Subject: Atambua returns to normal; Timor refugee protest leaders detained

The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Atambua returns to normal, 3 protest leaders detained

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

The situation in Atambua, in Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara, began normalizing Tuesday following a spate of protests by former East Timor refugees that had brought the city to a virtual halt over the past week.

There was more activity at government offices and the commercial sector on Tuesday than previous days.

"Shops, markets and government offices, as well as the legislative council building, have begun activities as of today. Security personnel are still posted at every corner of the city and at public facilities," said provincial police spokesman Comr. Marthen Radja in Kupang on Tuesday.

He said security personnel had ensured it was safe for Atambua residents to carry out their daily activities after the police were reinforced with 200 elite mobile brigade police personnel sent from Jakarta, in addition to police from other regions.

"The total number of police personnel in Atambua has reached well over 1,000 now after reinforcements were sent in from Kupang, North Timor Tengah and South Timor Tengah police forces," he said.

The police are still questioning three protest leaders from the Indonesian Citizens Humanitarian Forum (FKWNI), a support group for the former East Timor refugees.

"They are still being detained. We must wait 24 hours until we can name them as suspects or not," said Marthen.

The three detainees are identified as Matheus BC Guedes, Carlos Arauju Bareto and Aleks Koholou.

According to reports, another detainee, Felix Fernandes, earlier evaded capture.

"Police are still conducting a manhunt of Felix, and he has been named as a fugitive," said Marthen.

He said the three men were examined on suspicion of vandalizing the Belu legislative building, the local social service office, the Belu Police chief's residence and for threats against expatriate workers, state officials and legislative leaders.

The arrests were also attributed to a large quantity of sharp weapons and explosive material found as police dispersed crowds during the attack on the Belu Police station Monday.

"The three detainees have not been named as suspects as of now. We will find out the person most responsible for the anarchy after interrogating them," he said.

Thousands of former East Timor refugees have besieged the Belu legislative building and carried out a spate of anarchic acts over the past week in protest of unpaid social welfare assistance, including for house materials, and assimilation funds worth around Rp 800 billion (US$88.8 million), which are still pending a presidential decision.

The activists demanded the government first disburse Rp 80 billion to 16,400 displaced families, and then pay the remaining Rp 720 billion in a second installment.


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