Subject: CNS: Indonesian bishop rejects aid intended for East Timorese
INDONESIA-AID Dec-9-2003 (490 words) xxxi
Indonesian bishop rejects aid intended for East Timorese refugees
By Catholic News Service
ATAMBUA, Indonesia (CNS) -- An Indonesian bishop rejected a local
government's offer of aid that originally had been earmarked for East
Bishop Anton Pain Ratu of Atambua told reporters Dec. 1 that he would
not accept the gift of several donated motorcycles from the East Nusa
Tenggara provincial government because the cash used to purchase the
motorcycles had been intended to help refugees, reported UCA News, an
Asian church news agency based in Thailand.
The government informed the bishop by letter in late November that it
would donate the motorcycles to five parishes.
The motorcycles were purchased with money donated by the Japanese
government. In early 2002, the Japanese government donated $6.25 million
in aid to help East Timorese refugees.
About 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced from their homeland
into West Timor and other Indonesian territories in the violence that
followed the August 1999 vote for independence. Some 28,000 East Timorese
still remain in West Timor, which borders East Timor.
Bishop Pain Ratu said the diocese rejected the aid "for several
He said diocesan regulations require that he must be consulted before
aid can be given to the diocese, which did not happen in this case.
"All of a sudden, I received the letter. Then I asked: What is
behind it?" the bishop said at the press conference.
The bishop said that the East Timorese refugees are questioning what
happened to the aid that was supposed to go to them.
"The Catholic Church in the territory ... does not want to be
tricked into the problem or to make the problem worse. The Japanese
government gave the humanitarian aid to the poor, both East Timorese
refugees and local people living around the refugee camps," he said.
Bishop Pain Ratu said that he explained his position to 100 priests,
religious and lay leaders at a Nov. 26-29 diocesan pastoral meeting. He
asked church personnel who already received aid to return the donated
motorcycles to the government.
According to The Jakarta Post, an English daily newspaper, the
Indonesian and Japanese governments worked out an agreement for the aid to
be shared among the refugees and local citizens.
Japan wanted all of the aid to be used for the East Timorese refugees
in West Timor, while the provincial government wanted to use part of the
money to help local people affected by the presence of the East Timorese,
UCA News reported.
The Indonesian government reportedly told the Japanese government that
the West Timorese would be "jealous of the refugees" if the aid
was not shared.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975 and annexed the country
the following year. Some 200,000 East Timorese were killed or died from
starvation or disease during Indonesia's often brutal 24-year rule. The
1999 U.N.-sponsored referendum paved the way for the country's long-sought
After several years of U.N. administration, East Timor formally became
an independent nation in May 2002.
12/09/2003 2:48 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2003 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic
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