Subject: JP: 'Trauma center' set up for East Timorese children in West Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Jakarta Post November 04, 1999

'Trauma center' set up for East Timorese children

JAKARTA (JP): The National Commission for Children's Protection has set up a rehabilitation center to help East Timorese children suffering from trauma in the East Nusa Tenggara camps.

Called the "trauma center", the new non-governmental organization will employ scores of psychiatrists and psychologists to help the children overcome traumatic experiences which resulted from rampaging violence and sexual abuse following the announcement on Sept. 4 of the ballot results in East TImor.

"We just try to treat the children with affection, love and attention, as well as collecting medicines, food and clothes from donors," one of the center's administrators, Lusia Sutanto, told Antara on Wednesday in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara.

Lusia said the center was jointly organized by the Lions Club of Indonesia, the Santa Lusia Educational Foundation, the National Commission for Children's Protection and the children assistance-oriented Mutiara Foundation. Lusia chairs the first two organizations.

The center is based in Atambua, which shares a border with East Timor. The East Nusa Tenggara town hosted more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence-ravaged East Timor after the overwhelming rejection to Indonesia's autonomy offer.

Irwanto of the children's protection body said observations in refugee camps in Belu and Kupang that took place between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 revealed that male youths who were at puberty age were prone to sexual assaults, either as victims or perpetrators.

Young women lacked protection from sexual harassment committed by friends of the same age and adults around the camps, Irwanto said.

"Witnesses said a group of parents were ambushed by armed people to ask for their daughters," Irwanto said, without elaborating when and where the incident took place.

He said the "trauma center" was modeled on a similar program run by Catholic priests in Atambua.

"After receiving therapy from the priests, the children could enjoy their play, speak fluently and appeared to have returned to their world," Irwanto said.

Seto Mulyadi of the Mutiara Foundation said the center would help the children recover both mentally and physically. He cited the foundation's successful work with children living in refugee camps in Aceh and Ambon.

Seto, a psychologist with many years of experience with children, said the trauma would be healed immediately if the children could return to their homeland.

"This is the best solution. But the problem is there has been no security guarantee from either Xanana Gusmao, Interfet and Falintil troops if they wish to come home," Seto said.

Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao is the most influential proindependence leader, who also leads Falintil. Security in East Timor is the mandate of an Australian-led multinational peacekeeping force during the transitional period before the establishment of an independent East Timor state. (amd)


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