Subject: East Timor claiming island in West Timor

The Jakarta Post February 21, 2003

East Timor claiming island in West Timor

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

Amid ongoing negotiations over putative Indonesian assets in East Timor, the East Timorese government has claimed Batek island in Kupang regency, saying it was part of Oecusi, the new country's enclave in West Timor.

The East Timor government submitted its claim to the island through Indonesia's representative office in Dili, capital of East Timor.

The chief of the West Timor Military District, Col. Moeswarno Moesanip, immediately condemned the claim, warning bluntly that the East Timor administration should not make any new problems with Indonesia.

"East Timor cannot claim the island just because it is near the enclave. If we accepted such weak and groundless reasons, they could claim West Timor as well, or even other islands in Indonesia," he told The Jakarta Post here on Thursday.

He suggested that East Timor concentrate on the ongoing negotiations over Indonesia's claims to have assets in the new country.

The two countries have set up a joint team to deal with the Indonesian claims, which mostly concern state and privately owned buildings, discuss border demarcation and seek bilateral cooperation in all fields.

Moesanip said East Timor had never controlled the island, but a number of East Timorese officials had visited it recently.

He said that long before East Timor's secession from Indonesia, fishermen from West Timor had been using the island and the national flag had been raised there in December 2002.

He said the Indonesian Military would establish a security post on the island and deploy some troops there.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo concurred and said East Timor had no legal or historical grounds to claim the island.

"The recent visit by East Timorese officials to the island was for tourism purposes. Foreigners are allowed to visit the island to enjoy its beauty, but it belongs to Indonesia," he said.

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