Subject: AN: Former ET Refugees to Rehab Forests

Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

February 5, 2003


Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Feb 5 (ANTARA) - A number of former East Timor refugees in Belu district, East Nusa Tenggara, are ready to rehabilitate protected forests and customary forests especially in the southern areas, a leader of former refugees said here on Wednesday.

All leaders of former East Timor refugees agreed to rehabilitate the forests cut by their fellows since September 2000 at their meeting in Atambua on Tuesday, Afonso Perrera said.

He said the former refugees would express their commitment to the Belu authorities and also ask for seedlings for reforestation programs in the areas.

The leaders said they were responsible for deforestation but at that time refugees lived in poverty and without sufficient food because international bodies had stopped their assistance.

The international community through the United Nations World Food Program and other international humanitarian agencies stopped their assistance to East Timor refugees after the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1319 on September 8, 2000.

Perrera said the assistance stoppage made refugees to cut protected and customary forests and replace them with paddy and corn.

"Now the condition is getting better. More refugees already have returned home or moved to resetlement areas. We are committed to rehabilitate and improve the areas," he added.

Meanwhile, Nikolaus Tnano, a Belu community leader, confirmed that former refugees had awareness not to cut forests and to improve the areas.

He called on the local authorities to provide them with seedlings.

"The authorities should also provide food and drinks for those who are working there," Tnano said.

Data from the Belu forestry agency showed 2,000 of more 70,000 hectares of forests had been felled.

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