Subject: KY: Indonesia will not guarantee scholarships for E. Timorese

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Indonesia will not guarantee scholarships for E. Timorese

JAKARTA, March 22 (Kyodo) - The Indonesian government has said it cannot guarantee to continue offering scholarships for East Timorese students studying at public Indonesian universities due to a lack of funds, a local newspaper reported Friday.

''Actually, we want to help (them) for humanitarian reasons but we also face national humanitarian problems,'' the Media Indonesia daily quoted Sudharmadi, director of the Institutional Management and Empowerment of Public Roles at the Ministry of National Education, as saying.

Sudharmadi made the remarks after attending a meeting between representatives of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), 18 rectors of Indonesian public universities and donors for East Timorese students in Indonesia on Thursday.

According to Sudharmadi, there are currently about 26 million Indonesian students who graduated from senior high schools but are unable to continue their studies at university because they cannot afford the tuition fees.

These students should receive more assistance than students from East Timor, which voted for independence from Indonesia, he was quoted as saying.

Prior to the U.N.-supervised referendum in August 1999 in which East Timorese voted for independence, there were about 1,100 East Timorese students at various Indonesian post-secondary institutions.

Most of them got scholarships from the government of 390,000 rupiah (about $40) each a month. Meanwhile, the government gives Indonesian students just 75,000 rupiah each a month.

Sudharmadi said there was a heated debate at Thursday's meeting between the rectors and UNTAET representatives, who urged the government to continue providing scholarships for the East Timorese students.

''We all have reasons that we are in difficult positions,'' he said.

The meeting failed to result in an agreement, but participants devised three alternatives to be decided on by the rectors within two weeks, the paper said.

The alternatives comprise giving similar treatment to East Timorese and Indonesian students, holding negotiations between the rectors and East Timorese students and treating East Timorese students as foreign students.

Indonesia and UNTAET agreed at a high-level meeting last month to further consider the continuation of study of East Timorese students at Indonesian universities, which is considered important in developing East Timor's human resources.

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