Subject: SMH: Indon agrees to pay pensions to former E.Timor public servants

Sydney Morning Herald May 19, 2001

Indonesia agrees to pay pensions to former East Timor public servants

By Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili

In a breakthrough for relations between East Timor and its former ruler, Jakarta has finally agreed to settle the issue of pension payments to East Timorese who worked for the Indonesian government during its 24-year occupation.

The United Nations mission in East Timor yesterday said the key compromise was reached during bilateral talks held between senior Indonesian government officials and their counterparts from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) on Bali last Wednesday.

In a briefing to journalists, deputy director of UNTAET's political affairs department, Mr Andrew Whitley, described the meeting as one of the most productive held so far with Jakarta.

He said Indonesia had also formally invited UNTAET to join with 33 other international observers to monitor the June 6 census of refugees in Indonesian-controlled West Timor, when refugees will be asked whether they want to stay in Indonesia or return home to East Timor.

Mr Whitley said that so far Indonesia had agreed to pay 772 former public servants out of a list of 3,400 provided by UNTAET. "We believe there is a strong case for Indonesia to accept the majority of names we have submitted," he said.

Jakarta suspended pension payments to its former public servants after the bloodshed that followed the UN-organised referendum for self-determination held on August 30, 1999.

In other developments, the head of the political department, Mr Peter Galbraith, left for Australia on Friday to attend informal talks on the Timor Gap oil and gas agreement. Formal talks will start in Dili on May 28.

A contingent of 60 Singaporean infantry will arrive in East Timor in the first week of June to reinforce the New Zealand battalion group based in south-west Suai.

Their arrival three months before national elections brings to almost 2,000 the number of UN peacekeepers securing the 176-kilometre frontier with Indonesian West Timor.

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