Subject: JP: East Timorese refugees demand asset compensation

April 28, 2003 Jakarta Post

East Timorese refugees demand asset compensation

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

More than 500 East Timorese people still taking refuge in West Timor held a protest recently in front of the East Nusa Tenggara provincial legislative council, demanding the Indonesian government compensate them for the assets they left behind in East Timor.

The protesters said that they had earlier submitted the compensation request to Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla, but had failed to attract his attention.

Should the demand be denied, the protesters plan to boycott the 2004 general election by not voting in it. As a display of affirmative action, the refugees will refuse to comply with the voter registration process.

There are about 5,000 East Timorese households in East Nusa Tenggara.

"For whatever reason, all of the assets that we left in East Timor must be compensated for. Should the government fail to fulfill our demands, all refugees will boycott the election next year," said Imanuel Ndoen, coordinator of the handling of refugees' assets in East Timor.

Chairman of East Nusa Tenggara provincial House of Representatives Woda Pale and his deputy Nicolas Wolly have suggested that protesters review their boycott decision, as the government is still considering the matter.

Meanwhile, head of the Bureau of Social Affairs Stanis Tefa said that the government would soon establish branches to record the assets owned by East Timorese Indonesians. However, he declined to guarantee that the data collection process would be followed up by payment of compensation, as requested by the protesters.

"We shall submit the demand to the Department of Foreign Affairs in the near future for a reply," he said.

According to Imanuel, the total assets left behind during the period of communal violence that followed the UN-sponsored referendum in September 1999 was more than Rp 1.62 trillion (US$182 million).

"The estimate was made on the basis of all the assets destroyed by fire, plus what remained after the referendum," he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people from Tuapukan village, in the eastern part of Kupang municipality, East Nusa Tenggara, also held a demonstration in front of the governor's office, asking the government to shut down refugee camps and relocate the occupants to new settlements.

"For four years locals have been unable to work their land as it has been used for refugee camps," said Rev. Emiritos Nggadas, along with 10 other local figures.

Rev. Nggadas said that, currently, the refugee campsites, established in 1999, were on farmland that belonged to the people of Tuapukan village.

In response to the villagers' complaints, Kupang Military Resort Commander Col. Moeswarno Moesanip said that his unit planned to relocate the refugee camps from Tuapukan to Naiboat village, eastern Kupang municipality.

According to Moeswarno, the government was also completing some 250 dwellings for East Timorese refugees in the Naiboat area.

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