|Subject: JP: TNI general
bids farewell to refugees
The Jakarta Post July 23, 2002
TNI general bids farewell to refugees
Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post,
As many as 1,175 East Timorese refugees, or 335 families, including 35 Indonesian soldiers and civil servants, left East Nusa Tenggara on Monday for their newly independent homeland.
The repatriation of members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) moved Udayana Military Commander Maj. Gen. William T. da Costa, who led their farewell ceremony at the border area of Atambua.
"I am extremely moved by this event because one of them, Chief Capt. Joachim do Santos, is my best bodyguard. He has worked with me for three years and now he has chosen to return to his homeland," he said.
Their departure for East Timor was marked by the removal of official TNI and civil servant badges. They received compensations of Rp 15 million to Rp 17 million each.
Up to 50,000 East Timorese are still staying in camps across this province. The repatriation is expected to finish by the end of the year.
William asked the returning refugees to start a new life, in harmony with other East Timorese residents, and live in peace with their Indonesian neighbors.
"For sure, you are no longer Indonesian citizens. Please go home and abide by all the regulations there. Respect your flag and sing the national Timor Lorosae anthem.
"But one thing that you should not forget is that we are all Timorese people," he said emotionally as the refugees sobbed.
Apart from household belongings, some of the returning refugees also carried the skeletons of members of their families and relatives who had died at refugee camps.
"Less than 20 human skeletons are being taken home with the refugees," Wirasakti military chief Kol. Moeswarno Moesanip, who oversees security in the NTT capital of Kupang, told journalists after the farewell ceremony.
Lt. Col. Tjuk Agus Minahasa, chief of the Belu district Military Command, said more refugees would be repatriated on Aug. 17.
Some soldiers discourage East Timor repatriation: Indonesian general
"From the ranks of the TNI (the Indonesian armed forces) there are one or two people who are making efforts to change the wishes (of refugees) to return home because they are still emotional," Major General William da Costa said.
Speaking in the West Timorese border town of Atambua, Da Costa was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying that the military had already summonsed these individuals.
"I told them that whatever they do to prevent the refugees from returning home I will not allow...if they are proven to do so, I will take firm actions," he said.
Da Costa said civilians also had been discouraging the refugees from returning. He gave no details but said the intelligence service would root them out and they would be firmly punished.
Da Costa, who heads the Udayana military command which also oversees West Timor, was speaking after seeing off 1,163 refugees who left for home in East Timor.
More than 250,000 East Timorese either fled or were forced by pro-Jakarta militias across the border into West Timor when Indonesia pulled out of the territory in 1999 amid widespread militia violence.
There have been numerous reports in the past that the militias were intimidating people in the camps from returning.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in January that although the threats were continuing, economic factors were now the main reason why many were reluctant to go home.
Many who once served with the Indonesian army or civil service in East Timor feared the loss of pensions or severance pay. A fund has been set up to help meet some pension payments.
The UNHCR now says fewer than 50,000 refugees are still in Indonesia, of whom 30,000-35,000 are expected to choose to return.
Da Costa called on the remaining East Timorese to take advantage of the 750,000 rupiah (83.3 dollars) per capita financial assistance given by the government to each returnee until August 31.
Another mass repatriation is to be held on August 17, Indonesia's independence day, he said.
East Timor became independent on May 20 and has encouraged its people to return.
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/