Subject: Age: Priest fears rough justice in Timor

The Age May 11 2002

By Chris McCall

Kupang, West Timor

Illegal "people's courts" could be set up to dispense rough justice in post-independence East Timor unless the legal system is formalised, a Catholic aid worker has warned.

Father Edi Mulyono, of Jesuit Refugee Services, said the repatriation of refugees from Indonesian West Timor had not yet fulfilled its key aim of reconciliation. Serious work was still needed at the grass-roots level to prevent outbreaks of violence after independence.

In some areas of East Timor, returnees who opposed independence now outnumber those who stayed after the 1999 referendum, he said. Many refugees have ties to militias or the Indonesian military.

Reconciliation would be hard to achieve in the long term unless some form of justice was seen to be done, Father Mulyono said.

It was also vital that East Timor's new reconciliation commission got down to work by August at the latest.

"From the point of view of the victim, if you see the perpetrator walking around it hurts," he said.

"The threat of people's courts will occur," Father Mulyono said, warning that this could lead to renewed conflict.

Fear was evident and widespread on both sides of the border in the run-up to independence on May 20, Father Mulyono said. This was the main factor holding up new returns.

His agency is a Roman Catholic charity that has been deeply involved with aid work in West Timor's refugee camps. It was instrumental in setting up some of the local-level meetings that led to several large-scale waves of returns in recent months.

Up to 60,000 East Timorese still remain in West Timor.

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