Subject: 98.2% E Timor refugees opt to remain in Indonesia: Final Figures

East Timor refugees opt to remain in Indonesia: final figures

JAKARTA, June 12 (AFP) - Final figures showed 98.02 percent of 113,794 East Timor refugees stranded in Indonesia had opted to remain and not return home, officials said Wednesday.

The provisional result of the two-day Indonesian government canvas was reached at 0900 GMT Tuesday, said West Timor provincial spokesman Nani Kosapilawan.

It will be followed by an official figure issued by the West Timor central bureau of statistics, he said, without giving a date.

"After being checked and declared legit by the bureau, the field result will then be delivered to Jakarta as a complete final result," Kosapilawan told AFP from Kupang, the main town in Indonesia's West Timor.

Tuesday's provincial final result showed that 111,540 people, or 98.02 percent of the refugees, had opted to remain in Indonesia.

Only a paltry 1.1 percent, or 1,250 refugees stranded in squalid West Timor camps, wanted to be repatriated to East Timor.

Some 714 people abstained and 296 votes were damaged, the data showed.

The refugees were among more than 250,000 forced over the border from East Timor during violence wreaked by pro-Jakarta militias after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

Indonesia has said the count and the decision will be final.

However, East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying that East Timor would always be open for the refugees.

"We'll remain open for anyone willing to return to their homes (in East Timor). We will accept them and not cause them any trouble," Gusmao said.

Gusmao, seen by many as East Timor's most likely first president, also said that he expected "the Indonesian government to remain committed to resettling the refugees in their chosen places, which should be better than the refugee camps".

The international community and rights groups have greeted the preliminary results with scepticism, pointing out that the refugee camps are still under militia control, leaving anyone who opted to return home open to reprisals.

But one group of independent monitors reported that some of the refugees had opted to stay in Indonesia because they feared violence in August elections in their former homeland.

Others said their children were in schools in West Timor and wanted to wait until conditions improved back home, where whole towns were razed by the militia in an orgy of violence.

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