Subject: AGE: Militias deprive refugees of aid
Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 11:21:38 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Age Thursday 13 May 1999


Threats and attacks by pro-Jakarta militias are preventing aid agencies from sending tonnes of urgently needed rice and other supplies to thousands of villagers outside the East Timor capital.

Militiamen are also posing as refugees and demanding rice from the Catholic aid agency, Caritas, in Dili. After menacing Caritas staff for the food that is supposed to feed starving displaced people, the militiamen take it back to their own paramilitary command posts, Mr Estanislau Martins, a spokesman for Caritas, said today.

Mr Martins said threats to kill agency staff and the hijacking of a truck carrying 300 tonnes of rice that was being taken to Oecussi, about 100kilometres west of Dili, several weeks ago had stopped supplies reaching thousands of people suffering starvation after drought ruined annual crops.

``Many people are in desperate need but we can do nothing for them at the moment,'' Mr Martins said. ``I don't know when we will be able to resume sending supplies.''

After hijacking the truck, beating the driver and stealing the rice, the militiamen at Liquica, 40kilometres west of Dili, demanded the agency pay several hundred dollars to get the truck back.

Mr Martins said his life was threatened by militiamen who regarded displaced people as independence supporters and wanted to deprive them of food.

``They tell us don't move around ... they say if we do they will kill us,'' he said.

Mr Martins sleeps in a different house each night.

Caritas is supplying 11,000 people displaced by violence and intimidation who are living in makeshift accommodation in Dili.

Hundreds of people queue to be fed each day at the agency's storage centre in Dili and teams take supplies to towns and suburbs.

But Mr Martins said an estimated 14,000 refugees in the Liquica district and 12,000 others at a refugee camp at the mountain region of Hatolia were not getting supplies they urgently need. ``These people are living in horrible conditions,'' Mr Martins said. ``Women and children are basically living on the ground with no basic necessities.''

Attacks by pro-Jakarta militiamen on Sunday and Monday forced thousands of Dili residents to flee their homes.

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