Subject: AN: E Timorese in S Sulawesi Reluctant to Go Home


August 12, 2003 9:43pm Antara

Makassar, S Sulawesi, Aug 12 (ANTARA) - Some 3,000 East Timorese who fled their homeland to escape violence in 1999 and have since settled in South Sulawesi, are still reluctant to return home, an East Timorese figure in the Indonesian province has said.

Most East Timorese staying in South Sulawesi have opted to become Indonesian citizens, Oyang Orlando, an elder member of the East Timorese community in the province, said here Tuesday.

"They (East Timorese) prefer living in Indonesia to returning to East Timor," said Orlando, who graduated from the law faculty of the Hasanuddin University in 1991 and is working as a civil servant at the Takalar district administration.

He said the condition in newly independent East Timor is still not conducive.

He disclosed that East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao once visited Indonesia to see his people but he gave them no assistance.

No one is pressuring the East Timorese in Indonesia to return to East Timor, he said, adding that the East Timorese would however consider the condition in the nascent state before deciding to return home.

He estimated that about 3,000 East Timorese are living in transmigration areas in Mamuju and Malili districts, earning a living from farming.

In the first year of their stay in the province, the East Timorese lived under the auspices of Indonesia's Social Affairs Ministry but they have stopped receiving assistance since 2002, he said.

Meanwhile, the East Timorese government has expressed its resolve to continue the reconciliation process between East Timorese living in East Timor and those living in camps and resettlement areas in Indonesia.

East Timor's Minister/State Secretary for Cabinet Affairs Gregorio Sousa said recently the reconciliation process should however follow legal procedures prevailing in East Timor.

According to Sousa, the reconciliation should respect the law as it would provide political and legal education to all East Timorese.

In the meantime, former chief of the Integration Fighters Legion (PPI), Jao da Silva Tavares, who is currently based in Indonesia's Yogyakarta province, last week expressed support for the reconciliation among all East Timorese.

He however said reconciliation would be easy if the East Timorese would forgive one another and not seek revenge.

If the government and people of East Timor continue to pursue the legal process against those they consider guilty, horizontal conflicts would sooner or later recur in the country, he warned.

East Timor officially seceded from Indonesia in October 1999 as a consequence of the pro-independence camp's victory in a United Nations-organized popular consultation held on Aug 30 that year.

The territory integrated with Indonesia in 1976 but the UN never recognized the integration process.


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