Subject: JP: E. Timor accedes to demands by former militia commander

Jakarta Post June 17, 2002

E. Timor accedes to demands by former militia commander

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

East Timorese leaders acceded on Friday to demands by former prointegration militia commander Joao da Silva Tavares and thousands of his followers, paving the way for them to return to the newly declared state of East Timor.

Kupang military commander Colonel Muswarno Moesanip said on Saturday that the agreement had been reached in a reconciliation meeting between a high-powered East Timorese delegation and Tavares plus dozens of refugee leaders in Atambua, West Timor on Friday.

"All the demands of Joao Tavares and those of his followers were granted by East Timorese leaders," Muswarno said.

He said the delegation also convinced Tavares and other refugees that East Timor was already safe, as clearly reflected in the lack of incident during the celebration of East Timor's independence on May 20, which was also attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"They also agreed that East Timor police would guarantee the safety of returning refugees from the moment they entered East Timor territory to the time they reached evacuation centers and their respective homes," Muswarno said.

Tavares and thousands of his followers had demanded earlier that East Timor authorities guarantee their security once they entered East Timor territory.

They also demanded that returning militia members and refugees be placed in containment centers for adjustment before they were returned to their respective villages, and that they would not be treated as second-class citizens.

According to Muswarno, the East Timorese delegation agreed to all of Tavares' demands in the meeting, which he described as cordial and friendly.

Refugee leaders attending the meeting included Tavares (as coordinator), Pedro Gonzalves, Armindo dos Reis, Fransisco Soares Pareira, Jose Ximenes, Inacio de Jesus Hornai, Agustino Pinto, Fransisco Sansilha, Antonio dos Santos, Filomeno Brito and Franscisco da Costa.

From the East Timor side, there were Antonio Cardoso and Jacob Fernandez of Fretilin, Pedro Gomez of ASDT, police officer Julio da Costa Hornai and Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro.

Also present at the meeting were Aniceto Guterres and Isabel Guterres of the Truth and Justice Commission, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Manuel Carceres da Costa and representative of the UN Supporting Mission in East Timor Tim Hudner.

Tavares and thousands of his followers had planned to return to East Timor, Indonesia's former 27th province, which declared independence on May 20, 2002, in the second week of June, but delayed it until early July, citing the absence of an agreement between his group and the East Timor authorities.

If his plan reaches fruition, Tavares will become the most senior leader of the much-feared pro-Indonesia militias to have returned to East Timor. Lower-profile militia leaders have already returned to the former Portuguese colony.

Tavares was the commander of prointegration militias that went on a bloody rampage after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to break away from Indonesia in a UN-organized referendum in 1999.

The rampage killed dozens of proindependence East Timorese, destroyed up to 80 percent of the territory's infrastructure and drove close to 250,000 people into makeshift refugee camps in West Timor and other parts of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

East Timorese authorities and international agencies have been urging refugees still living in West Timor, who now total 30,000 to 40,000, to return to East Timor.

Indonesian authorities had said earlier that government-sponsored repatriations would stop on August 31, and that East Timor refugees still in West Timor beyond that deadline would be treated as Indonesian citizens and would have to be ready to be relocated to other parts of Indonesia.

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