Subject: Lusa: E Timor: Dili protests Jakarta plan to station forces on disputed islet


Jan 20, 2004

East Timor: Dili protests Jakarta plan to station forces on disputed islet

East Timorese Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta Tuesday described reported Indonesian plans to station security forces on a disputed islet as a "provocation" to Dili and the United Nations.

Jakarta's reported plans to deploy a small military and police unit on the island of Sinai, located off the coast of Dili's Oecusse enclave, was "a provocation to the United Nations, which is responsible for the security and territorial integrity of East Timor", Ramos Horta told Lusa.

"Indonesia already knows from its 25 years of experience with the Timorese that it does not impress us", he added, referring to Jakarta's long occupation of East Timor that ended with independence in 2002.

Ramos Horta's comments came in reaction to an Indonesian newspaper report earlier Tuesday citing a senior army officer as saying plans were underway to station permanently between 10 and 15 soldiers and police on Sinai, an uninhabited, football-field-size islet claimed by both countries.

The "Jakarta Post" cited Colonel Moeswarno Moesanip, the commander of Indonesian forces in West Timor, as saying the deployment aimed to pre-empt use of the islet in criminal activity, such as trafficking and smuggling. No date was mentioned for the planned deployment, but Col. Moesanip saying it would take place after appropriate shelters were built for the security unit on Batek, as the islet is called by Indonesia.

Ramos Horta said such an "aggressive" military move would "complicate" a political issue that was already on the diplomatic "bilateral agenda" between Dili and Jakarta, which includes agreed cooperation in defining the two countries' borders.

He noted that "no document" gave Indonesia sovereignty over the islet, which has been used "for generations" by Timorese fishermen from both countries to rest and perform "rituals".

The Jakarta Post said that an Indonesian flag had been hoisted and flown above Sinai since December 2002. Dili issued a protest late last year after Indonesian forces used the disputed islet for military manoeuvres.

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