Subject: JP: Former minister urges Indonesian gov't to compensate E. Timor veterans

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post [online] May 20, 2002

Former minister urges govt to compensate Seroja fighters

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian government must give sufficient compensation to Seroja veterans who fought for Indonesia during the struggle against the armed wing of Fretilin in East Timor, political observer Juwono Sudarsono said.

Juwono, who was also a former minister of defense and former minister of national education, said that strong objections voiced by Seroja veterans and their families over President Megawati Soekarnoputri's visit to East Timor's independence celebrations were completely understandable, Antara reported.

Seroja fighters set their medals alight and burned their certificates of honor from the government as a show of deep concern and protest over Megawati's decision to attend the former province's independence celebrations, which was integrated to Indonesia in 1975.

"Whatever happens, the government has to respect them (Seroja fighters). The amount of compensation can be arranged by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defense and the Indonesian Military (TNI)headquarters," Juwono said, on the sidelines ofthe 37th anniversary of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas).

Juwono said the grounds to give more compensation to the veterans was based on a previous decision announced by then TNI commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto, that if East Timor was separated from Indonesia, there would be no questioning or querying Indonesia's 1975 political decision to take over East Timor.

"Another basis is that the military operation and the involvement of its personnel for the past 20 years is politically closed for discussion. And the third consideration is that the heroes' cemeteries must be respected," Juwono said.

Lemhanas governor Ermaya Suradinata also shared similar views on the matter, saying the government must give attention and adequate allowances to the Seroja fighters and their families.

At least 3,500 Seroja veterans, most of them handicapped, demanded the government pay attention to former fighters and their families, as well as take care of the remains of Indonesian soldiers buried in East Timor.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians who fought for the Indonesian side during the fight against the armed wing of then Marxist-Communist Fretilin are buried in East Timor, which was forcibly taken over by Indonesia and declared the country's 27th province.(edt)

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