Subject: Broken-hearted E. Timor's Seroja veterans burn awards

The Jakarta Post August 2, 2002

Broken-hearted Seroja veterans burn awards

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

Around 200 veterans of the Indonesian Military's (TNI) annexation of East Timor in 1975 staged an emotional rally at the provincial legislature here on Thursday to demand compensation for assets they left behind in the newly born state.

To express their disappointment with the government ignoring their claims, the veterans burned state documents showing their status as Satya Lencana Karya Setia medal recipients. The medal is commonly awarded to a distinguished soldier or civil servant who has served for between 10 and 15 years.

Thousands of Indonesian soldiers were killed during the military operation, code named Seroja, that led to East Timor's incorporation into Indonesia as its 27th province.

The veterans were part of 250,000 people who fled East Timor after TNI-backed militias embarked on a murderous rampage in the former Portuguese colony in the aftermath of the UN-mandated vote in favor of independence on Aug. 30, 1999.

It was the second rally over compensation in three days.

The protesters renewed their threats to boycott the 2004 general election unless the central government paid the compensation, which reportedly reaches Rp 1 trillion (US$111 million) for more than 5,000 former refugee families.

"What are the documents for if the government never heeds our demand for compensation," one of the veterans, P. Kapitan, said of the burning of the documents.

Claimant coordinator I.M. Ndoen warned the government of the loss of people's trust if it failed to comply with the demand.

There are about 1,000 Seroja veterans who hail from East Nusa Tenggara.

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