Subject: Gusmao says East Timor will "gladly welcome" refugees who return home

Also: East Timor leader starts reconciliation visit to Indonesia's West Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Agence France Presse November 26, 2001

Gusmao says East Timor will "gladly welcome" refugees who return home

Kupang, Indonesia

East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao on Monday encouraged tens of thousands of refugees -- including former militia enemies -- to return home from neighbouring Indonesian West Timor, saying they would be warmly welcomed.

"East Timor's door remains open for the refugees who are now still in West Timor. If they want to return home, the people of East Timor will gladly welcome them," Gusmao said on the first day of a three-day reconciliation visit.

The refugees should not be afraid to return because law is being enforced in East Timor, Gusmao said after meeting Piet Tallo, governor of East Nusa Tenggara province which includes West Timor.

Gusmao is scheduled to meet government, police and military officials as well as pro-Jakarta militia leaders and representatives of the refugees.

Almost 600 police and troops have been tasked to provide security.

But Gusmao, who is universally expected to become president when East Timor attains independence next May 20, seemed unconcerned by any potential threats -- arriving with his wife Kirsty and their 14-month-old son.

Gusmao was also accompanied by an East Timor foreign ministry official David Ximenes, and the Dili director of the International Organisation for Migration, Christopher Gaslon.

The former guerrilla fighter was due to meet the provincial police chief, Brigadier General Yakobus Jacki Ully, and the local parliament speaker later in the day.

An estimated quarter of a million East Timorese fled or were forced by militias across the border into West Timor following East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on August 30, 1999, which brought 24 years of enforced Indonesian rule to an end.

Local pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the Indonesian military, unleashed a wave of killing and mass destruction in response to the vote.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said last month it has helped repatriate 188,646 East Timorese refugees from West Timor in the past two years. The exact number still there is not clear.

The cash-strapped government of the Indonesian region has been trying to persuade more refugees to return home and is cutting aid to them from the end of the year.

Most of the remaining refugees are from pro-Indonesia militia groups or are hardline political opponents of Gusmao who has played a leading role in encouraging reconciliation.

In late August he said amnesties must be considered for some of those who led the deadly violence surrounding the territory's independence vote.

"We must not say 'No, Never' to amnesty," Gusmao said at the time.

"We must consider how to practise, how to exercise justice in East Timor, but we should not throw amnesty out of this process."


Agence France-Presse November 26, 2001

East Timor leader starts reconciliation visit to Indonesia's West Timor

East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao arrived in Indonesian West Timor in a visit aimed at promoting reconciliation with former militia enemies and encouraging tens of thousands of refugees to return home.

Gusmao arrived Monday with his wife and 14-month-old son at the airport in the main town of Kupang aboard an aircraft of the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor at 9:40 am (0140 GMT), said an airport employee, Gabriel Kera.

During his three-day visit he is due to meet Piet Tallo, governor of East Nusa Tenggara province which includes West Timor; the chairman of the regional legislative assembly, Daniel Woda Palle; and the regional military chief, Major General William da Costa.

He will also hold talks with Bishop Petrus Turang of Kupang and leaders of the former pro-Indonesia militias.

Police have said that almost 600 police or troops will provide security during the visit.

An estimated quarter of a million East Timorese fled or were forced by militias across the border into West Timor in the wake of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on August 30, 1999, after 24 years of enforced Indonesian rule.

Local pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the Indonesian military, unleashed a wave of killing and destruction in response to the vote.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said last month it has helped repatriate 188,646 East Timorese refugees from West Timor in the past two years.

The cash-strapped government of the Indonesian region has been trying to persuade more to return home and is cutting aid to them from the end of the year.

Most of the remaining East Timorese refugees are from pro-Indonesia militia groups or are hardline political opponents of Gusmao, who is universally expected to become president when East Timor attains independence next May 20.

A provincial spokesman said Gusmao was due to meet Tallo at 11:00 am.

"And if conditions permit, Xanana will also visit the refugee camps around Kupang, Tuapukan and Noebaki," the spokesman said by telephone.

Police have said that should conditions be unfavorable for such a visit, the meeting with refugee representatives will be held at a local sports stadium.

Among those welcoming Gusmao at the airport was Hilomeno de Jesus Hornay, a moderate pro-Indonesian East Timorese leader, Antara news agency said.


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