Subject: AN: ET Refugees worry about reconciliation

EX-E TIMORESE REFUGEES WORRIED RECONCILIATION EFFORT MAY FAIL

September 14, 2003 10:54pm Antara

Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Sept 12 (ANTARA) - Ex-East Timorese refugees in Belu district, East Nusa Tenggara province, are worried that a reconciliation effort initiated by East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao will fail.

Leading figures of the ex-East Timorese refugee community expressed their worry here Friday after the East Timorese government decided to suspend a scheduled reconciliation meeting because of a difference of opinion among East Timorese officials about the number of people allowed to participate in the meeting.

"The reconciliation meetings among East Timorese at the initiative of President Xanana which were scheduled to take place 14 times between August 22 and November 27, are threatened by failure due to differences of opinion on the number of participants of the meetings," one of the figures, Domingos Soares, said.

Soares said if the East Timorese government continued to make a sharp distinction between East Timorese citizens and former East Timor integration fighters, it meant they (the East Timorse government) had no sincere intention to achieve reconciliation.

The East Timorese government postponed reconciliation meetings that were scheduled to take place last August 29 in the Oesilo area, Oecusse district, last September 4 in the Pasabe area, Oecusse district and last September 11 in the Nunura area, Bobonaro district, due to a difference of opinion between President Xanana and Attorney General Longginus Monteiro.

President Xanana wanted the reconciliation meeting to be attended by as many East Timorese as possible both from the ex-refugee camp and those living in East Timor, while the attorney general wanted the number of participants to be not more than 20.

"The difference of opinion indicates that members of the elite in East Timor have yet to reach an agreement on reconciliation. This is a threat to the process of reconciliation," he said.

Another ex-East Timorese refugee figure, Antonio Barreto, said the reconciliation effort may fail because there was no government statement on the concrete security situation in villages in East Timor.

The security situation in East Timor's rural areas were not favorable for ex-East Timorese refugees as certain groups in the newly-independent country tended to treat former refugees with disdain or even hatred, he said.

This meant that whatever East Timorese government and members of the elite group were saying about security conditions in their country was not believed by ex-East Timorese refugees still living in camps and resettlement areas in Indonesia, he said.

The reconciliation effort could also fail because of the influence of certain people in East Timor who were eying the properties and assets former East Timorese refugees had left behind in their homeland.

If the former East Timorese refugees returned home, those groups of people would have to leave the houses and plantations belonging to the former, he said.

Thus, the groups have been trying to make the process of reconciliation fail in the hope the program to repatriate ex-East Timorese would fail, he said.

"The failure of reconciliation and repatriation could be a serious threat to East Timor's integraty and independence," he said.

The East Timor government unilaterally cancelled the third round of a reconciliation meeting among East Timorese, which was to have been held in Nunura, Bobonaro district, East Timor on Thursday (Sept 11).

"We received word on the cancellation from Valentino Soares, secretary to the East Timorese President, by phone," said Ganip Warsito, an East Nusatenggara provincial official dealing with affairs affecting ex-East Timorese refugees.

According to Ganip, the reason for the cancellation was a difference of opinion between East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao and Attorney General Longginus Monteiro about the number of ex-refugee representatives allowed to attend the meeting.

East Timor officially seceded from Indonesia in October 1999 as a consequence of the pro-independence camp's victory in the UN-organized popular plebicite held on August 30, 1999.

The territory integrated into Indonesia in 1976 but the United Nations never recognized the integration process.

(THROUGH ASIA PULSE)


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