Subject: JP: Refugees Demand Food in Kupang

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Jakarta Post October 12, 2002

Refugees demand food as ministers arrive

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

Hundreds of East Timorese refugees demonstrated here on Friday to demand food as Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla visited the East Nusa Tenggara capital of Kupang along with two fellow ministers.

The refugees staged a rally at the city's El Tari Airport, where Kalla, Minister of Health Achmad Suyudi and Minister of Regional Infrastructure and Resettlement Sunarno arrived to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for the development of 5,000 houses in resettlement areas here.

During the visit, Kalla and the other two ministers also delivered Rp 53 billion in humanitarian assistance from the Japanese government for refugees still stuck in camps across the province.

The protesters rejected the use of the assistance funds, received by the provincial administration for the development of resettlement areas and health services.

They demanded that the government hold talks with the coordinators of refugee camps and other senior refugee leaders before the Japanese aid was spent.

"What we need now is food, not health services. The refugees are in a critical condition due to food shortages," Elio Soares, a leader of the refugees, told The Jakarta Post.

"Therefore, it would be better if the assistance from the Japanese government was partially used to provide food," he added.

Responding to the demand, Minister Kalla said the Japanese government was not only providing the assistance for the East Timorese refugees, but also for indigenous people in East Nusa Tenggara, who had been allowing part of their lands and assets to be used to help the refugees for the last three years.

No violence was reported during the demonstration and the ground-breaking ceremony held at Naibonat village in East Kupang subdistrict ran smoothly.

Speaking during the ceremony, Kalla said the government should have finished repatriating refugees to their homeland on Aug. 31, 2002, but because the East Timorese administration was ready to receive them at anytime, the Indonesian government had extended the deadline until Dec. 31.

He said that in the case of refugees wanting to return to East Timor between October and December, the government here would still provide them with Rp 1.5 million in compensation per family, or Rp 300,000 per person.

Earlier, the amount of compensation had previously set at only Rp 750,000 per family. Kalla did not explain how the increase had come about.

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