Subject: JP: President Xanana starts four-day visit to W. Timor

The Jakarta Post November 2, 2002

President Xanana starts four-day visit to W. Timor

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

East Timor President Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao started his four-day visit in West Timor with more calls for the repatriation of the remaining 33,000 East Timorese refugees and a stronger commitment to developing better ties with Indonesia, especially the East Nusa Tenggara province (NTT).

Flying aboard a special UN aircraft from Dili, Xanana and his entourage, including East Timor Parliament Speaker George Teme and his deputy Jacob Fernandez and Deputy Minister of Education Virgilio Smith, arrived in the city around at 10 a.m. local time and were greeted by NTT Governor Piet A. Tallo.

Under tight security, Xanana held separate meetings with local officials, legislators and religious leaders to discuss the two main issues with them. More than 1,800 security personnel from the local police and military were deployed to enhance security in all places the East Timor president will visit.

In a meeting with Tallo, legislators and other local officials, Xanana expressed his willingness to make the province a "gateway" for the export of Indonesian product to East Timor due to the province's strategic position and the ethnic and religious ties between the two regions' population.

He said East Timor wanted to develop good ties with Indonesia and Kupang could become a center for East Timorese to build business relationships.

Tallo appreciated Xanana's willingness during their meeting and said that he would ask local businesspeople and traders to do business with their East Timorese counterparts.

At the national level, Indonesia and East Timor have set up a joint committee to develop good ties in all fields and to discuss Indonesian assets in East Timor after the territory declared its independence on May 20, 2002.

East Timor which chose independence in a UN-sponsored self-determination vote on Aug. 30, 1999, was annexed by then president Soeharto in 1976 after it had been colonized by Portugal for 450 years.

Xanana who visited West Timor in his capacity as East Timor's presidential candidate in March, called on remaining East Timorese refugees to return home to help build the tiny new country.

He said East Timor had opened its arms for the refugees and they should not fear repatriation because most refugees had gone back to their home villages without any problems.

Rev. Piet Olin who represented Kupang Bishop Mgr. Petrus Turang to receive Xanana, said after the meeting that Xanana wanted refugees to forget the past and to return home to build their future.

He also said that the Catholic Church would continue to provide humanitarian aid for refugees and persuade them to go back home without any interference in East Timor's political affairs.

The remaining refugees are a small part of some 295,000 East Timorese people who were forced out of the territory in 1999 shortly after the self-determination ballot, in which nearly 80 percent of East Timorese people voted to reject Jakarta's offer of autonomy, which led to independence.

In a related development, eight representatives of refugees in Noelbaki, Kupang regency, expressed their disappointment with the organizing committee for Xanana's visit after they were denied access to attend Xanana's meeting with former militia leaders at the Kristal Hotel in the city.

The eight refugee figures were not allowed to take part in the meeting as they did not have invitations.

The warned that they would boycott the planned meeting between Xanana and the refugees in Noelbaki camp on Saturday in retaliation for the organizing committee's action.

Antonio Guterres said he and the other seven representatives of the refugees came to the city not on their own initiative but were asked by the East Nusa Tenggara Military officials to attend the meeting.

Xanana is scheduled to hold a dialog with refugees in Noelbaki on Saturday and to watch a soccer match between an East Timor team and a local team.

Xanana will also visit Belu regency where a majority of the remaining refugees are living.


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