Subject: Over 10,000 RI E. Timor Assets Remain in Limbo

The Jakarta Post Saturday, May 22, 2004

Over 10,000 RI assets in E. Timor remain in limbo

The fate of over 10,000 assets belonging to Indonesia in East Timor remains uncertain as the government there has delayed the establishment of a joint subcommittee to deal with the assets.

"We have repeatedly appealed (to the East Timorere government) to set up the subcommittee immediately, but it has not been set up due to technical problems," head of the Representative Office of the Republic of Indonesia in Dili Fauzi Bustami said early this week.

Indonesia's assets in East Timor are classified into three -- government assets, business enterprise assets (state-owned enterprises and firms), and individual assets.

Indonesia and East Timor have had two Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) meetings to resolve the assets issue. The first JMC meeting was held in October 2002 in Jakarta, while the second, in Dili in September 2003.

In the second JMC, both countries agreed to set up a Technical Subcommittee on Assets which would hold focused discussions on the assets.

The assets question is an increasingly urgent one as East Timor has enacted a law banning land ownership by foreigners.

In March 2003, East Timor enacted Law No. 1/2003 on the legal status of immovable assets. The law stipulates that, among other things, foreigners cannot obtain ownership over land in East Timor. It also requires foreigners who have assets in East Timor to register their property with the land directorate.

Indonesians, according to Fauzi, have a total of over 10,000 assets registered through the Home Affairs Ministry in Jakarta, which was submitted to East Timor's embassy in Jakarta and then the land directorate.

Some property owners registered directly with the land directorate in Dili, some with the East Timor association in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, and others through the Representative Office of the Republic of Indonesia in Dili.

"The total value of those assets is still unknown as they are being registered," Fauzi said.

He also said that many assets registered with the land directorate lacked complete information or supporting documents, such as the precise location and the size of certain property.

"Since the subcommittee has not been established yet, it is difficult to gauge whether landownership by foreigners would translate into the right to use it; otherwise the owners would have to sell it to the East Timor government," Fauzi said. -- Kanis Dursin

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