Subject: Indonesia unable to help all Timorese refugees: Min. Erna Witoelar

Also: AN: Buffer zone for E Timorese opting to stay in Indonesia

Jakarta Post Monday, June 18, 2001

Indonesia unable to help all Timorese refugees: Erna

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian government is unlikely to resettle all 52,750 East Timorese families who have chosen to remain in the country, a minister revealed on Sunday.

Minister of Resettlement and Infrastructure Erna Witoelar said the result of the refugees' registration process on June 6 was beyond the government's expectations.

"We are indeed unable (to accommodate the refugees). The government never expected to shoulder such a heavy burden," Erna said.

Of 53,824 East Timorese families registered earlier this month, 98 percent of them decided to stay in the country and retain their Indonesian nationality. The families comprise a total of around 224,000 people.

Erna said the government had expected only 24,000 East Timorese families at the most join the registration, in which they decided whether to remain in Indonesia or be repatriated. The minister added she had estimated only half of that number would opt to retain their citizenship.

"With 4,000 families already resettled, we would only have had to find permanent housing for 6,000 families and provide temporary accommodation for 2,000 families," Erna said, referring to previous expectations.

Previously, East Nusa Tenggara governor Piet Tallo had said that the province would be able to accept only 6,000 families.

There were reports that the number of East Timorese living in refugee camps in the East Nusa Tenggara half of Timor island increased prior to the registration, which had been delayed many times since originally being scheduled to take place early this year.

An estimated 250,000 East Timorese streamed into West Timor to flee violence following a United Nations-sanctioned plebiscite in Aug. 1999, which resulted in an overwhelming vote against Jakarta's wide-ranging autonomy offer.

The former Indonesian province had a population of 800,000 before the United Nations-sanctioned polls.

Erna said the government is seeking the international community's help, particularly from regular donor countries of East Timor, to help Indonesia cope with resettlement of the refugees.

She suspected that there had been little effort from observing countries in persuading the refugees to return to their home soil.

"In fact, East Timor is looking for more people to become civil servants. Therefore we, UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor), donor countries and observing countries should encourage repatriation of more East Timorese refugees," Erna said.

Meanwhile, the repatriation of East Timor refugees has been resumed after a temporary suspension in connection with the registration of refugees.

"Early last week, a total of 35 refugees, or around 14 families, were repatriated to East Timor while 125 refugees or around 31 families have registered for repatriation to East Timor," head of the Task Force for Refugee Problems Basyiruddin Yusuf told Antara in Denpasar on Saturday.

Following conclusion of the registration process, repatriation will be increased from three to five times a week except Saturday and Sunday.

It was agreed in a meeting between the task force, UNTAET, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Immigration Organization on June 13 that repatriation would be intensified from Jun. 15 to Aug. 15.

So far 9,120 refugees, around 2,460 East Timorese families, have been repatriated.


Kupang, June 17 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian government in cooperation with the United Nations and the Timor Leste administration can create a buffer zone to accommodate East Timorese people opting to join Indonesia.

The establishment of such a buffer zone can be considered to be the best alternative to the just and comprehensive solution of the East Timor refugee problem, Deputy Chairman of the East Nusatenggara Regional Legislature, Dr. Nico Wolly, said here Saturday.

Dr. Nico Wolly made the statement when asked about the best solution to the East Timor refugee problem following the June 6-7 registration which revealed that the majority of refugees had opted to join Indonesia.

He said the alternative was offered under an assumption that the East Timor refugees opting for Indonesia would most like choose to stay in Indonesia`s western part of Timor island under a probable view that they could return to their birth place easily if necessary.

The existence of a buffer zone in Timor Leste will also enable the East Timor refugees to maintain their emotional relations with their brothers in Timor Leste, Nico Wolly said.

"I think this solution is worth considering by competent authorities because I am sure there is nobody in this world willing to leave his or her birth place for good without legitimate reasons", Nico Wolly said.

UN`s Model

Nico Wolly also hoped that the United Nations would use one of its problem solving models to be applied in coping with the East Timor refugee issues.

If the United Nations has never used any buffer zone model in solving the refugee problem, Nico Wolly hoped that his idea would be adopted as necessary research object in sought of comprehensive solution to the Easst Timor refugee problem.

Such research is important, Nico Wolly said, adding that certain official regulations enacted by the United Nations are needed to be applied in the buffer zone along the border between Indonesia and the Timor Leste.

The regulations should include codes of conduct dealing with refugees` civil rights, settlements, economic means, education, health, security and commercial trade mechanism, Nico Wolly said.

According to Nico Wolly, if agreed upon, the buffer zone can be left open for social communications among the East Timorese people.

Thanks to such intensive communications, by and large the East Timor people will reunite to build and develop their country.

Referring to law enforcement and security in the buffer zone, Nico Wolly said the United Nations could assign its peace keeping forces in the buffer zone.

"So, whosoever breaches the law in the buffer zone is liable to lawful drastic measures imposed by the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces", Nico Wolly added.

June Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

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