Subject: W Timor Journalist: East Timor is Safe

W Timor Journalist says: East Timor is Safe

NTT X ­ NTT Ekspres

Monday, 19 February 2001

NTT X ­ "At this time Timor Lorosae is a nation that's safe: Journalistic trip to Timor Lorosae (1)"

E. Timor has been separated from Indonesia for 19 months, since the referendum announcement on 4 Sept. 1999. What are conditions there like now? Information in W. Timor is that the situation there is very horrifying and that those who return will be tortured and murdered. As a result, E. Timorese in refuge ­ especially those in W. Timor ­ are afraid to go home. To test the truth of such information, 18 Indonesian reporters ­ including Paul Bolla of NTT Ekspres ­ made a journalistic visit to E. Timor from 6-10 Feb. facilitated by the W. Timor Care Foundation (YPTB) in cooperation with Untaet. Follow this eye witness story beginning today.

The visit went very well. Where we journalists expected to encounter difficulties we encountered friendship and brotherhood. And it is impossible that the entire visit was engineered to give a false impression of peace because although we were on a tight schedule there was still free time when we could meet and speak with whomever we pleased. The feeling of no enmity was not felt only in Dili but all the way from Mota Ain to Dili and on to Aileu. There was no exceptional security except UNPKF posts at Atabae and Liquisa, but no examinations occurred. The only strict, but polite, examination was at Batugade where not only letters but the contents of bags were careful examined.

It seemed strange we were picked up only by one Timor Lorosae woman using a fully air-conditioned IOM bus. Why was there no escort? This question emerged for fear the bus might be stopped en route. In short, during the time leading up to the referendum, the road from Batugade to Dili was very sensitive. There were a lot of guard posts and examinations were carried out by local youth who were very rude and even got violent, brandishing sharp weapons when they examined people at the posts. The IOM bus driver, a Timor Lorosae youth, convinced us that the road was very safe. What he said was true. Not only was the road safe but it was continually being cleared and cleaned by excavators and local residents always ready to clear away any fallen rocks that may be blocking the road. What's interesting, as our bus passed people on both sides of the road people and children would come running, approaching the bus and yell out in Indonesian, "Refugees! Refugees! Welcome!" Cansio explained that the bus we were in is also used to take returning refugees to Dili from the border so that the people thought we were refugees coming home. The condition we experienced was very relaxing and there was no reason at all for us to feel afraid. All along the road people greeted our bus happily.

Due to miscommunication we failed to have our first scheduled session with refugees who have returned to Liquisa and have begun to rebuild their lives. Having waiting for us since the morning they had dispersed. Our bus stopped in front of the Liquisa Civil Police Office so while we took a break, the reporters took the opportunity to begin interviewing whomever they met. In general they seemed dazed. Basilio, a civil police in Liquisa who was invited to speak said he was a former member of Liquisa police. He sent a message for the press in W. Timor to urge his friends, former members of Liquisa police, to immediately return. Of 60 E. Timorese who were members of the Liquisa police, only 13 have returned. "Please invite the others to return to Liquisa, Mr. We here are very short of police," said Basilio. We continued to Dili safely where we stayed at the Oasis Hotel in E. Dili. The conclusion is that Timor Lorosae is now a safe country, especially in Dili, and not some joke so that there is no reason for Timor Lorosae people in refuge to be afraid to go home except for those whose hands are "bloody," because their fear really exists inside themselves wherever they go

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