Subject: W. Timor governor bows to ultimatum to resettle refugees

Indonesian Observer July 6, 2000

Governor bows to ultimatum to resettle E. Timorese refugees

JAKARTA (IO) - Locals in East Nusa Tenggara (West Timor) yesterday gave the province's Governor Piet A. Tallo a 48-hour deadline to permanently resettle troublesome East Timorese refugees to another location in Indonesia.

Residents of the West Timor township of Oesau said they would attack the refugees if the governor fails to relocate them within two days.

Tallo gave in to the threat and ordered that at least 100 East Timorese staying at the Noelbaki and Tuapukan refugee camps near Oesau be sent to Wetar Island, which is located north of East Timor.

Many of the troublesome refugees were members of the militia gangs that ran amok in East Timor last September, following the territory's overwhelming vote for independence.

No longer receiving strong support from the Indonesian military, and afraid they will be killed as traitors if they to return to East Timor, many of the refugees have been spending their time in West Timor by terrorizing locals and extorting money from them.

The decision to resettle the refugees was taken on Tuesday night at a meeting attended by Tallo, local military and police authorities, representatives of the refugees, as well as non-governmental organizations, and the Kupang district head, Antara reported.

West Timor administration spokeswoman Nani Kosapilawan said the troublesome refugees had previously been urging the governor to resettle them somewhere in Indonesia, as they had all opted for Indonesian citizenship and no longer wanted to be classified as refugees.

The ultimatum from locals was prompted by a series of clashes with the refugees, many of whom are still reportedly carrying weapons.

The latest clash occurred at Tuapukan town in Belu subdistrict earlier this week.

Due to a lack of money and basic commodities, the rogue refugees have long been extorting locals. Recently, locals responded by blocking all roads leading to the refugee camps, and violence was inevitable.

Twenty representatives of locals from Tuapukan and Oesau, headed by Erlen Fanggidae, had told Tallo to get rid of the refugees as fast as possible.

"We're afraid the refugees will be angry with us and launch another attack if their evacuation is at all delayed," said Erlen.

Tallo was initially unwilling to expel the refugees, saying there was no money to send them anywhere, while there is no guarantee they would be accepted by Indonesians in other regions.

However, faced with the threat of more violence, the governor decided to start sending them to Wetar Island, which despite its proximity to East Timor, is actually on the southern tip of Maluku province.

The first 100 refugees boarded the KM Mina ship at 4:00 p.m. yesterday and more are scheduled to follow suit.

Tallo said the central government will have to provide additional funding if all of the refugees are to be sent to Wetar Island.


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