Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: CNS: Indonesian bishop rejects aid intended for East Timorese refugees

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 Timorese refugees.

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 basic reasons."

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 independence.

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 Bishops

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