Subject: Indon military to help repatriate East Timorese refugees

The Jakarta Post November 24, 2001

Military to help repatriate refugees

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

The East Nusa Tenggara provincial government has asked the Wirasakti Military Subdistrict overseeing West Timor to help speed up the repatriation of East Timorese refugees, says a local military official.

Col. Moesanip, chief of the military subdistrict, said here on Friday that the local military would play the role of coordinator of the task force assigned to facilitate the repatriation of the refugees.

"The government has asked for our help to help speed up the repatriation program," he said.

The instruction came after the central government decided to stop financial assistance and rice rations for the refugees, who had fled East Timor in August 1999 as pro-Jakarta militias ravaged the territory after it voted to break away from Indonesia.

Jakarta has instead offered Rp 750,000 as an assistance fund for each family willing to return home.

On Thursday, a delegation from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) met East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo to express the commission's support for the swift repatriation of the refugees.

The UNHCR promised to provide an unspecified amount of money to buy food and other daily necessities for the East Timorese refugees after they arrive home.

"After arriving in East Timor, they will receive assistance in the form of food allowances, but the amount will be clear when they arrive there," Deputy Governor Yohanis Pake Pani said.

He said all groups of East Timorese welcomed the return of the refugees to rebuild their independent territory.

"I have met with East Timor's leader Ramos Horta and he calls on all the refugees to return," added Yohanis, who just returned from the neighboring state.

Moesanip also said his troops would help local police provide security when East Timorese leader Jose Alexander "Xanana" Gusmao and other local figures visit Kupang from Nov. 26 to Nov. 30, 2001.

He warned any militias against attempting to disrupt the planned visit, otherwise they would face tough actions from security forces.

Xanana's delegation will include two influential bishops Ximenes Belo and Nascimento as well as former Fretilin armed force chief Taur Matan Ruak.

"The intention of Xanana's visit is very good. He will visit the refugee camps because that is what the refugees want," Moesanip said.

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