Subject: CNS: Bishop in western Timor urges U.N. mandate for all of Timor
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 12:34:57 -0400

September 25, 1999

Bishop in western Timor urges U.N. mandate for all of Timor By Catholic News Service

ATAMBUA, Indonesia (CNS) -- Bishop Anton Pain Ratu of Atambua has urged the United Nations to extend its mandate to all of Timor island to prevent further slaughter of East Timorese.

"It is essential for the international community to foresee the humanitarian problem of the whole island of Timor, not just East Timor alone,'' the bishop said in an appeal Sept. 15. His remarks were reported by UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

While East Timor gets peacekeepers, the Indonesian government should allow the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross to work in western Timor, he said. The presence of the U.N. refugee body and the Red Cross would "guarantee the humanitarian needs, security and free right of (East Timorese) refugees to return to their place of origin if they wish to do so,'' Bishop Pain Ratu said. The bishop said he feared that the arrival of the U.N. peacekeeping force would force militiamen and Indonesian army units to move to western Timor.

"The concentration of these disappointed, undisciplined and humiliated forces in western Timor will lead to a new reign of terror in western Timor,'' the bishop said. Bishop Pain Ratu cautioned that the East Timorese refugees have bleak prospects of being allowed to return to their places of origin, alleging that the forced evacuation of the population between Dili and the border with western Timor has a political goal.

He speculated that Indonesia would claim the some 200,000 refugees in western Timor are pro-integration supporters as a pretext to grant independence to only the eastern half of East Timor. He also warned that youths recruited into the militias who fled the fighting will be sought out and murdered rather than leaving them free to tell the truth about the atrocities. Meanwhile, a Catholic volunteer who asked not to be named reported Sept. 20 from Kupang that abduction of refugees suspected to be pro-independence supporters has become a daily tale of terror in the western Timor city. Fear was prevailing among not only the refugees but also locals as military personnel and armed militiamen from East Timor patrol areas around churches and public places like hospitals, telecommunication shops and bus stops in the city, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province, the volunteer said. The volunteer added that refugees say visitors claiming to be relatives turn out to be militiamen coming to search for pro-integration activists.

Bishop Pain Ratu, in his appeal, urged the international community to show solidarity with the refugees through emergency aid. He said he also sees an urgent need to bury the dead, explaining that the displaced people have no means to do this but that with such a big number of people there will be a number of deaths everyday. "I ask charitable organizations to contribute a minimum of $50 per funeral to avoid adding shame to the grief of these unfortunate brothers and sisters of ours,'' he said.

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