Subject: Indonesia Hopes E Timor Refugees Return Home Despite Vote

Also: Many East Timorese Refugess See Repatriation Process as a Mystery

Associated Press June 21, 2001

Indonesia Hopes E Timor Refugees Return Home Despite Vote

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesia hopes tens of thousands of refugees in Indonesian-controlled West Timor will return to their East Timor homeland even though 98% have opted to stay put, top security minister Agum Gumelar said Thursday.

He said the government wanted the refugees to return to East Timor after historic elections there for a new governing assembly in August.

The refugees fled their homeland more than 20 months ago after it voted to break away from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum. That ballot sparked a bloody rampage by anti-independence militias and prompted approximately 250,000 to flee to West Timor.

Aid agencies have repatriated most of them to East Timor, which is now under U.N. administration ahead of full independence next year. However, about 50,000 refugees remain.

Earlier this month, Indonesian authorities asked each refugee to choose between going home or staying in Indonesia. The overwhelming majority chose to remain.

"Ninety-eight percent of them want to stay in Indonesia. We hope that is a temporary choice," Gumelar told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Indonesia's government had initially planned to resettle many of the refugees on other Indonesian islands. However, with the country's economy in crisis, the cash-strapped authorities have had to reconsider.

Some human rights groups and aid agencies accuse militiamen of intimidating many of the refugees to remain in West Timor.


Kupang, June 20 (ANTARA) - Despite the Government's promise to repatriate East Timorese refugees to their homeland, many of them (refugees) saw the procedure of their repatriation as a big mystery.

Two East Timorese refugees coming from Manatuto regency came to the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) provincial administration office's public relation unit here on Wednesday to ask about the process of their repatriation.

To ANTARA, the two refugess who refused to be named said they firstly came to the province's handicraft promotion center widely known as a transit point.

However, they found the center empty as there was no such activity relating to repatriation process, they said.

Septory Simon, a spokesman for the provincial administration office, said the two East Timorese had met him and expressed their confusion about their repatriation to East Timor in Tetun language.

Simon said he suggested them to come to Indonesian office of the East Timorese Refugee Task Force to gather eligible information on their repatriation.

About 2,000 out of more than 150,000 East Timorese refugees opted to return to their homeland, Timor Lorasae, which seceded from Indonesia since October 1999 as the consequence of the pro-independence camp's victory in the UN-organised ballot in August 1999.

Some 98 percent of total number of eligible voters decided to keep staying in Indonesia and become the Indonesian citizens.

The Indonesian government vowed to resettle those who had opted to remain in Indonesia, and deport those who had chosen to return to East Timor.

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