Subject: Transcript: West Timorese rebelling to help refugees -reports
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 02:47:46 EDT

Australian Broadcasting Corporation The World Today Friday, September 17, 1999 12:20

Reports claim West Timorese rebelling to help refugees

COMPERE: And as Mark mentioned to us, they're pulling back across the border to West Timor in large numbers, but there they're making a last stand as the humanitarian and human rights situation in Indonesian Timor continues to deteriorate. Reports are emerging today that the West Timorese community is rebelling against the militias and the military. West Timorese people and even local authorities are apparently very unhappy with the attacks on East Timorese refugees. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis continues to spin out of control in West Timor, as a lack of food and sanitation creates dangerous conditions for the estimated one hundred and fifty thousand refugees who fled there from the eastern province. Bronwyn Adcock reports.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: Disturbing stories are continuing to emerge from West Timor today, with people on the ground and international observers warning it's another East Timor all over again. Father Jerry Hefferan is in regular contact with sources on the ground in Kupang. He's received an account of a conversation with a militia member in Kupang.

FR.. HEFFERAN: One of the Aitarak militia fellows - I won't give his name - but claimed that he was given a 'mad dog' pill to increase his effectiveness as a killer and he believes that his job is to kill all the students. He wants to kill all the students.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: And this militia person told this to a source of yours on the ground?

FR. HEFFERAN: That's right, yes, got a direct quote from him.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: According to Janet Hunt, the Executive Director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, the humanitarian disaster in West Timor is reaching immense proportions.

JANET HUNT: There are about a 150,000 people who have been either forcibly removed or who fled over the border into West Timor. Many of them are in camps. Those camps in many cases are militia-controlled, particularly those in the eastern part of West Timor closer to East Timor. We have, are hearing reports of very very bad sanitary conditions. One camp, for example, close to Kupang has about 12,000 people in it and it has, it had a few days ago only nine porta-toilets and they were full and people were defecating in rice fields nearby in which they were also washing and bathing.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: This morning the AM program reported the contents of a letter written by a source currently hiding in West Timor. The name of the source can't be revealed because of fear they'll be targeted by the militias or the military and killed; the letter detailed the appalling living conditions of refugees, the murders of members of the clergy and the execution of groups of men on their way to West Timor. The letter appealed for the UN mandate to be extended to all of Timor. It also praised the efforts of local West Timorese.

EXCERPT OF LETTER: It is a moving experience to see how these refugees are accepted by their neighbours and kin here in West Timor, irrespective of their political affiliation; to see the sacrifices families are prepared to make, accepting three or four families into their own simple homes, and even risking their lives to hide and protect those who are being sought by the assassin gangs.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: This is backed up by information that Father Jerry Hefferan from Australia is receiving.

FR. HEFFERAN: Some of the local West Timorese leaders have been complaining, government and church leaders, about the control by the militia, how the military allows the militia to control some of the parts of Kupang and parts of West Timor, and have been complaining. Some of the West Timorese youth who believe in peace have been putting forward protests and trying to confront the militia to tell them to go away. I know in one instance where one West Timorese person who is trying to help East Timorese refugees was confronted by the militia. This West Timorese Christian man was then supported by the local Muslim community to chase away the militia.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: Janet Hunt from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid says that, while aid is desperately needed in West Timor, the problem is lack of security.

JANET HUNT: This is a very major aid operation. It's also a very major human rights operation. One of the things that is causing some of the difficulties in West Timor is the security situation.

COMPERE: Janet Hunt is the Executive Director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid - ACFOA - speaking to Bronwyn Adcock there.

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