Call for intervention inW est Timor ...
FOOD AID NOT ENOUGH: BISHOP CALLS FOR UN PRESENCE IN WEST TIMOR
23rd September 1999
Bishop Pain Ratu of Atambua, West Timor, is pleading for an extension of the UN mandate to the whole of the island of
Timor, in order to prevent further massive slaughter of innocent civilians.
"It has become essential for the international community to foresee the humanitarian problem on the whole island of
Timor, not just East Timor alone", the Bishop states.
Bishop Ratu asks that the United Nations, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be allowed
access to West Timor. He points to the dire security problems in West Timor, where there are about 150,000 East Timorese
refugees as well as a significant presence of militia, and military who have relocated from East Timor. Bishop Ratu
stresses that it is essential for the safety of the refugees that the UN and humanitarian agencies come to West Timor to
"guarantee the security, humanitarian needs, and the free right of refugees to return to their place of origin if they
wish to do so".
The Bishop expresses fears for the future of the East Timorese refugees, as they face possible forced relocation by the
Indonesian government in West Timor and in other parts of Indonesia, where they are at risk of reprisal by militia and
military. His fears follow the recent announcement by the Indonesian Minister for Transmigration, Lieutenant-General A.
M. Hendropriyono who has stated that he plans to resettle the refugees within Indonesia - two-thirds of them in West
Timor, and the rest on other eastern islands. The Bishop fears that the East Timorese refugees will not be allowed to go
back to their homes in East Timor, and that they will be a target for the militias in the area who wish to wreak revenge
on them for their vote for independence and their plea for UN intervention.
Aid agencies operating in the region are backing up the Bishop's call for the security situation in West Timor to be
urgently addressed. Caritas USA (Catholic Relief Services), the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and
USAID, among others, are calling for the UN to do more in West Timor to protect the displaced East Timorese. They call
for UN assistance to ensure that:
The registration of East Timorese refugees is stopped for at least one month (to prevent forced resettlement outside of
East Timor, within West Timor and Indonesia itself). The safe passage of people back to East Timor is guaranteed for
those wishing to return. The establishment of major camps or resettlement schemes is delayed until it is clear that the
decision to resettle has not been forced.
Caritas Aotearoa NZ spokesperson, Peter Zwart, says he is very concerned that the message of Bishop Ratu and Caritas USA
is being buried beneath an overriding concentration on food aid. "Caritas and other agencies are distributing aid to
those displaced people in West Timor that they can gain access to. But many displaced people in the region are being
held hostage and it is impossible to get aid to them, or to find out what is happening to them. The international
community has a responsibility to ensure that the East Timorese are safe and that they are able to return home as soon
as is possible. It is vital that this happens alongside immediate aid relief".
CONTACT: Peter Zwart, Caritas, ph dd 64 4 496 1775