Subject: Indon govt sets up task force to deal with Timor refugees

From: Tapol <plovers@gn.apc.org> Subject: Indon govt sets up task force to deal with Timor refugees

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Indonesian Observer october 5, 2000

Govt sets up task force to deal with Timor refugees

JAKARTA (IO) - The government has set up an inter-ministerial task force to prepare for the repatriation and resettlement of some 130,000 East Timorese refugees living in camps in East Nusa Tenggara, a senior official said yesterday.

"The task force has been established and now we are working on the composition of its personnel," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told journalists after a meeting to discuss the formation of the team.

Meanwhile Housing and Regional Development Minister Erna Witoelar estimated yesterday that almost 60 % of the refugees will choose to return to their original homeland.

At present, refugees subsist in squalid camps in West Timor following their flight from East Timor after the announcement of a victory for pro- independence forces at the United Nations-sponsored referendum in 1999.

The referendum offered the East Timorese a choice between independence and wide-ranging autonomy.

The decision in favor of independence later unleashed a violent rampage by pro-Jakarta militiamen.

Marzuki said the team, drawn from several ministries, the military and the police, would start work as soon as a decree on its establishment was issued by the ministry of political and security affairs.

Jakarta has been under intense United Nations and world pressure to clean up the West Timor camps and the militia that live among the refugees since the murder of three UN aid workers there on September 6.

Witoelar reiterated that Indonesia has been left alone by the international community to deal with the militias, refugee resettlement and the repatriation of refugees.

"Although there have been commitments from the international community over resettlement of the refugees, none have offered funds to assist us to deal with this complex problem. So far we are financing it ourselves. And we are facing a big problem, because the government doesn't have sufficient funds to finance those who want to stay in Indonesia," she said.

While the government was committed to providing the basic needs of refugees as well as a safety guarantee, "it does not seek to prevent those who wish to return to East Timor, and nor does it encourage them to stay in Indonesia," she told reporters after a meeting with Coordinating Minister for Politics, Security and Social Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono here yesterday.

Residual problems

The government's proposed refugee task force is aimed at solving the "residual problems" that followed East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia last year, Marzuki said.

He added the government would soon re-register the refugees to determine those who want to return to their homeland and those who want to remain in Indonesia.

"The deadline (for re-registration) is 12 October," he said.

Efforts to disarm the militiamen were continuing, Marzuki added.


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