Subject: Timor refugess can own lands in Indonesia

Indonesian Observer June 2, 2001

Timor refugess can own lands in Indonesia

JAKARTA -- East Timor refugees that want to stay in Indonesia and become citizens during the registration on June 6 will be given rights to become land owners,

"We will help process their land certificates and their Indonesian ID- cards," Regional Office head of Land Affairs in Belu District (West Timor), Dantje R. Masadu, was quoted as saying by Antara in Atambua yesterday.

He said that the right to possess land in West Timor or other regions in Indonesia is based on the agrarian law No. 5 1960, which states that all Indonesian citizens have rights to possess land while foreign people or expatriates only have rights to use a piece of land for a period of time.

Those who own land currently in West Timor or in other regions of Indonesia, who plan to return to East Timor to become citizens, must sell or donate the property to an Indonesian within the next few days otherwise the land will be confiscated or taken over by the respective local government.

Thus far, 10 or more East Timor people in Belu (West Timor) have called for the local government to process their land. "Of course we can process it as long as they have Indonesian ID-cards," said Masadu.

However there is a serious land problem in the region because from the total 100,000 supposed owners of land, there are only 20,000 that have land certificates.

Locals in general, in that part of Indonesia do not care about the certificates because, their pieces of lands are handed down from generation to generation; it is difficult to get land certificates, and most of all, one has to pay exorbitant "fees" to officials.

It is also possible that East Timor people have bought land belonging to locals without official documents.

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