Subject: Lusa: FM blames ex-militiamen for Oecussi border incursions, violence

Also: All sides play down clashes at East Timorese border

East Timor: FM blames ex-militiamen for Oecussi border incursions, violence

Passabe, East Timor, Oct. 20 (Lusa) - Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta said Thursday that recent incidents on the border between East Timor and Indonesian West Timor in Dili`s Oecussi enclave, were carried out by former anti-independence militiamen.

Speaking in Passabe, in the south of Oecussi, where most of the border incursions have taken place, Ramos Horta described the incidents as "serious" and as having been perpetrated by "bandits".

Lusa has seen a document prepared by the United Nations mission in Timor, UNOTIL, which says eight violent cross-border incidents have taken place in Oecussi alone since Sept. 7.

Another occurred Wednesday, but without shots being fired or stones thrown, as happened in the other recorded incursions.

Pointing the blame firmly at Indonesians, some of whom were born in Timor and who fled Oecussi in 1999 as they belonged to pro-Jakarta militia gangs, Ramos Horta said it is in Indonesia's interests to resolve the violent and unauthorized border activity.

An Australian newspaper reported this week that members of the once feared "Okto" militia were behind the recent problems in Oecussi. Dili security officials say the gangs are mainly involved in smuggling activities between West and East Timor.

Ramos Horta said the incidents "impact much more on the interests, credibility and good name of the Indonesian state than they do on Timor".

One avenue to improve border security in Oecussi is to change the behavior of the Indonesian military, said Ramos Horta, adding that he believed Jakarta's Armed Forces "are not doing all they can".

The Jakarta authorities are responsible for the frontier and should be much more "rigorous", he said, noting that a nearby Indonesian border post was only 1 meter from the border, rather than about the 500 meters desirable.

Ramos Horta had traveled to Oecussi with other senior Dili officials and the UN's special envoy to Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, for talks with Indonesian officials and military commanders on ways to ease tensions created by the recent violent incidents.

Dili-based foreign diplomats had also traveled to witness the talks.

Timor's top diplomat said he was aware that a high level security meting took place Wednesday in Jakarta to discuss the frontier problems in Oecussi, adding he was "convinced the situation will be stabilized in coming days".

The Dili authorities remain confident that a definitive border accord will be reached with Jakarta by the end of the year, said Ramos Horta.




Sydney Morning Herald

All sides play down clashes at East Timorese border

By Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent in Jakarta and Cynthia Banham

October 21, 2005

Indonesia and East Timor have played down border clashes involving mobs backed by Jakarta's troops, saying they could resolve the building tensions.

East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said he retained faith in the Indonesian leadership, but yesterday rushed to the Oecussi region, where the violence happened.

Dr Ramos Horta denied the episodes marked a return to the militia violence that surrounded East Timor's independence struggle and said the Indonesian military presence during the violence did not reflect official policy.

Several incidents in the past four weeks were worrying, he said, including a weekend rampage by hundreds of Indonesian villagers where shots were fired, two East Timorese police were injured and property was burnt.

"However, we should not dramatise or exaggerate the seriousness of the situation. It seems that some former militia elements are involved in instigating individuals from West Timor into entering East Timor's territory."

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, was "not overly concerned". He said the Indonesian military was not involved and it mainly concerned disputes between landowners.

"This is not a resumption of militia activity of the sort we saw in 1999," Mr Downer said. "These are land disputes as a result of the delineation of the border - nothing more or nothing less than that."

Dr Ramos Horta also said that the violence in Oecussi was the result of civilian land disputes.

A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said the incidents were a result of misunderstanding over a renegotiated border. "More information needs to be disseminated to people in the border area," he said.

Dr Ramos Horta said he had spoken with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, and was satisfied he would take any necessary action to help defuse the tension.

"The Indonesia side obviously is acting in good faith," he said.

The United Nations special representative to East Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, said investigations were under way into who was inciting the violence.

He refused to comment on a UN cable that reportedly suggested Indonesian soldiers were behind the incidents and that Dr Ramos Horta had threatened to withdraw from the Truth and Friendship Commission with Indonesia, formed to investigate human rights abuses surrounding the independence struggle.

[This message was distributed via the east-timor news list. Write]

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