Subject: SMH: Militia tries to sell looted goods back to victims

Sydney Morning Herald Dec,.17, 199

Militia tries to sell looted goods back to victims

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

East Timorese refugees returning from West Timor are being confronted on the border by opportunistic militia members and their supporters selling goods they had looted from refugees' homes in the violence that followed the August 30 referendum, the independence leader Jose Ramos Horta said.

The Nobel laureate and vice-president of East Timor's main political umbrella group, the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), has warned of the potential for bloodshed unless the UN intervenes quickly.

"What is worrying ... is there is an incredible mess going on in the border region in Batugade," Mr Ramos Horta said.

Violent arguments and fist fights were becoming common as East Timorese on the border identified plundered goods being brought back across the border for sale by alleged militia supporters, he said.

A senior commander of the Falintil pro-independence fighters, known as "Falur" had been working at the border trying to calm tensions among irate East Timorese, most of whom were victims of militia violence, Mr Ramos Horta said.

"The Falintil people there are doing an incredible job trying to calm down the population but the commander, Falur, has just come back now to report that Interfet must do something to control the border."

Interfet and the civilian police must intervene immediately, he said.

"They are opportunists, these militias and some others - they are so daring. They looted the country, took cars and everything they could think of to West Timor. They are now trying to sell it all back in East Timor.

"It's really unbelievable. There are Indonesians trying to smuggle coffee out of East Timor to West Timor. This is causing a real chaotic situation there."

Coffee is East Timor's biggest agricultural crop and a multi-million dollar export earner but much of this year's harvested crop failed to make it to market because of post-referendum violence.

Mr Ramos Horta has also accused the Indonesian Government of failing to keep its word that tens of thousands of East Timorese held in camps in West Timor would be allowed to return home freely.

"They make promise after promise. In Jakarta we met with [the Defence Forces chief ] Admiral Widodo [and his predecessor General] Wiranto and they were the ones who took the initiative to talk about implementation of the agreement - no implementation so far.

"They meet with UNTAET [the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor], Interfet and Xanana [Gusmao] on the border. They make promises again but no implementation," he said.

Mr Gusmao, the CNRT president, told reporters last week that 110,000 East Timorese wanted to come home from camps in West Timor.

Mr Ramos Horta scoffed at claims that the Indonesian military had disarmed the militias.

"The militias in West Timor can be disarmed easily, within minutes. If they are not being disarmed it is because the [Indonesian] military does not want it. It's as simple as that,"he said.


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