by Sonny Inbaraj
(IPS) DARWIN --
troops may be consolidating their control in and around the East
Timorese capital of Dili, but the refugee crisis in West Timor as
well as the threat of militia activity are far from settled.
Amid reports of continued harassment of pro-independence people in refugee camps and the killing of two journalists, this week the Indonesian state Antara news agency quoted militia leader Eurico Guterres as ordering his members to prepare to fight guerilla war.
"After receiving instructions from the commander of the battalions and after a strong consolidation, the entire PPI (Front for Integration Fighters) personnel will immediately open guerrilla bases," he said.
The head of the UN troops, Australia's Maj Gen Peter Cosgrove, said the territory is not yet safe. "The militia has attempted to step up some activity," Cosgrove, head of the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) said last Wednesday.
This has been prompted by the return to Dili of many East Timorese, who had been hiding in the hills and other areas, to try to rebuild their lives, he told reporters.
Many East Timorese on Wednesday stormed warehouses with rice and sugar, driven by hunger with the weeks they have spent hiding in the hills. "All is not yet secure," Cosgrove said.
Last Tuesday, Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes, who worked with the London-based Financial Times was killed by men clad in army uniforms, and over the weekend Indonesian journalist Agus Mulyawan and others were killed.
September 19, pro-Jakarta groups in East Timor, including the
armed militias who burned Dili, said they had not given up the
struggle for the territory.
The chilling message reached Jakarta by television and through the state Antara news agency, as the first heavily-armed international troops landed in relays at Dili's Comoro airport from Darwin in northern Australia.
Leaders of four main militia groups met inside the East Timorese border, in Balibo, to form what they said was a new coalition to defend what they called "our territory," defend a unitary Indonesia and liberate East Timor from "neocolonialism and the grip of new colonialists."
The head of the new pro-Jakarta coalition, Domingos Soares, said the National Struggle Front (FPB) was a union of "the necessary components to defend integration (with Indonesia)."
He said the front rejected the results of the Aug 30 referendum, in which the East Timorese voted 78.5 percent for independence, because the UN mission which organized it had manipulated the outcome.
Joao Tavares, commander of the 13 militias which caused havoc across East Timor before the ballot and joined the Indonesian army in the destructive rampage of the last three weeks, said his forces would not attack Interfet.
"We only want to defend our ground," he said, meaning the western half of the territory where the militias are threatening to wage a guerrilla war against the UN forces.
Signs that the militias are not giving up are also of concern not least because many control refugee camps with East Timorese in West Timor -- from where human rights activists fear they may be moved out for good.
Tens of thousands of East Timorese pushed out to West Timor by army-backed militias could be "transmigrated" to other parts of Indonesia within weeks, making it impossible for them to return home, the New York-based Human Rights Watch warned.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadao Ogata, in a report published last week, said there was approximately 100,000 displaced East Timorese in Indonesian-controlled West Timor and on the islands of Flores and Alor.
Some 55,000 East Timorese, according to the report, are located at a makeshift camp in Atambua, in West Timor, and 22,000 in West Timor's capital Kupang.
Indonesian government sources also reported that 20,000 displaced people are on the East Timor side of the border, attempting to flee to the western part of the island.
to aid workers, the refugees are settled in
appalling conditions in several militia-controlled camps. Pro-
independence activists, militia-controlled camps, they said, are
being terrorised by the militias.
Ending a three-day visit to Indonesia, Ogata said: "We still receive reports on arriving militias intimidating the people there."
"The displaced will undoubtedly be asked (by the Indonesian government) to choose between staying in appallingly overcrowded camps controlled by militias or being moved to another island," said Human Rights Watch.
"The Indonesian government is arguing that inadequate facilities in West Timor for over 200,000 East Timorese makes resettlement to Irian Jaya, the Moluccas and other islands the only realistic option," added the human rights group.
In a statement last Sunday, the Minister of Transmigration, Maj General Hendropriyono announced that all East Timorese in West Timor would be moved to permanent resettlement sites within two months.
Human Rights Watch, quoting relief workers in Kupang, said that many, perhaps most, of the displaced in East Timor have been forcibly expelled by militias since early September, apparently as a way of depopulating the western districts of East Timor.
The Washington-based East Timor Action Network called for international aid organizations to gain immediate access to the refugee camps. "The return of all refugees to East Timor must be secured. Long-term aid and development programs must begin," it said.
Jamie Isbister of the National Council of Churches in Australia who recently returned from West Timor said Kupang may soon explode into riots due to mounting tension between local residents and the pro-Jakarta militias, whose abusive behavior they resent.
"The militia -- Aitarak and Besi Merah Putih -- have been built up by the Indonesian military to believe they are beyond the law and their actions, in line with that, have continued since they crossed the border from East Timor," he said.
"Armed thugs wander around Kupang, drive stolen United Nations vehicles or ride on the back of Indonesian military trucks," he added.
September 29, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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