|Subject: Indonesian government to extend
aid to refugees
Jakarta Post December 10, 2001
Government to extend aid to refugees
Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang
The government will extend until the end of January 2002 the provision of humanitarian assistance to more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees who have yet to decide whether they will stay in Indonesia or return to their homeland, says a military official.
Maj. Gen. Willem T. da Costa, chief of the Udayana Military Command overseeing Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, said the government's decision on the extension had been motivated largely by the lack of any clear signal from the refugees on whether they intended returning to East Timor or remaining in Indonesia.
"The decision on the extension of the humanitarian assistance provision was announced by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta a few days ago. It was made on the basis of humanitarian considerations and with the hope that refugees would decide on their futures during January 2002," he said here on Friday.
Previously, the government had announced it would halt its aid to the refugees at the end of this month, in a bid to encourage them to decide whether they would stay in Indonesia or return home. East Timorese leader Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao, during his recent visit to the region, urged the refugees to return and gave a guarantee that they would be treated humanely if they did so.
So far, the government has provided the refugees with Rp 1,500 (US$0.15) and 400 grams of rice per person per day and has offered Rp 750,000 per family if they decide to return home.
Of the 295,000 East Timorese currently living as refugees in the province, almost 140,000 have chosen to return to East Timor, while 40,000 have decided to stay in Indonesia and will join the government's resettlement program in other provinces. Last week, around 150 East Timorese families who decided to stay in Indonesia left for Lampung to join a resettlement program.
Da Costa called on the remaining refugees to make a decision to allow the government to resolve the refugee problem immediately.
"If the refugees decide to stay in Indonesia, the government has allocated more than 11,000 hectares of farm land in Kalimantan," he said, adding the government had earmarked Rp 32 billion to repatriate those returning to East Timor.
He also denied that the local military had intimidated the refugees to return home immediately.
"I have received accusations from many sides that soldiers and I have intimidated the refugees. The accusations are groundless because such an action would tarnish the country's image internationally," he said.
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