Subject: RI urged to stay out of Dili unrest

The Jakarta Post Saturday, May 6, 2006

RI urged to stay out of Dili unrest

Abdul Khalik and Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Kupang

Concerns over fresh violence in the Timor Leste capital Dili have caused at least 100 Indonesians and 15 foreign nationals to cross the border into Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara, as of Friday.

Rumors are swirling in Timor Leste that disgruntled former soldiers will launch another attack on the capital. The rumors come a week after deadly clashes between former soldiers and police that left five people dead and dozens injured. Thousands of people have reportedly fled Dili, with many moving toward the border with Indonesia.

Nearly 600 Timor Leste soldiers were dismissed in March after they walked out of their barrack to protest conditions in the military. They have threatened to wage a guerrilla war on the government if they are not reinstated with better working conditions.

A source at the immigration post in Motaain, Belu regency, said most of the Indonesians crossing over from Timor Leste were traders with businesses in the neighboring country.

"At least 100 Indonesians have crossed the border, while 15 foreign nationals, mainly from the United States, have also crossed," the source said.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Thamrin, however, said based on the latest information he received from the Indonesian Embassy in Dili on Friday afternoon, the situation in the capital was normal.

"We have received conflicting reports. I just called the Indonesian Embassy and they said Dili was safe. Of the 250 Indonesian citizens who were staying in the embassy for safety reasons, 190 have returned to their homes," he told The Jakarta Post.

Yuri said Timor Leste Foreign Minister Ramos Horta had personally guaranteed the security of Indonesian citizens in the country.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian former lawyer of Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao, Hendardi, said the international community should continue to assist Timor Leste, which still required foreign aid to feed its people.

"I visited Timor Leste last week and I found the situation had returned to normal. They certainly need foreign financial assistance," he told the Post.

International relations expert Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences agreed the United Nations should not abandon Timor Leste, which she described as the "UN's child".

She also said the situation in the neighboring country, and the possible presence of Australian troops there, should not compel Indonesia to interfere in that country's internal affairs.

Dewi said the first and foremost duty of Indonesia was to keep Timor Leste's unrest from spilling over into Indonesia.

"Jakarta surely doesn't want to be connected with what happens in Timor Leste, as any involvement would be bad for our international image. We should secure our border with Timor Leste and make sure that our citizens there are safe," she told the Post on Friday.

Dewi said that although the possible presence of Australian troops just across the border would be unfavorable to Indonesian security, Timor Leste had the right to request Australia to send troops to help it deal with the unrest.

"Timor Leste is located next to Indonesian territory so any foreign troops in that country will be seen as endangering Indonesia's security. But any presence of Australian troops should not worsen Indonesia's relations with Australia or ruin our good ties with Timor Leste," she said.

Earlier, the director general of Asia-Pacific and African affairs at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Primo Alui Joelianto, said that although a peaceful Timor Leste was in the interests of Indonesia because of its proximity, the country should be left to solve its own problems.

Dewi said the most suitable country to assist Timor Leste was Australia, considering that it had provided financial aid to Timor Leste since its independence and had economic interests in the country.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday raised the possibility of sending troops back to Timor Leste to help the country's beleaguered government deal with civil unrest.

-------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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