Subject: Indonesia, UNTAET hit impasse over asset problem

The Jakarta Post April 3, 2002

RI, UNTAET hit impasse over asset problem

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Dili

The Indonesian government and the United Nations Temporary Administration at East Timor (UNTAET) have yet to find an appropriate way of solving the problem of Indonesian assets in the soon-to-be independent nation -- even though, until now, they have held six rounds of discussions.

The Indonesian Representatives Chief in East Timor, Chalief Akbar, told reporters last week that, during discussions on the assets, they encountered a number of problems which interfered with their ability to reach an agreement.

The problems concern differences on regulations regarding land, certificates, citizenship, and the absence of a legal framework.

"We're facing a very complex situation. We could not take a clear stance, as East Timor does not have a legal base. We may have to temporarily cancel our meetings," Chalief said.

"But we hope that, after East Timor formally has its own government and legal system on May 20th, we can re-start the process again," he added.

The other problem, he said, related to the fact that many East Timorese who live in East Timor still use Indonesian passports, which technically make them Indonesian citizens.

"Thousands of people in East Timor still use Indonesian passports as identification. Based on the East Timor's constitution, people have East Timorese citizenship only when they are natives of East Timor, or it is given to them," he said.

On the another point, UNTAET's regulation No. 27, 2000 has strictly ruled out the possibility that non-natives of East Timor can transfer their assets to other people, despite the fact that many of them have returned to the country, and claimed their assets.

The secretary-general of East Timor's Socialist Party, Avelino M.C. da Silva said in Dili recently that only natives of East Timor may hold their own assets in the country.

"Migrants from outside have no rights to own the assets in East Timor. They can only have the rights to use or manage them," he noted.

The Jakarta Post found that many assets which are owned by the Indonesian government, state and private firms, as well as other Indonesian people in the regencies of Dili, Baucau, Viqueque, Lautem, Mantuto and Ermera, have been used as office buildings for UNTAET, non-governmental organizations, and other international agencies.

Most of the buildings were built with foreign loans.

Chalief noted that there was no exact data available on the Indonesian assets in East Timor. But he said that their value exceeded Rp 1 trillion.

The assets were left by Indonesian owners soon after Indonesia's former 27th province voted to break away from the archipelago in 1999 in a UN-sponsored referendum.

In May, East Timor will hold an election to choose a new president who will, in turn, form a new government.

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