Subject: Timor Lorosae Bishops Asks Help to Repatriate Refugees

TEMPO Interactive February 18, 2002

Udayana Military chief Willem T. Da Costa: Timor Lorosae Bishops Asks Help to Repatriate Refugees

Kupang, Nusatenggara:Udayana Military chief Maj. Gen. Willem T Da Costa admitted that in a meeting held in Dili recently, Dili Bishop Mgr Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Baucau Bishop Mgr Basilio do Nascimento Pr have requested his help in repatriating refugees from the West Timor areas.

"Since it is the bishops who are asking our help, I'm convinced there is no longer vengeful sentiments among the Timor Lorosae people. They are now focusing on building their country," Da Costa told TEMPO in Kupang today (18/2). According to Da Costa, the two bishops said the right to freedom and to the land of Timor Lorosae is not the monopoly of those claiming to be freedom fighters.

Da Costa said Belo and Basilio also stated that once they arrived in Timor Lorosae, citizens who used to be fought each other must walk hand in hand to build the country. Its independence will be officially declared on May 20, 2002. According to Da Costa, rather than remain at refugee camps, going back to their homeland is the best solution for the refugees. "Do you think they like living at camps?" Da Costa said.

Separately, Law and Human Rights Deputy of Uni Timor Aswain (Unitas) Carlos Maria De Fatima questioned the Indonesian Military's involvement in repatriating Timor Lorosae refugees. The repatriation has been handled by Task Force on Refugees Matter (PMP), Untas, Integration Fighters Troops (PPI) and Organizing Force on Refugees Matter. "Why must we involve the military?" Carlos said.

Da Costa said that the policy on Timor Lorosae refugees' repatriation is entirely the prerogative of Indonesia's central government rather than the Indonesian military (TNI). Their job is just to secure the situation, the way they had done in East Timor for about 25 years. According to Da Costa, the TNI has given much support to the people of Timor Lorosae. "We helped them to farm and raise animals. That's how we got to know the people of Timor Lorosae," Da Costa said.

Information from the Secretariat of Refugee Repatriation at 1604/Kupang Military Base indicated that during the period of January-February 12, 2002, 724 families or 4,524 refugees have returned to Timor Lorosae.

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