Subject: East Timorese reject island resettlement

Indonesian Observer September 16, 2000

East Timorese reject island resettlement

JAKARTA (IO) - Several pro-Jakarta East Timorese leaders have rejected the government's plan to resettle refugees from East Timor on a certain empty island in Indonesia.

"The Indonesian government's plan to resettle the refugees on an island would not solve the problem facing pro-integration East Timorese," Francisco Soares was quoted as saying by Antara yesterday.

"To them, reinstating the Red-and-White [Indonesian] flag over East Timor is the essence of their struggle," he said.

The government disclosed the plan to resettle the pro-Jakarta militias and other refugees during a meeting on Thursday between Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and militia leaders in Denpasar, Bali.

According to Soares, who hails from Bobonaro, East Timor, the proposed resettlement would only take the East Timorese refugees further away from their goal of getting back their homeland.

"Some East Timorese might agree with the Indonesian government's plan. But the majority - including me - would find it difficult to accept. There would emerge many problems if we were concentrated on an island," he said.

Another pro-Jakarta East Timorese leader, Francisco Amaral da Silva, claimed the problem cannot be resolved by resettling the refugees in an island within Indonesia.

"We are here [in West Timor, East Nusa Tenggara province] not because we have lost remembrance of our fatherland. We are here fighting to take East Timor back into the fold [of Indonesia]," da Silva said.

According to him, a transparent attitude on the part of the United Nations envoys to East Timor would be most important in the search for a solution to the issue.

Antonio Mendosa of the Timor Fighters Brotherhood (UNTAS) expressed a similar view. "Until the United Nations becomes transparent, the process of reconciliation among East Timorese will never bring about a favorable result," he said.

Forced step

A member of East Nusa Tenggara's provincial legislative assembly said the government was forced to offer the "island resettlement" plan due to last week's murder of three UN humanitarian workers in Atambua, West Timor.

"I see the offer as a move to overcome the deadlock in international politics in the wake of the Atambua incident," Chris Boro Tokan told Antara yesterday.

The Atambua incident occurred when thousands of East Timorese refugees, led by the murderous militia thugs, attacked the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The slaughters took place a day after a militia leader was found murdered in his home.

National news agency Antara yesterday described the premeditated murders as a "mishap".

Tokan, who is also chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara chapter of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said the island offer won't resolve problems in the region.

"It would only be effective if all East Timorese refugees agree to take the offer," he said.

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