|Subject: JP: Timorese refugees urged to
relocate to other parts of Indonesia
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
The Jakarta Post September 16, 2002
Timorese refugees urged to relocate
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Unsure about the outcome of reconciliation attempts by former pro-Indonesia fighters, leaders of East Timorese people in squalid camps in Belu, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), have started urging refugees to participate in transmigration programs to other parts of the country.
East Timorese leader Salustiano de Sousa said in Atambua, NTT, on Saturday that East Timorese refugees had to be realistic in assessing the situation in the newly-declared nation of East Timor.
"If reconciliation attempts by former prointegration fighters (PPI) hit a snag, the options left are either relocation or transmigration," Salustiono was quoted by Antara as saying.
"Camp leaders are obliged to encourage refugees to join the transmigration program should they wish to stay in Indonesia," he added.
Former PPI commander Joao Tavarez has met several times with East Timorese leaders negotiating for reconciliation and safe passage for all former pro-Jakarta fighters wishing to return to East Timor.
However, East Timorese leaders have given a cool response to Tavarez' request, insisting that human rights offenders be brought to justice before being pardoned.
As many as 250,000 East Timorese fled to Indonesia's West Timor in 1999 after pro-Jakarta militia members, angered by the result of a UN-organized referendum, went on a bloody rampage, killing dozens of proindependence supporters and destroying up to 80 percent of the infrastructure in the former Portuguese colony.
While most refugees have returned to East Timor, slightly over 30,000 East Timorese are still living in makeshift camps in West Timor, many suffering from malnutrition due to food shortages.
The government has stopped all repatriation programs for East Timorese refugees, and, according to Salustiono, has offered two options apart from repatriation: either resettlement or transmigration.
The East Timorese are to lose their refugee status in December.
"Transmigration is the only option for refugees now after government-sponsored repatriation was stalled and resettlement sites are full," Salustiano said.
The NTT manpower and transmigration office has recorded some 1,475 people as being ready to migrate to Sumba in NTT and Central Kalimantan province.
Another East Timorese leader, Ansesco Sessas, said that he had been encouraging East Timorese refugees to sign up for transmigration.
"Refugees in this camp have said that if reconciliation and repatriation of those accused of violating human rights in East Timor hits a snag, the last option will be transmigration," he said.
Ansesco expressed optimism that over time East Timorese committing themselves to transmigration programs would still return to East Timor, which declared its independence at midnight of May 19.
Blasius Joseph Manek, a senior community member in Belu, said he was convinced that East Timorese refugees opting for transmigration would be successful because they were hardworking.
He said that the refugees should be made aware of the positive aspects of transmigration so that they could make an informed decision about it.
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) halted its operations in the district after the UN declared a level 5 alarm status on Sept. 8 in the border area between the Indonesian province and East Timor.
"Some 2,000 children are likely to drop out of school as Unicef had already withdrawn its assistance, while their parents are too poor to send their children to school," said head of Belu district Marsellus Bere.
He said that while the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) guarded East Timor territory near the Indonesian border, Unicef had taken care of the children's educational needs by providing scholarships, books, uniforms and sports equipment.
Marsellus hoped that the UN would re-evaluate the security situation in NTT so that Unicef could support the children's education again.
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