Subject: The diplaces want to return to E Timor wory of safety [3 articles]

also: Refugees await their fate in squalor, filth; and The diplaces want to return but wory of safety

The Jakarta Post June 8, 2002

PPI chief and followers to return to East Timor

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

Former chief of the Prointegration Forces (PPI) Joao da Silva Tavares said on Friday that he and thousands of his men would return back to their hometowns in East Timor next week.

Tavares, however, dismissed allegations that his decision to return home and become an East Timor citizen had been influenced by the Indonesian Military (TNI), which also expected him to carry out a special mission for the military.

"The decision to leave West Timor and return to our hometowns in East Timor is final. We really miss our families and homes ... We have to return home," he told reporters at the West Timor border town of Atambua.

He said that he and his followers had initially wanted to stay in Indonesia, but eventually decided to return to East Timor after the Indonesian government stopped paying attention to East Timorese refugees and PPI members any more.

"We wanted to stay in West Timor and remain as Indonesian citizens, but we are hungry. Therefore, it'll be better for us to return home (to East Timor)," he said.

Tavares also dismissed speculation that he would form a coalition with the hard-line faction of the armed Falintil group, which was not recruited into East Timor's military.

"The decision to return to East Timor is mine. There is no such special mission ordered by the TNI to set up a coalition with the hard-line faction in Falintil to create disorder," said Tavares, a former regent of Bobonaro.

Spokesman of the East Nusa Tenggara Wirasakti Military Resort Capt. Longginug Lelo denied that the TNI had given support or a special mission to Tavares for a campaign in East Timor, which was officially declared the first new state of the third millennium on May 20.

"It's true that Joao Tavares will return to East Timor next week. However, the TNI has not given him any 'special orders'," Lelo said.

Earlier, Deputy PPI commander for C region Nomencio Lopes de Carvalho, along with some 800 followers, returned to East Timor late last year.

The Jakarta Post June 8, 2002

Refugees await their fate in squalor, filth

Pandaya, The Jakarta Post, Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara

East Timor, which declared independence on May 20, 2002 after almost 500 years of colonization, has to deal with a host of complicated problems and toil for a bright future. The Jakarta Post's Pandaya recently visited Indonesia's new neighbor to look at some crucial issues in the new nation.

The following is a report on East Timorese refugees still holed up in Indonesia's West Timor after almost three years. More reports on other issues will appear on this page next week.

The scene is typical at Haliwel refugee camp. Children show signs of serious malnutrition. They are too small and yet look much older than their age. Their faces are pale, their reddish hair tangled and their skin darkened from sunburn and dirt.

Sanitary is appalling. People live side by side with their dirty beloved pigs, cattle and chickens. Only a few can afford to buy clean water supplied with trucks by the local government-owned water enterprise. The rest have to queue up for water at local people's wells outside the camp.

Oh, carefully watch your step as you enter the camp -"landmines", a euphemism for waste of all kinds, are ubiquitous. Once you step in it, the stink won't go unless you remove your soles -- remember, water is scarce. And don't ask how the place smells. There is no such thing as a sewerage system - let alone electricity.

Life is getting harder at the camp, the largest among the dozens scattered in Belu district, which borders East Timor.

The refugees are counting down the days to evacuation, voluntary or otherwise. Their presence in the neighboring land is no longer welcome after they have spent almost three years there.

The Belu military district in Atambua, which is in charge of coordinating the repatriation program is stepping up its pressure disguised in the form of an "information campaign" telling them that they will be voluntarily going home by the end of June.

They have to vacate the camp and choose between voluntarily repatriation or becoming Indonesian citizens and supporting themselves.

Either way, they have to go because international assistance has been stopped and the Indonesian government is too broke to feed them.

"They have been here for too long. There is a limit to the sympathy. They have to go and relinquish the property to the rightful owners," Bria Yohanes, Belu deputy regent told The Jakarta Post.

Officials put the number of refugees in Belu regency at between 40,000 and 50,000. The actual number is difficult to obtain because many families have illegally procured more then one "red card" needed to get food and other aid.

Hot on the heels of the post-referendum destruction that displaced about 500,000 people in 1999, an estimated 260,000 East Timorese took refuge in the Indonesian half of Timor Island. The rest have been repatriated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

It is understood that most of the remaining refugees are members and families of pro-Indonesia militia groups blamed for the widespread destruction, killing, rape and looting in the 1999 post-referendum tragedy. Many refuse to return for fear of retribution.

President Xanana Gusmao has given them the deadline of June 20, a month after the proclamation of independence, to repatriate or lose privileges to obtain automatic citizenship.

To sound polite, the Indonesian government has given the refugees two options: voluntary repatriation or stay in Indonesia but leave the camp to be relocated under the state transmigration program or empower themselves.

The Belu military district has been summoning camp group leaders to its offices and visiting the camp as part of the go-home campaign.

"We will do everything to help them go home on their own will. We will provide the trucks and personnel to take them to the border and offer Rp 750,000 for each returning family," military district chief Lt. Col. Tjuk Agus Minahasa told The Jakarta Post.

The "information campaign" aims to make the refugees aware that Xanana's government has offered amnesty as part of his national reconciliation efforts if they repatriate and that their plight has been exploited by their pro-Indonesia leaders in Jakarta for political gain.

It also persuades the former militias to lay down their arms because war is no longer relevant now that East Timor has become an independent state and won international recognition. Instead, they are told, they should fight for their aspirations peacefully through political parties.

The Indonesian authorities have offered cash rewards for any militia member who surrenders their guns hidden in the various camps.

The Belu regency government is eager to see the refugees vacate the locals' property they have been occupying.

"By the June deadline, everyone of them will have to dismantle their own camp. They should no longer exploit other people's goodwill to help them," Bria said

Official statistics show that East Timor's independence has lured more and more refuges home. April saw the highest return rates after the UNHCR stopped assistance this year, with 1,129 families returning home. And in May, over 477 families have registered themselves for repatriation.

The Indonesian authorities' message is loud and clear: Go home because all the energy, money and sympathy have been exhausted. And it is apparently heard.

The Jakarta Post June 8, 2002

The diplaces want to return but wory of safety

The Jakarta Post, Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara

Esperansa Maia is considered wealthy at Haliwel refugee camp.

Hailing from Tunubibi in Maliana, East Timor's main rice producer, she brought along her family's fortune when fleeing the 1999 bloody riots.

While everybody had to fight for every inch of land to erect a tent, she managed to secure a space large enough to tie up her 17 buffaloes and a cow. The family is also raising a large gray swine that roams freely around the complex.

In her flimsy shack is a Rp 17 million tractor she bought in Kupang, the provincial capital, to plow the farm she hires from a local resident. She can support the whole family of seven with corn, rice and tuber from the farm.

But all the wealth has been a bondage to some extent.

"We are dying to live a normal life back in our hometown in Maliana but who can guarantee our safety? Can I take all the cattle back home? I don't want to lose any of them," she said.

When reminded of home, she falls silent and then recalls memories about the village she left almost three years ago.

About 15 meters from her shack in the overcrowded camp, Filomena Tavares, 24, was making flour by crushing corn in a wooden pot. Her 18-month old daughter Teresa Mango was strapped to her back.

Like almost all children in the camp, Teresa is obviously malnourished. The staple food is corn and Teresa - like other kids under six - receives a ration of milk, sugar and mungbean from an international voluntary group.

"Of course we want to go home to our home village in East Timor but only if our personal safety is assured by the government there," said Filomena, whose husband works as an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver.

"We know there is no future here. Our children do not go to school because it is too expensive for us," she said pointing at a school building across the road, which charges Rp 180,000 a year.

Thousands of children have been the most affected of the victims in the armed conflict that resulted in the displacement of an estimated two-thirds of East Timor's 800,000 population.

Personal safety has become the refugees' main concern but it is as strong as their desire to voluntarily return as President of East Timor Xanana Gusmao has called for. Besides, the Indonesian government has been increasing pressure for them to leave.

Most of the remaining displaced people -- their numbers are estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 -- are understood to be families of the pro-Indonesia militias who spearheaded the destruction of an estimated 80 percent of East Timor in 1999.

They fear reprisals by pro-independence Timorese.

"Everybody wants to leave the camp and resume a new life but we want a guarantee for our personal safety from the East Timor government," said Esperanso Lopes, who, like her husband Jasinto Lopes, retains her job as a teacher and now they teach in a local state elementary school.

"We don't want to be harassed in any way if and when we return."

Esperanso lives in the camp with her husband and four children.

As teachers, the couple is a respected family in the neighborhood. Their best piece of furniture is a green sofa, which they said was among the few things they managed to take along with them when fleeing home three years ago.

The Timorese in the Indonesian and East Timor halves of the island look at each other with suspicion. Residents of Tunubibi, which is separated by a river from a refugee camp in the Indonesian territory, still talk about the threat of militias striking again once the UN Peace-Keeping Force leaves.

The ex-militias, on their part, are scared not only by possible reprisals by their former enemies but also by the prospect of being taken to court for violating human rights.

"I have heard the maximum penalty is death," said Joakim, a camp neighborhood chief, who like other refugees, refused to say whether he was a former militia or not. --Pandaya

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