BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home       August news

"Oecussi is an isolated enclave of East Timor, which is totally surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. ... The people of Oecussi suffered greatly in the violence of 1999, as a consequence of their isolation. Most of the population of 55,000 either fled to West Timor or went into hiding in the hills during the violent militia rampage. ... The people of Oecussi largely live in rural communities, in houses made of wood, palm fronds and grass. These houses were burnt to the ground during the militia violence. Displaced people returned to nothing." Caritas
See also:

Aug 10 STL: Jakarta opposes land corridor between Oecussi and Timor Lorosae  News from ETimor
Jul 11 Bano: A Peace Zone: An Option for the Future of the Timor Enclave  Report from ETimor
June 2001 LHB: In Brief: Oe-cusse  News from ETimor
The Isolation of Oe-cusse: http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin02.html#_05  Article from ETimor
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news
BD: 'Refugees' & Missing Persons - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles

Source: Caritas

Date: 16 Aug 2001

Caritas Australia programs 2000 - 2001

Emergency Relief
 

Returning Refugees

Most of the population of East Timor was displaced in the violence of September 1999. It is estimated that 300,000 people, or about a third of the population fled to West Timor, many of them forced there by militia groups.

Over half of these refugees returned to East Timor in the following eighteen months. Most of the returnees had been living in horrendous conditions in refugee camps along the border.

The refugees that remain in the camps in West Timor have been intimidated and harassed by militia groups in order to discourage their return to East Timor. They have been misinformed about the situation in East Timor.

Education campaigns have been designed to encourage them to return to East Timor.

Caritas Australia contributes to the program at the Tasi Tolu transit center which receives refugees when they return to East Timor. Upon arrival at the transit centre, the refugees are greeted by the local Caritas staff who provide them with rice and cooking supplies. They are also given plastic sheeting, water, soap and blankets before being taken back to their villages by truck.

Most of the refugees stayed at the Tasi Tolu centre for only one day, yet some have stayed for longer periods. These returnees were generally sensitive cases who may not have been accepted by their communities upon their return. UNHCR and other agencies have worked with community reintegration committees to prepare communities for the return of these individuals and their families. There have been several incidents of returnees attempting to go back to their village but not being accepted by the community and returning to the Transit Centre while the process of attempted reintegration continues.

Many refugees remain in camps in West Timor. Uncertainty amongst these refugees about the situation in East Timor persists as they are subjected to propaganda about conditions in East Timor. Militia leaders consistently threaten refugees with violence if they return to East Timor.

See also: BD: 'Refugees' & Missing Persons - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
 

Oecussi

Caritas Australia prioritised their emergency relief program Oecussi, the most isolated and the most devastated district in East Timor.

Oecussi is an isolated enclave of East Timor, which is totally surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. It is part of East Timor as a consequence of an agreement between the coloniser of Indonesia, Holland, and the coloniser of East Timor, Portugal.

The people of Oecussi suffered greatly in the violence of 1999, as a consequence of their isolation. Most of the population of 55,000 either fled to West Timor or went into hiding in the hills during the violent militia rampage.

Interfet troops were not able to secure Oecussi until the end of October, a month after arriving in Timor. It was the scene of some of the worst massacres and destruction with a number of mass graves being discovered and 80% of houses severely damaged or destroyed. Virtually every building left standing was stripped of its roofing iron which was taken away by the militia.

Most of the population of Oecussi went into hiding in the hills during the violent militia rampage.

The people of Oecussi largely live in rural communities, in houses made of wood, palm fronds and grass. These houses were burnt to the ground during the militia violence. Displaced people returned to nothing.

Now Oecussi remains isolated, there being no land access between the enclave and the rest of the country. Access is via United Nations flights. It is very difficult for the East Timorese population of Oecussi to gain access to these flights, priority being given to peacekeepers and United Nations personnel.

See also:
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news
BD: 'Refugees' & Missing Persons - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
 

Food security

Food security programs aim to ensure an adequate food supply for the population over the whole year. Our work in this area in East Timor is again focused in the Oecussi enclave, although other programs are being implemented in the Dili area and Maibara.

Since Oecussi was not secured by Interfet until late October 1999, the people of the region did not return until late into the planting season to plant their crops. This means that less was planted and that less was harvested in 2000. Oecussi, therefore has been at a greater disadvantage in terms of having enough food than the rest of the country.

From October 1999 until May 2001 Caritas Australia distributed food and non-food supplies to every village in Oecussi. The food was supplied by the United Nation's World Food Program (WFP). A full daily ration was provided from November 1999 until the end of January 2000 (rice or maize, beans, oil and salt). In February and March 2000 a half-ration was given.

Assessments were made as to the expected food production in each village for the rest of 2000 and food assistance continued to be provided to the most vulnerable people. Vulnerable people included children, lactating mothers and the elderly, and communities that may have been particularly affected by the flooding or other problems.

Caritas Australia has also assisted the people of Oecussi with agriculture through supplying tools and seeds for planting to contribute to their future food security. This enabled communities to replant crops that were destroyed by the militia.

During 2000 Caritas supported the establishment of 96 community gardens, through the Organisation of Timorese Women (OMT) and 48 school gardens. These gardens helped to re-establish a sense of community as for the first time in many years women could openly work on a community project together.

See also:
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles
 

Shelter

After the militia violence of September 1999, Oecussi became well known as the place where hardly a roof was left intact. Over most of the enclave, all that was left are patches of dirt where traditional houses once stood.

This is the scene that many people in Oecussi returned to when it was safe for them to go home in October 1999.

Most of the population lives in rural areas in traditional housing: consequently Caritas Australia decided to assist this part of the population with rebuilding their homes (UNHCR and other agencies will cater for the town people). The aim of the program is to provide shelter to the majority, minimise dependence and maintain social equity.

Caritas Australia is providing a reconstruction kit for 4000 houses in the enclave. The kit consists of 12 wood posts, 17 pieces of roofing timber, tarpaulins and tools. The posts have been brought from Australia and are termite resistant.

Caritas is also helping the people with transport to collect traditional roofing materials which protect from the rain, do not result in a hot interior and last for six or seven years before needing replacement.

Environmental principles are important to this project. The roofing is a sustainable resource. It is important that the timber has been supplied to the people of Oecussi, as if it were not, around 130,000 very strong trees would have had to be cut down with inevitable erosion to the land resulting.

House posts and the roofing timber were transported to Oecussi from Australia. The materials were then transported into remote communities on very poor roads. Caritas Australia has a fleet of trucks in Oecussi for this purpose. Some areas could only be accessed by helicopter.

As part of the project, the Caritas Australia team has worked with each village to form local committees. These men, women and young people, will represent their community, working together to determine who requires a house, what other material and jobs must be done, who will do the building, who will help those households who cannot build for themselves and where the deliveries will be made.

See also:
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles
 

Schools

All of the schools in Oecussi were severely damaged if not destroyed by the militia during September and October of 1999.

Following an extensive assessment of schools and in consultation with the United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor (UNTAET), Caritas Australia assisted with the re-roofing of 42 classrooms in remote areas.

Caritas Australia distributed food to schools as part of the school-feeding program. This was one means of getting food to children, one of the more vulnerable groups of the community.

See also:
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles


Caritas Australia  Up-dated Mar 5
Caritas Australia (estab. 1964 as Australian Catholic Relief) is the official development and relief agency for the Catholic Church in Australia under the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference in response to requests being received from the countries of the Pacific, Asia and Africa for financial assistance to help the poor in their countries. The organisation is part of the Caritas Internationalis network of 146 autonomous Catholic aid and development agencies active in 194 countries around the world. Caritas works with the poor and marginalised through supporting the community development programs of our Caritas partner agencies.
Email: caritas@caritas.org.au  Homepage: http://www.caritas.org.au/  ETimor Webpage: http://www.caritas.org.au/ourwork/where_easttimor.htm


See also:

Aug 10 STL: Jakarta opposes land corridor between Oecussi and Timor Lorosae  News from ETimor added Aug 13
"The Indonesian government has rejected the UN Transitional Administration’s proposal to open a land corridor, through Indonesian territory, linking Oecussi district with the rest of Timor Lorosae. According to the Vice-Governor of West Timor Johanis Pake Pani the rejection was based on security grounds." Suara Timor Lorosae

Jul 11 Bano: A Peace Zone: An Option for the Future of the Timor Enclave  Report from ETimor added July 11
"Declaring Oe-cusse a peace zone is the best way to facilitate resolution of the enclave’s isolation. Accordingly it should be the first option pursued by the future East Timorese government. Such a declaration must become a legally binding guarantee included in the national constitution soon to be formulated. However, such a legally binding guarantee would lack strength without a treaty between East Timor and Indonesia on Oe-cusse." Arsenio Bano, Executive Director of the East Timor NGO Forum

June 2001 LHB: In Brief: Oe-cusse  News from ETimor added June 26

The Isolation of Oe-cusse: http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin02.html#_05  Article from ETimor

BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news

BD: 'Refugees' & Missing Persons - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news

BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home   August news
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