Subject: KY: Militias urged to prove sincerity by releasing refugees

Militias urged to prove sincerity by releasing refugees

06/12/2000 Kyodo News

DILI, East Timor , June 12 --

A senior U.N. official on Monday urged pro-Jakarta militia figures wanting to participate in politics in an independent East Timor to prove their sincerity by facilitating the return of up to 100,0000 refugees from Indonesia's West Timor Province.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the U.N. Administration in East Timor , told a press conference that he conveyed the message to visiting former militia leader Herminio da Silva da Costa in talks last Saturday in Dili.

"I told Herminio, as I told all the other (anti-independence) leaders I have had contact with, that the return of the refugees will be the test," de Mello said.

"If they commit themselves to reconciliation, to participating peacefully in the political, economic and social life of this country, they must release the refugee population and allow those who wish to come back -- who are the majority, we know -- to do so," he said.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that around 90,000 East Timorese remain in Indonesia's West Timor camps. The estimate of the Indonesian authorities is around 125,000.

About 280,000 East Timorese were herded or fled across the border after pro-Jakarta militias and Indonesian soldiers went on a burning and looting rampage following a landslide victory for independence supporters in last August's U.N.-brokered referendum.

"We should not be discouraged if very few return as a result of Herminio's visit," de Mello said. "I have always thought that this would be a long-term and very difficult proposition."

De Mello recalled that during his meeting in January with Baucau militia leader Juanico, the latter had boasted he had the influence to provoke a mass return of tens of thousands of East Timorese from West Timor back to Baucau, East Timor 's second largest city.

But the anticipated influx never materialized.

"That's why I told Herminio that rather than promises, we want deeds," he said.

"The return of refugees, over which he may have influence, will be a test of his influence and of the meaningful nature of the assurances he has given us in the constitution of his party and in the statements he made to us in Dili," he said.

De Mello said Herminio briefed him on his May 7 announcement in Kupang, West Timor , of the formation of the Timorese People's Party (PPT) to contest East Timor 's first elections, to be held as early as April 2001.

He called Herminio a "former pro-integration leader" because the latter had left a broad umbrella of pro-integrationist political movements.

Recalling that Herminio showed him that the constitution of his party recognized the outcome of Aug. 30, 1999 ballot, de Mello said, "To my knowledge he is the first UNTAS pro-integrationist leader who recognizes that the overwhelming portion of the East Timorese people are for independence."

De Mello said the militias active in the refugee camps have continued their campaign of misinformation about the conditions in East Timor .

But he said the U.N. office in West Timor was now taking a very high profile in the local media to counter it, "responding blow-by-blow to all the lies that are spread, not only in the camps, but in the media in West Timor."

Many in the camps are former pro-integrationists who fear reprisals if they return to their home villages in East Timor .

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