Subject: JP: Govt provides housing for East Timor refugees

The Jakarta Post December 30, 2002

Govt provides housing for East Timor refugees

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) administration said on Sunday the government would not ignore East Timorese refugees who had chosen to stay in Indonesia after the repatriation program ended on Dec. 31.

NTT vice governor Johanis Pake Pani said the government had developed housing in East Sumba, West Sumba and Ngada in NTT for the refugees, while South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan had agreed to provide settlement areas for the refugees.

"We will continue the existing program: empowerment, resettlement and transmigration for the refugees," he told The Jakarta Post.

However, he said, the refugees must wait for the central government's decision on whether they would automatically become Indonesian citizens or must apply for citizenship.

According to Kupang Military Chief Col. Moeswarno Moesanif, 8,000 of a total 10,000 East Timorese refugees had decided to stay in Indonesia.

"Most of them are military officers and civil servants, and pro-integration militia," he said.

Separately, head of NTT social affairs office Stanis Tefa said East Timorese refugees should start applying for resettlement in January to help the government manage the relocation.

He said that houses at resettlement areas were ready to be occupied and the settlements would be equipped with facilities such as schools and health centers.

Chief of Belu Military District Command Lt. Col. Tjuk Agus Minahasa agreed with Stanis.

"The government has been preparing many resettlement areas for refugees who are reluctant to return to East Timor. So get ready for the program," he said.

According to him, with assistance from foreign governments including Japan, the government would continue building thousands of houses for the refugees.

Meanwhile, Belu administration secretary Joachim Lopez said his regency would only be able to accept 1,000 families or about 5,000 people.

He added that the other refugees must be relocated to other areas.

"We hope the refugees, who prefer to stay here, are realistic about the situation that they can no longer stay in camps for the sake of their children," he said.

East Timorese refugees have said that they are ready to reside in new resettlement areas as long as the government provided proper supporting facilities.

"Roads, schools, medical centers and clean water in the new locations must be given serious attention by the government," a refugee, Agustino Sarmento said.

Another refugee, Hipolito de Carvallo, said that the condition of the buildings in the resettlement areas must be better than the camps.

If the resettlement areas are better than the camps, the East Timorese would not hesitate to migrate there, he added.

As many as 250,000 East Timorese fled to West Timor in September 1999 after thousands of military-backed militia members went on a bloody rampage to protest the results of a United Nations-organized referendum in which the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to break away from Indonesia.

The rampage claimed the lives of an estimated 1000 people and destroyed almost 80 percent of the infrastructure in the former Portuguese colony.

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