AFP: E. Timorese exiles could mount revolt against Dili:
John M. Miller
May 07, 2002 05:22 PDT
Received from Joyo Indonesian News
May 7, 2002
East Timorese exiles could mount revolt against Dili, leader says
East Timorese exiles in Indonesia could help lead a revolt in their former
homeland if leaders of the newly-independent nation fail to bring prosperity,
an exiles' leader said.
"People in the villages can't pay for their kids' schooling, can't pay for
medicine," said Armindo Soares Mariano, acting head of Uni Timor Aswain
"I hope Xanana can overcome this problem," Mariano told AFP, referring to
East Timor's president-elect Xanana Gusmao, who will assume power when his
country becomes independent on May 20.
"If he doesn't, I'm certain the people will revolt."
If that happens, East Timorese who remain across the border in Indonesian
West Timor could help them, he said.
"If they over there ask for help, they'll go," Mariano said, adding that any
unrest could take three to five years to develop.
Pro-Indonesian political organisations and armed militias which were backed
by the Indonesian military merged to form UNTAS after East Timorese voted
overwhelmingly in August 1999 to separate from Indonesia.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 but pulled its last
troops out in October 1999 after a campaign of violence, arson, looting and
forced deportation that left the country in ruins and claimed at least 1,000
lives that year.
An estimated 250,000-270,000 people fled volunatarily or were forced across
the border into West Timor. Tens of thousands of East Timorese, many of them
with links to the former Indonesian government, remain in camps around Kupang
and in other parts of West Timor.
But those numbers are increasingly depleting as refugees head home before
independence, says the United Nations.
It says more than 6,000 refugees returned home in April, the highest number
for more than two years. Since late 1999 nearly 205,000 refugees have gone
back, the UN says.
Mariano, former head of the legislature in East Timor, disputes those figures
and says many people cross the border claiming to be refugees but later
return to West Timor.
UNTAS has "a moral duty" to serve and protect those who remain in Indonesia,
His views appear at odds with those of West Timor government and military
officials who have cut off aid to the refugees and are working with the UN to
get the refugees out of their province, which is the poorest in Indonesia.
Mariano said UNTAS is looking for "direction" and has had internal problems.
But he vowed the organisation will not disband and said it plans to hold a
congress some time after East Timor's independence.
"We are in the process of renovating UNTAS," said Mariano.
Describing himself as an expert adviser to the West Timor governor, Mariano
said he has no plans to return to his former homeland, which he thinks would
have had more opportunities as a part of its giant neighbour Indonesia.
"If later the people aren't happy, don't blame us," said Mariano. "But if
they want to make their own nation, go ahead."
Last month UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended that the United
Nations keep a military force in East Timor for up to two years after
Anti-independence militias in West Timor remained a threat, he said.