednesday said refugees still living in Indonesia would return home if the territory's first free elections went off peacefully.
"We should have a guarantee from the leaders here that the refugees will not face any new violence," said Helio Moniz.
Aid agencies estimate there are around 50,000 refugees still living in camps in Indonesian-held West Timor, two years after East Timor's referendum on independence in August 1999.
Many of those who remain have links with pro-Jakarta militia or the former Indonesian regime in East Timor, responsible for a violent and murderous rampage after the plebiscite.
Moniz, who leads a group of refugees from the Covalima district near the border between the two halves of Timor island, said he was in East Timor on a brief visit to tell the authorities that his group would respect the results of the election and support a new democratic constitution.
About 15,000 of the refugees in West Timor come from the Covalima district, officials say.
Currently under U.N. administration, East Timor goes to the polls Aug. 30 to elect an 88-member national assembly that will draft the territory's first constitution. The region of 700,000 people is expected to achieve independence next year.
Moniz said he had also been reassured by a meeting with East Timor's dominant pro-independence party, Fretilin, that it wouldn't return to the Marxist policies that contributed to a brief civil war in the mid-1970s.
Indonesia used the conflict to justify its 1975 invasion of the former Portuguese colony, which it ruled with an iron fist until 1999.
"Fretilin has changed and I will take this message back to West Timor," Moniz said.
In the past several months, there have been a number of visits by refugee leaders from Indonesia to East Timor.
U.N. chief of staff Nagalingam Parameswaran said he was encouraged by the involvement of popular independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao in the process, but that repatriation still faced resistance from pro-Indonesian elements within West Timor.
"There are forces opposed to reconciliation on the other side and sometimes meetings don't take place because of threats," he said.
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