BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home

See also these important reports:
Jan 20 ETO: Refugees: How many? How many want to return to East Timor?
Portuguese: Jan 20 OTL: Refugiados: Quantos são? Quantos querem voltar para Timor Leste?

Below are translated summaries of articles from Indonesian newspapers. For a more complete translation of any of the following articles, please send your request to Eliot Hoffman, East Timor Action Network/US, who will forward it to the translator. Please include the name of the newspaper/s, date/s, and article title/s.

Newspaper key:

English language newspapers available online:
Indonesian Press:
Edited by Eliot Hoffman, East Timor Action Network/US

Tuesday, 6 February 2001
Several news items related to Refugees

PK – “International NGOs needn’t hesitate”

KUPANG – Col. Budi Heriyanto, Commander of 161 Wirasakti Resort, Kupang, said that international and local NGOs that will soon resume activities in W. Timor don’t need to be hesitant about the security situation.  He says that in Atambua stores are open until 7:30 p.m. or later and the market is also busy until evening just as it was before the exodus of E. Timorese to W. Timor.  He hopes NGOs will respect and obey Indonesian laws.  Security guarantees were also given earlier by NTT Chief of Police, Brig. Gen. Jacky Uly, saying he hoped the current conducive situation could be maintained so that NGOs can work peacefully.

 Answering a question about extortion at the border as Dir. Gen. Of the NTT Trade and Industry Board, Heriyanto said that the Indo. govt. has prohibited cross-border trade by land.  The only trade allowed is import-export trade by sea from Surabaya or Makasar straight to Dili with the proper documents.  He said if there was such trade across the land border it means there are individuals engaged in smuggling.

PK – “Save the Children helps refugees”

KUPANG – Save the Children has begun work in Kupang regency to help refugee children.  Their program, which will focus on health care and education for refugee children, is to begin next week.  Sonny Said of the Kupang Regency Office for National Unity, said there are as many as 49,962 refugees in Kupang Regency.  Save the Children is one of six agencies ready to resume activities in NTT.

RT – “Hundreds of E. Timor refugees ‘attack’ the TTS House of Reps.: Struggle for assets valued at 1 trillion rupiah”

SOE – Further to the news reported in yesterday’s translation in which only about 30 refugees were reported to have staged a sit-in, this article claims there were hundreds and that security at the TTS House of Reps. building was very tight.  The refugees estimate their assets left in E. Timor total more than 1 trillion rupiah.  They met with Vice Speaker of the TTS House, Thobias Selan, who, when speaking with reporters, said he regretted their action because it had been agreed earlier that they would indicate proof so that the House could struggle on their behalf, but the refugees have no proof of what they left in E.Timor.  He also said they have complained about food aid (rice and money for food supplements) but that the House cannot help them as long as their data isn’t accurate.  Another TTS official, Ruben Izaac, said that the TTS govt. can only pass on the aspirations of the refugees to the central govt., no more than that.

RT – “Tens of armed personnel sit in at Regent’s Office: Because deceived by rumor of refugee demo”

KUPANG – The Kupang Regent’s office on Mon. (5/2) was pretty exciting. Tens of armed police suddenly “attacked” the office causing a lot of workers to leave the building.  Their arrival was triggered by a rumor that there was to be a huge demonstration by refugees from three camps in Kupang.  Not only were civilians surprised by the sudden arrival of the police, but also the police who guard the office every day were also surprised as they had been given no prior notice.  On of the regular police guards expressed gratitude that the police were moving to anticipate unwanted actions.  One of the police who arrived at the building said they had received a report that there was to be a huge demonstration but did not know what the demonstration was to be about. After waiting for some time only about 10 coordinators from refugee camps in Noelbaki, Tuapukan, and several other locations showed up and didn’t disturb the peace at all.  They came to get clarification regarding information that their aid is to be terminated.

ST – “Refugees request rice aid”

KUPANG – Refugees in the Tuapukan and Noelbaki camps have asked the Kupang regency govt. that rice aid be distributed to them immediately. “The refugees are now hungry so please give us rice aid so we can keep living,” said Refugee General Coordinator from Lospalos, Cornelio Ribeiro on Monday (5/2).  The six who came to speak to the Regent said according to information they’d received in Dec. 2000 refugees received 6 kg. [each] of rice, but had not yet received the new budget amounts. That have also heard the aid is being held up because of discrepancy in data regarding the total number of refugees.  Ribeiro says there are 51,818 refugees while the central govt. counts only 30,000.  He questions where this figure comes from.  He also denies that the refugees have received money for food supplements for January as claimed by a regency official.  Ribeiro said the refugees only received such money on 7 Dec. 2000 and that this was leftover funds from the 2000 budget.  He promised that if they failed to meet with the Regent again they would come again on Wed. morning.

 Ribeiro also said that refugees in Kupang Regency are ready to accept international NGO workers as well as UN humanitarian agencies like UNHCR, saying they would guarantee their security.  He only warned that the giving of aid not be accompanied by other interests as in the past. “Let it not be like it was before when there were certain intentions slipped in behind humanitarian actions, we don’t want that,” he said adding the refugees are ready for the agencies to return since they have been facing difficulties.

 As reported in Surya Timor yesterday, beginning on 5 Feb. 2001, a number of international NGOs and UN agencies like UNHCR will carry out humanitarian aid to E. Timor refugees in W. Timor, especially Kupang, after socialization to the refugees was carried out by Kupang regency officials.

RT – “Hundreds of former E. Timor teachers ‘unemployed’”

ATAMBUA – It is estimated that around 300 grade school teachers originating from E. Timor who have been in refuge in Belu since the beginning of Sept. 1999 are not yet teaching.  This is because a lot of E. Timorese teachers experience difficulties in accomodating themselves to the new work environment and their knowledge is not up to par with that of teachers in W. Timor.  Head of the Belu Catholic School Foundation, Epy Nahak, said that many of these teachers often used Tetun in their teaching so that when they arrived in W. Timor they had a little trouble using Indonesian to teach.  Those who aren’t teaching have been seconded to this foundation, but Nahak said they are hard to track down since many of them are in refugee tents without an address. A lot of them also aren’t getting their salaries from Nahak’s office which is holding 700 tons of rice and tens of millions of rupiah for the E. Timor teachers.  He said he was going to immediately return the salary funds to the national treasury since it is state money.  Also, the salaries of some who have returned to Timor Lorosae are still being sent by the govt.  Others have returned but come back to Belu simply to pick up their salaries.  Nahak suggests that the govt. build a special school for E. Timorese children so that the E. Timor teachers won’t have communication problems.  Many E. Timor children who mix with local children in school drop out because they must help their parents in their emergency tents.  Nahak said that prior to the 6 Sept. 2000 incident, many grade school teachers from E. Timor actively taught in various tend schools built by the UN that served hundreds of refugee children.  These schools no longer exist and the children have been integrated into formal schools in Belu..  Thus a lot of E. Timor teachers are now unemployed.  He hopes the govt. will quickly find a way for these teachers to become active and to regulate their salaries that for months have been sent to the Belu regency even though the teachers have gone home to Timor Lorosae.

RT – “Mass media must be fair in its reporting of Timor Leste”

ATAMBUA – Head of Belu Untas, Agustinho Pinto, said that refugees really support the journalism visit by a number of Indonesian reporters to Timor Leste as long as their coverage is fair.  The visit which began yesterday is to extend until 10 Feb.  Pinto also hopes the reporters will interview all segments of society – political elite, religious and social leaders, youth, leaders of the Timor Leste Defence Force, and people at the grass roots to know their attitudes about complete reconciliation for the E. Timorese.  If the people in Timor Leste want reconciliation, what sort of reconciliation do they want and where is the safest place to carry it out?  He hopes the news they cover will be in Indonesian and Tetun and distributed via radio, newspapers, and television, particularly TVRI since most refugees are in TTU and Belu where the only channel available is TVRI.  The team consisting of 17 reporters, 2 PMP Task Force members and 3 members of W. Timor Concern Foundation entered Timor Leste via the Mota’ain post.

NTT X – “When E. Timorese understand reconciliation”

The discourse about reconciliation for the people of E. Timor will still be actual as long as there are E. Timorese in refuge and complete reconciliation has not been realized.  Moderator of the Protestant Christian Church in E. Timor, Rev.. Fransisco Vas Concelos, thinks the most important thing about the reconciliation discourse is peace among the people at the grass roots who have been victims of the political game of E. Timor political elite.  “It isn’t enough to just talk about reconciliation with words.  For some time now there has been a lot of discussion about that and contribution of ideas for a path to reconciliation, but how and from where do we begin to move?”  The grass roots people Francisco is talking about are those who farm and fish, manual laborers, small traders in the interior, and those of the informal sector in the city who have been the objects of decisions made by the political elite.  He thinks the best effort at reconciliation is if it is begun at the grass roots as social reconciliation.

This reconciliation differs from that implemented by the political elite that always begins with political negotiating, like if they return to E.Timor what position will they have in the government of the new country.  Social reconciliation is far more important than talking about political reconciliation with a central theme – if one still accepts autonomy or does one acknowledge the referendum results that leads to fighting and divisions of power in government seats.  According to Fransisco, whether one accepts autonomy or not is history for the people of E. Timor.  Now the question is how to develop reconciliation among the people of Timor Lorosae to create a civil society that is democratic, peaceful, and prosperous.  This is a long process that will require patience from all sides.  Therefore, the refugees also need a long time to return to the land of their birth.  “If there is mutual acceptance to live as one and as brothers in a village, then that’s where reconciliation is realized,” he said.

E. Timor social leader, Paulo de Fatima Martins said the people understand reconciliation to mean mutual realization of one new nation and a desire to live peacefully.  To refugees he says there is no person in the world who is free of sin and mistakes, both those in refuge as well as those who have returned to E. Timor – all have weaknesses and past sins.  The important thing is that in their hearts, each E. Timorese always whispers for peace and has a desire to improve life in the future.  This is what is means by moral humanity.  He thinks the most appropriate path to complete reconciliation has begun with the common folk and that the political elite should learn from them.

Maria Fernades Pinto said she was in refuge in Atambua from 7 Sept 1999 until April 2000.  When she returned to her family in Manatuto she was received well; they were all happy to know that she was still alive. She said that as long as she was in NTT she always heard various kinds of information about E. Timor loaded with political intent that made refugees afraid to go home.  Since returning to her area, she has written to family members still in refuge to tell them to return because the rice fields and gardens left in 1999 are now overgrown.

Head of the PMP Task Force, Basyiruddin Yusuf, said that it is far better for the refugees to go home to Timor Lorosae so they can live in peace and mutual forgiveness.

ST – “Taur Matan Ruak Chief of Timor Leste Armed Forces, Taveres Chief of W. Timor Armed Forces”

KEFAMENANU – After Taur Matan Ruak was appointed as Chief of Armed Forces in Timor Leste, the next round was when former PPI Commander was installed by former Sakunar militia members as Armed Forces Chief in W. Timor territory.  Simao Lopes,  Former Sukanar Battalion Commander and a former social leader in Ambeno, stressed, “If Matan Ruak is Chief there then Joao Taveres is installed as Chief for the refugees.”  With this suggestion, Matan Ruak must be ready to face Taveres’ forces.  He explained further that the refugees have rights to the land of their ancestors so that they also need to form a military.  He questions why Falentil, that is clearly the armed wing of CNRT can be formed into a military body while pro-integrationists who are also Indonesian citizens don’t form a military body.  “It’s funny that Tavares’ power should disappear so easily, just like that, and then changed with Matan Ruak.” He said that Tavares is still hard to defeat if facing pro-independence supporters. Slowly but surely, the pro-integrationists will prove their determination.  Concerning hr in Timor Leste, Lopes said that the body has existed since 1948 so that HR abuses in 1975 should be tried, not only more recent abuses.  Pro-independence supporters who yell to remain independent doesn’t mean the problem is finished.  Their dream is not yet final and victims are still floating.  Lopes is convinced this case will widen in time.  As for refugees in W. Timor, Lopes said this is the responsibility of 24 years of goodness by the Indo. govt. during integration.  “We sought refuge just because we wanted to proved we were loyal to Indonesia.”  He said Untas is committed that Red White must return to Timor Leste.  Go ahead, they may have independence, but UNTAS will continue to wave its banner.  Efforts at reconciliation may go ahead, but it doesn’t mean the UNTAS struggle is finished.

Edited by Eliot Hoffman, East Timor Action Network/US

See also these important reports:

Jan 20 ETO: Refugees: How many? How many want to return to East Timor?
"Political and financial interests are getting in the way of a credible census of the refugees. While the Indonesian authorities agreed to the presence of international humanitarian agencies in order to receive their aid, Jakarta has done little to disband the militia gangs that still control the refugees and repatriation, and collaborate closely with Indonesian soldiers, sharing with them the rights of passage demanded from those wishing to return to East Timor." ETO
Jan 20 OTL: Refugiados: Quantos são? Quantos querem voltar para Timor Leste?
"Interesses políticos e económicos impedem uma contagem credível dos refugiados. As autoridades indonésias aceitaram a presença das agências humanitárias internacionais para receber as ajudas, mas pouco fizeram para o desmantelamento das milícias, que continuam a controlar os refugiados e os regressos, em estreita colaboração com militares indonésios e partilhando com eles os direitos de passagem exigidos aos que querem voltar para Timor Leste." OTL

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