Wed, 29 Mar 2000

Team to work out parting of ways with East Timor

JAKARTA (JP): A presidential decree issued on Tuesday laid the foundation for the establishment of a national team to iron out details of the transition of East Timor to an independent state.

"The team will be under the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to negotiate many issues with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET)," Interim Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Surjadi Soedirdja said after leading a monthly coordination meeting.

"The team will negotiate issues such as former civil servants, refugees and cross border agreements as preparations are made for East Timor independence."

Decree No.47/2000 stipulates that the team will comprise officials from several ministries.

Since Indonesia officially revoked a decree integrating East Timor as part of Indonesia, the United Nations has been charged with administering the territory until its independence.

Negotiations are expected to focus on 13 fields, which include borders, exclusive economic zones, area boundaries, refugees and the status of former civil servants who choose to go home to East Timor.

Also due for discussion is the status of Indonesian national assets in East Timor.

Surjadi also said the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) had asked Indonesia to extend the time for settlement of refugees by another 12 months.

"However, the government will push for a quicker settlement than the proposal," he added.

The government has set a March 31 dateline for the remaining 100,000 refugees from East Timor in East Nusa Tenggara province to choose their nationality.

The government will also stop humanitarian aid to the displaced people on that date.

"We would like to settle the remaining issues as soon as possible," Surjadi said.

Separately, Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono said that his office in coordination with military headquarters would provide opportunities for members of East Timor militias to serve as civil servants or join transmigration programs.

"The only way is to propose a socioeconomic package for them so they will not a be a problem in the neighboring area or along the border," Juwono said after the meeting.

Juwono said Army battalions 744 and 755 comprised troops from East Timor.

"I will transfer these soldiers and I am coordinating this also with the military headquarters," he added. (dja)