|Subject: Harassment By Militias Stops East
Also: Refugee task force criticizes effectiveness of repatriation
The Associated Press March 7, 2001
Harassment By Militias Stops East Timor Repatriations
GENEVA (AP)--An ambitious drive to repatriate tens of thousands of East Timorese from West Timor has ground to a halt because of blatant intimidation of the refugees by Indonesian-backed militias, an aid agency said Tuesday.
The International Organization for Migration said the inability of Indonesian authorities to control the militias and provide security guarantees also thwarted hopes of aid agencies returning to West Timor after a six-month absence.
"We're stuck, absolutely stuck," said spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy.
He said it increasingly looked like the only solution to end the militia stranglehold over the refugee camps would be to mount a massive operation to close the camps completely. This would need U.N. Security Council approval and full cooperation from the Indonesian army.
An estimated 80,000 East Timorese remain in West Timor - although no one really knows an exact number as the militia refused to let aid workers carry out a census last year.
In September, aid agencies pulled out of West Timor altogether to protest the slaying of three U.N. refugee workers by paramilitaries. Since then, there has been little information on the plight of the East Timorese, but most are believed to want to return home.
Last Friday, the migration organization and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees launched their biggest repatriation program for the past year, shipping nearly 500 refugees out of the West Timorese port of Kupang.
But the high hopes soon turned to frustration.
A notorious militia leader, Elizariou Perreira, stood by the gangway with a list of refugees provided to him by Indonesian officials, said Chauzy. Indonesian officials said Perreira was a member of Indonesian military intelligence.
The intimidation was such that only 107 refugees - out of 220 registered - showed up for the ship passage scheduled Sunday, said Chauzy.
Perreira stayed away Sunday. "But his pal was there," said Chauzy.
Since then, no one else had registered to leave the camps, he said.
"We had hoped people would return home in high numbers. But there's nothing," said Chauzy. The planned twice-weekly shuttle service is now on hold.
Chauzy said the militia presence showed the "ongoing ambivalence of certain Indonesian agencies toward the militias, despite their now well-documented record of crimes against humanity."
"The credible security guarantees demanded by the international community for restarting programs in West Timor are beginning to look increasingly unrealistic," said Chauzy.
Following a U.N.-sponsored vote on independence in East Timor, violence by pro-Indonesia militia gangs forced more than 250,000 refugees to flee over the border to West Timor.
Many have gone back, and the U.N. wants to repatriate the rest to allow them to vote in East Timor's first independent elections later this year.
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts March 09, 2001, Friday
Refugee task force criticizes effectiveness of repatriation
Source: Kompas Cyber Media web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 8 Mar 01
Done by force
Text of report by Indonesian newspaper Kompas Cyber Media web site (www.kompas.com) on 8 March; subheadings as published
Kupang: The East Timor Refugee Repatriation Task Force Unit (Satgas PMP), under the direction of the coordinating minister for political, social and security affairs, Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, needs to be re-evaluated or disbanded. The task force is not dealing with the main problems being faced by refugees still in camps in Timor, NTT [East Nusa Tenggara].
"The Satgas PMP is not really dealing with the refugee problem. What has been done so far is only organizing their return even though the main problem needing attention is how to free them from the bitter life of living in tents which serve as temporary shelter in the camps," said the secretary-general of the Central Leadership Council (DPD) of the Union of Timorese Warriors (Untas), Ir Filomeno Hornay, in Kupang on Wednesday (7 March).
An almost identical comment was made by Untas DPD Chairman of Atambua Agustino Pinto. He described the task force's activities as a conspiracy to uproot the refugees and return them to East Timor as soon as possible.
Filomeno and Agustino were asked for their opinion on the task force's effectiveness which has been in operation since October 2000. They have returned 6000 refugees, including 609 just recently (2 March). The task force also plan to re-register refugees in May.
According to Filomeno, the task force are using "gentle persuasion" to encourage refugees to return to their homeland. The task force members regularly visit the camps encouraging them to return.
Untas claim they do not have a problem with the refugees deciding to return provided their decision is purely their's and not a result of force and promises that the situation in East Timor was conducive for their return. "We know the security situation is not yet safe for the refugees," he said.
He also felt the main priority of the task force should be how to deal with those refugees who for almost two years have been living in despair in the camps. At the moment there are about 130,000 refugees in NTT, most of them still living in makeshift accommodation without health and educational facilities and suffering from malnutrition and hunger.
Satgas PMP Kupang Coordinator Paul Yusuf Amalo has rejected claims that his task force members have been using gentle force on the refugees. "We only register those who want to return and so far it has only been refugees approaching us," explained Paul Amalo.
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/