Mon, 11 Sep 2000

Atambua returns to normal after killings

JAKARTA (JP): While peace returned to Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara on Sunday, pressures mounted for an independent investigation into the killing of three United Nations workers last week.

Churches in the town, which is close to the border with East Timor, announced that school activities would resume on Monday, Antara reported. Sermons also called on townspeople to maintain peace and order.

Schools have been closed since Thursday, a day after a mob believed to be comprising East Timorese refugees stormed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the town and killed three of the organization's staff.

The attack followed the killing of an ex-militia group leader, Olivio Moruk, one of 19 people named suspects in human rights abuses committed in East Timor after last year's independence ballot.

Antara also reported that hundreds of young people were riding motorcycles to popular seaside resorts in the region, including Gurita and Atapupu beaches.

A special envoy of Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Roni Hutagalung, toured refugee camps in the town on Saturday on a fact-finding mission.

Roni said the government should step up measures to tackle the East Timor refugees, including speeding up their resettlement. He said he would report to Megawati on his arrival in Jakarta.

East Nusa Tenggara deputy governor Johanes Pake Pani announced after a meeting with local community leaders that humanitarian aid for the refugees would continue. He said 500 tons of rice had been provided for the refugees.

His statement came amid a warning by the UNHCR that its mission would not resume work in West Timor until the security situation there dramatically improved.

In Jakarta, visiting members of the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to immediately investigate the Atambua slayings.

ICG chairman Martti Ahtisaari told a media conference at Hotel Borobudur on Sunday it would be appropriate for the rights body to set up an inquiry similar to the one it conducted into the violence in East Timor last year.

Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, was speaking at the close of a two-day ICG board of trustees meeting.

Also attending the meeting were ICG president and former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, former Philippine president Fidel Ramos and head of the ICG's Indonesia office Todung Mulya Lubis.

Ahtisaari said the group strongly supported the UN Security Council's resolution calling on Indonesia to take immediate steps to disarm and disband the militias in East Nusa Tenggara, and to provide protection to refugees and humanitarian workers.

"It is imperative that the perpetrators of these murders be brought to justice," he said.

Founded five years ago and with its headquarters in Brussels, the ICG is a private, multinational organization committed to strengthening the international community to anticipate and understand conflicts as well as working at preventing and containing them.

ICG board members include former Indian prime minister Inder Gujral, former Israeli prime minister and 1994 Nobel Prize laureate Shimon Peres, and renowned businessman George Soros.

On Saturday, National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo said in Bandung that the murder of the UN humanitarian workers was a pure criminal act.

"A political motive behind the bloody incident is possible, but, so far, evidence collected by our investigation team indicate that it was a crime," he said after installing Insp. Gen. Chairuddin Ismail as chief of the Police Staff and Command School, replacing Insp. Gen. Nugroho Djayusman.

Rusdihardjo acknowledged the murder had tarnished Indonesia's image abroad, saying "the nation had been branded uncivilized".

He ruled out declaring a state of civil emergency in Atambua.

Rusdihardjo described the incident as a "sociocultural collision" within the local community.

"Please be aware of that. The influx of East Timorese refugees in to West Timor has apparently increased the crime rate". (25/yac/sur)