Subject: Fear traps thousands in West Timor camps


Weary Refugees Answer Call of Home
Gusmao visit ends refugee's fears

The New Zealand Herald May 15, 2002

Fear traps thousands in West Timor camps

By John Martinkus in Kupang

On the outskirts of the West Timorese capital, Kupang, a dusty former bus terminal still serves as the home for some of the estimated 60,000 East Timorese refugees who have not returned home.

In Noelbaki camp the people wear threadbare clothes and talk of a shortage of food since Indonesian Government assistance was cut last December in an effort to force them to accept repatriation to East Timor.

Markus Constancio still wears his Aitarak militia ID and insists there are still 5000 people in the half-empty camp.

He complains that they have not seen their leaders for two years and talks fondly of how things were pretty good in East Timor.

But he won't go back because he is scared.

Across town in the luxury Sasando Hotel, ex-militia leader Cancio Lopes de Carvalho is meeting his English lawyer, who stresses that there are no charges against him, despite his having been leader of one of East Timor's largest militia groups, MAHIDI ("live or die for integration with Indonesia").

Cancio was linked to several highly public and gruesome murders, particularly in Galitas village near Suai.

On that occasion, Cancio was reported to have held aloft the dead foetus removed from a pregnant woman who had just been shot by his men and publicly declared the authority of his militia in the area.

That incident, on January 24, 1999, sparked the arrival of 6000 locals in the Suai Catholic church, where some of them remained until they were massacred by militia and Indonesian military after the United Nations pullout from the town in September, an act in which Cancio's men also took part.

Cancio and his men eventually destroyed the town of Cassa and forced the population to flee to West Timor before the UN peacekeepers arrived in the area in early October 1999.

Cancio still refers to those who fled with him and remain in the camps opposite the area since controlled by New Zealand peacekeepers as "my people", and says at least 6000 will come back if he returns and is not arrested.

Cancio has not yet returned to East Timor because he says there are accusations against him.

He has not been called to appear at the Indonesian ad hoc human rights tribunal in Jakarta where 18 Indonesian military and police staff and East Timorese civilians are being investigated.

He says that if the UN would charge him through the courts in East Timor he would return to face the charges tomorrow.

At the same time he derides the work of the UN serious crimes unit that has been tasked with investigating the crimes of 99.

Cancio says he is alone now and has no contact with other former militia leaders. He suspects other former leaders such as Eurico Guterres do not talk to him because they will not discuss the role of the Indonesian military in the violence in East Timor, which Cancio says he is prepared to discuss in an East Timorese court.

Eurico's new position as leader of the youth wing of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's political party PDIP keeps him in Jakarta.

The members of his former militia group, the Dili-based Aitarak, still wear their trademark black T-shirts and attempt to exercise a degree of intimidation among the dwindling number of refugees in the camps.

Yusuf Edi Mulyono, Indonesian director of the Jesuit refugee service, says the lack of prosecutions for crimes in 1999 hampers the return of the remaining refugees.

The fear is real. Even those who did nothing may be part of a big family.

A reconciliation commission is still an embryo and people are afraid of those taking the law into their own hands, he says.

Mulyono says there are still problems in the camps. There has been a riot in Noelbaki. He believes that up to 30,000 people will eventually return as the work of the reconciliation commission and serious crimes becomes more transparent in East Timor.

Mario Viera, spokesman for Untas, the East Timorese pro-integration organisation and political descendant of the militia leadership based in Kupang, believes resettlement in Indonesia is the only solution for former militia.

"These people who work with the military have been indoctrinated," he says. "It is not easy for them to change."

Viera says the trial in Jakarta of Untas board member Abilio Soares, a former East Timor governor under the Indonesians, is a signal of how weak the Indonesian Government has become.

"The murders during and after the popular consultation were done by the pro-independence people and we will try and use the tribunal in Jakarta to educate people on what happened."

Viera says the people who are the losers are always those on trial.

He refers to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague to make his point.

Viera, like 9000 other former East Timorese military, police and civil servants now in West Timor, receives a wage from the Indonesian Government and now works in the local office for foreign investment in West Timor.

But he believes his people have been betrayed by Indonesia.

Untas still officially rejects the result of the UN ballot. It says Indonesia has been manipulated by the international community to accept the result. Untas claims to represent all those in the camps and has urged people to stay in West Timor.

Viera admits the cancellation of food aid last December is achieving the goal of slowly forcing people to return.

"If we had billions of rupiah to feed the people, of course we would refuse [to go back]," he says.

"They are using this to achieve their political goals of forcing our return."

With the return of the last of the refugees, the claims of the former pro-integration leaders to represent them will cease and any remaining bargaining power they have with the UN or the Indonesian Government will end.

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

South China Morning Post Monday, May 13, 2002

Weary Refugees Answer Call of Home

CHRIS MCCALL at Mota Ain, the Timor border

photo: Indonesian border police check the papers of a returnee. Picture by Chris McCall

Torn between tears and smiles, the refugees line up with all their worldly goods and wait to go home. Some are even bringing their dead.

Waiting to cross the frontier to his native East Timor, Mateas Soares has little to say except that he has to go home.

"It is my place of birth. I have to go back," said the father of four.

It is the most common answer among these few hundred weary people.

They had fled East Timor amid the chaos and killing that followed the 1999 referendum on independence for the Indonesian-occupied territory, and still feel a strong bond to their native land.

Clutching small wads of US dollar notes handed out by Indonesian officials before they leave, they have their photographs taken and then wait beside the small convoy of yellow trucks which will take them back to East Timor.

Mr Soares, 34, is heading to Manututo, the home town that he shares with President-elect Xanana Gusmao. He remembers when Mr Gusmao studied at a local seminary and is glad he will be East Timor's first president. "He is a struggler," he said.

Mr Gusmao's constant push for reconciliation and visits to West Timor have made him a hero even to many of those who opposed independence.

A line of perhaps 20 trucks is waiting ahead of the group to cross the border, all loaded with the returnees' entire belongings. These often include the remains of the houses they lived in during their two years in squalid West Timor refugee camps. They are allowed to dismantle the buildings and retain the materials to construct new homes back in East Timor.

When the UN military observers monitoring the operation get the okay, the convoy makes its way slowly over a few dozen metres of "no-man's land".

But the border region is very different to the tension-filled place it was in late 1999.

Customs and immigration posts have been set up on both sides, and only those with passports or equivalent documents are allowed to go through.

Perhaps 200 to 300 people will cross the border today, the latest in a steady stream of returnees from the dilapidated camps in West Timor that Indonesia wants to close. At the current rate of return, many of the camps might be empty within a few months. Many refugees are rushing to beat the deadline next Monday, East Timor's independence day. After that, Indonesia will not consider them as refugees, but as ordinary Indonesian citizens.

The returnees are searched several times for weapons, at least twice on the Indonesian side and once on the East Timor side. As their belongings are unloaded from the trucks at Batugade, they are also searched.

There, the workers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees hand out food and blankets, and check their identities again. Some may spend the night there, awaiting new trucks to take them home. Many of the men are interviewed for "security assessment". Local administrations are notified about those considered potential risks, for example, because they joined the anti-independence militia.

One elderly man is bringing the body of his 12-year-old son, who died of malaria in 2000. Jefrino Moises says he will bury his son, Januario, again in his home village of Balibo, where he will resume his old life as a farmer. He says he does not care whether his house is still standing. He has friends and relatives in Balibo. It is his home. With his wife and three remaining children, he is going to farm his land again.

Gusmao visit ends refugee's fears

The Australian May 15, 2002

By Don Greenlees, Jakarta correspondent, in Dili

FRANCISCO Alves voted in favour of East Timor remaining a part of Indonesia in the 1999 referendum on independence. When the vote went the other way, 10 families from the small coastal village of Ulmera, including his own, decided to flee across the border into West Timor.

Two days ago, the 30-year-old farmer returned home. Fears of retribution, kept alive by rumours that returnees were mistreated, kept Alves and his family in a camp near the border for 19 months.

Alves dates his change of heart to an April 4 visit to West Timor by East Timor's president-elect Xanana Gusmao.

"In the visit Xanana said, 'Just come back to East Timor, I will receive you with open arms'," says Alves as he waits in a refugee transit camp outside the capital, Dili.

"Xanana is a very good man for East Timor and we were impressed by what he said. We kept his message in our hearts, that is why we came back." On Monday, the day Alves crossed the border with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 469 other exiled East Timorese joined him on the trip home - one of the biggest single-day returns for some time.

In the first five months of this year, 14,000 people have come back from the West Timor camps, not far short of the total for 2001. Just days before East Timor formally gains its independence, the sudden upsurge in refugee returns has raised hopes among UNHCR officials and East Timorese leaders that an end to the refugee problem is in sight.

"There is definitely a new dynamic on the other side of the border," says Dili-based UNHCR official Jake Moreland.

The pool of refugees has dwindled from 260,000 soon after the independence vote unleashed a wave of revenge killings and destruction in September 1999 to about 55,000 today. Nearly half of these people came back in the first three months.

But resolving the refugee problem has been one of the most intractable issues in relations between East Timor and its former occupier, Indonesia.

Although the Indonesian security forces have won recent praise for improving co-operation, Moreland says many refugees are still discouraged.

"There are stories spread that couples will be separated and wives raped," he says.

Despite these hindrances, the UNHCR is banking on the May 20 declaration of independence and retreat of the UN drawing many of the undecided home. During Gusmao's April 4 visit, UNHCR distributed thousands of postcards printed with the phrase "come home before 20 May".

It is hoped hundreds, possibly thousands, will accept the invitation.

Migi Barreto, 17, is one of those who decided he wanted to witness for himself the foundation of a new country. He too came home on Monday. Awaiting transport to his village of Holarua, Marreto says: "We heard in West Timor that East Timor would be independent on the 20th of May and we would have felt very bad if we didn't come back in time."

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