Subject: JP: Dilemma for Indonesians in Timor Leste

May 13, 2007

Jakarta Post

Dilemma for Indonesians in Timor Leste

DILI (JP): He feels 100 percent Timor Leste. But somehow Victor, 54, a taxi driver from Flores, Indonesia, feels that native Timorese still treat him like a stranger.

"I have been here since 1982 and was married to a native woman. Now I have six children. I love Timor Leste, and I don't have any intention of leaving the country. But still, some of them treat me like I'm Indonesian, an ex-occupier," he told TheJakarta Post on Saturday.

Victor said it was especially difficult when he had to deal with officials to get permits or paperwork done, including for opening a new business.

"You see, people like me are confused because we are no longer Indonesian citizens because we don't have passports, but on the other hand Timor Leste has not accepted us yet," he said.

The fact that he was not allowed to vote in the recent presidential election alienated Victor even more.

"Why can't I vote? I have as much love for this country as anyone else. I wish I had a chance to participate in determining the future of the country, but they told us to wait until next election," he said.

An expert on Timor Leste, Nugroho Katjasungkana, said the confusion among Indonesian-born residents here has something to do with the lack of understanding of the citizenship regulations adopted by the Timor Leste government.

He said that according to the Timor Leste constitution, every non-native Timorese has to stay in the country for five years without interruption from May 20, 2002 to be able to apply for citizenship.

Nugroho, a permanent resident of Timor Leste, added that because most Indonesian people here had been living in the territory long before Timor Leste's independence from Indonesia, they thought they automatically would become Timor Leste citizens if they stayed and married Timorese woman.

"That's why they did nothing to obtain passports from the Indonesian government or get permits or visas from the authorities here. They then became illegal immigrants. Thousands of them are scattered around the 13 districts across the country. In the beginning, the Indonesian embassy tried to give information to Indonesians here but I don't know now," he told the Post. (Abdul Khalik)

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