Subject: JP: East Timorese refugees offered incentives

Jakarta Post Monday, October 29, 2001

East Timorese refugees offered incentives

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

The government has offered money and rice as incentives for East Timorese refugees who want to return to their homeland immediately in an attempt to help solve the refugee issue in East Nusa Tenggara.

"Every refugee family who returns to East Timor under the repatriation program will receive Rp 500,000 (US$50) and a packet of rice," Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Yusuf Kalla said in a meeting with East Timorese refugees in their camps in Atambua Regency on Saturday.

Yusuf also said that both the Indonesian government and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) would guarantee their safety should they choose to return to East Timor.

He, however, said the government would not press the refugees to go back to East Timor and they were free to determine their own future whether they would stay in Indonesia or not.

"The government won't let the refugees stay any longer in their camps because, besides causing financial burdens to the government, extending their stay in the region will cause social problems with the local people," he said.

So far, around 141,000 East Timorese refugees who are still living in temporary shelters at several locations in the province have yet to choose whether to return to their homeland or to stay in Indonesia.

Maj. Gen. Willem T. da Costa, chief of Udayana Military Command supervising Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, said security authorities in the province would take tight measures against a certain East Timorese group who were believed to have launched a campaign of intimidation to prevent the refugees from going back home.

"We will take strict action against those who intimidate refugees and force them to reject the government's repatriation program," he said, adding that the group was led by Joao Baptisda.

Willem was accompanying the minister on a field tour of refugees camps in the province.

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