Subject: JP: West Timor military consoles prointegration refugees

The Jakarta Post Latest News - May 21, 2002

West Timor military consoles prointegration refugees

JAKARTA (JP): East Nusa Tenggara Military district chief Col. Moeswarno Moesanip consoled some 30,000 prointegration East Timorese refugees who were politically estranged in West Timor following East Timor's independence on Monday, saying all sides,including the military must accept the reality.

"The former Timorese political elite, including veterans, should be introspective over our past faults that caused the territory's separation from Indonesia. "We (the Indonesian Military) are the worst hit but we must swallow the bitter pill,"he said in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on Monday.

The refugees, mostly former tribal chiefs, militiamen and officials, have declined to return home after hopes faded of being able to annul the independence. They also protested President Megawati Soekarnoputri's visit to Dili to join worldleaders in witnessing the birth of the new nation.

Some 7,000 ex-militiamen and 3,560 ex-servicemen who had taken refuge in West Timor returned home moments before the independence celebration.

Moesanip said the refugees should not turn their back on the past because such an action will disrupt their future. The most important thing now is how to develop the economy and maintain better ties with the neighboring country, he asserted.

He warned that whatever had happened in East Timor certainly had a negative impact on Indonesia. He said the Timorese were expected to look to Indonesia in the terms of language, legislation, trade and culture.

He said East Timor was expected to develop its economy in cooperation with Indonesia as Nepal did with India.

"East Timor's economy will remain interconnected with Indonesia, rather than Australia, the United States and Portugal," he said.

Concerning people living in the two countries' border areas, he said it would be better for Indonesia and Timor to require only a border pass to cross the border areas because they were part of one family.

"It looks impossible to separate the two countries," he said.

Meanwhile, the provincial administration will extend the repatriation program until Nov. 20, 2002, to allow the refugees to return home.

"After six months from now, the Indonesian government will ask the remaining refugees to make their choice whether they wish to join the settlement program or go back home.

"If they go back now the provincial administration will no longer provide financial assistance because foreign donors have stopped their donations for the program," Stanis Tefa, chief of social affairs bureau at the provincial administration said.

He said refugees who declined to return home in the next six months would be presumed to be Indonesia citizens and they would be asked to join the resettlement program to transfer to other provinces.

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