Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Army donates Rp 1.5b for ex-East Timorese soldiers

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

Army leaders promised on Thursday to give Rp 1.5 billion in assistance to former East Timorese military members and militia, currently languishing at refugee camps in East Nusa Tenggara.

The commitment was made during a visit by Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, to the provincial capital of Kupang. He was accompanied by the Army's Strategic Reserves Commander Lt. Gen. Bibit Waluyo.

Ryamizard said he would provide Rp 1 billion to help finance the development of houses and other facilities for former East Timorese soldiers and militia, while Bibit said his office would donate Rp 500 million for the same purpose.

The Army chief said the donation was part of the military's special attention to refugees who fled to East Nusa Tenggara because of atrocities in East Timor.

Pro-Indonesia militia were blamed for the devastation.

Ryamizard said he hopes that by 2004 there will no former East Timorese military members living in refugee camps in the province.

"The Army headquarters will give full assistance to building proper low-cost houses for them," he said before flying to Papua province, later on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Ryamizard led the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the building of houses for former soldiers from East Timor, at Raknamo village, East Kupang subdistrict.

During the ceremony, he conversed with the former troops.

The number of former East Timorese military personnel currently living in East Nusa Tenggara is around 2,000. Many others have returned to East Timor, the world's newest nation.

Only 450 of the 2,000 ex-soldiers have received houses in the border town of Atambua and Kupang regency.