Subject: AN: Parmeswaran on refugees

Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

January 3, 2002


Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara, Jan 3 (ANTARA) - A visiting UN official said here Thursday the Indonesian government's decision to stop giving humanitarian aid to East Timorese refugees starting this year will hopefully encourage them to return to East Timor.

"I hope the policy of stopping the humanitarian aid will be effective in persuading the East Timorese refugees to return home (to East Timor) . Many of them have already done so and resumed their previous lives free of any threats," said N Parmeswaran, an official of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Due to the financial crisis in Indonesia, Jakarta has decided to stop all humanitarian aid to refugees still living in East Nusa Tenggara province (West Timor) effective January 1, 2002.

The refugees enjoyed the aid since their arrival in September 1999 following the victory of the anti-autonomy camp in the UN-organised ballot in August 1999.

Parameswaran said he had often talked to East Timorese refugees to persuade them to return to their homeland, but he concluded many of them remained reluctant to go home because of the absence of a security guarantee in East Timor.

Some of the refugees had ever told him that they wanted to return to the territory after harvesting their corn plantation. "But it is only a reason. From the bottom of their heart, I know, they are still worried about the absence of a security guarantee," he said.

Prior to the end of his assignment at UNTAET, Parameswaran again urged the two warring camps -- the pro-autonomy and pro-independence factions -- to keep promoting reconciliation and to forget historical grievances for the sake of the future of all East Timorese.

The UN mission would end in May this year after gradually turning over governmental authority to the new government of independent East Timor, he said.

East Timor, a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years, integrated into Indonesia in 1979. But, a UN-supervised ballot which ended with the pro-independence camp's victory paved the way for the territory to secede from the republic.

More than 250,000 East Timorese fled the territory to many parts of Indonesia to escape deadly violence which broke out soon after the UN mission announced the ballot returns.

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