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Cablegate: Timor-Leste: Idp Reintegration On Track Despite Challenges

VZCZCXRO5662
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHHM
DE RUEHDT #0288/01 3121221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071221Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4142
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 1225
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0971
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0903
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON PRIORITY 1074
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY PRIORITY 0060
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1087
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 3629

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000288

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS, PACOM FOR POLADS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI TT
SUBJECT: TIMOR-LESTE: IDP REINTEGRATION ON TRACK DESPITE CHALLENGES

DILI 00000288 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Since April 2008, the Government of Timor-Leste's
Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) has closed 33 of 54
internally displaced persons (IDP) camps erected after over
100,000 people fled their homes during the 2006
political-military crisis. The GOTL and NGOs estimate that over
50,000 IDPs have been resettled, and progress is ongoing. The
lingering presence of the camps for over two years after the
crisis posed one of the toughest challenges to the Parliamentary
Majority Alliance (AMP) government led by Prime Minister Xanana
Gusmao since its formation in August 2007. However, the GOTL
has successfully implemented a community reintegration program
for IDPs in partnership with NGOs and international
organizations based on subsidies of up to $4,500 per family.
The GOTL's effort is shaping up as a success story; criticism
from the opposition has been very restrained. Notwithstanding
current progress, government and NGO interlocutors observed that
serious challenges remain, including the continuing absence of a
land law guaranteeing property rights. End summary.


AMP Rises To IDP Challenge - At Its Own Pace
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Ministry of Social Solidarity's Secretary of State
for Natural Disasters and Social Assistance Jacinto Rigoberto de
Deus reported to Poloff on October 30 that 33 IDP camps have
been closed since April 2008, and "guaranteed" that most of the
remaining 21 camps will be closed by year's end. He also
praised the partnership of NGOs who continue to assist the
government to carry out the resettlement policy, and singled out
the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Catholic
Relief Services (CRS), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and
CARE for helping the government tackle "this urgent issue in a
timely and smooth manner."

3. (SBU) The solution is based on payment of subsidies of up to
$4,500 to registered IDP families who have presented evidence
that their previous homes were damaged or destroyed. In
crafting this policy, Rigoberto stressed the government's first
priority was "to close down the most politicized and problematic
camps, such as at Jardim (Dili Port), the Dili airport and the
national hospital." These camps were sites of political violence
in August 2007 following President Jose Ramos-Horta's
announcement of the new government.

Outstanding Challenges: Money, Security, Land
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Secretary of State Rigoberto underscored that the
programs' success to date "does not mean all issues are resolved
as we will need more funds allocated (by the government) in the
2009 budget." He noted that over 16,000 families remain
registered in the ministry's IDP database as claiming government
subsidies. He also expressed concern that the approaching rainy
season would pose problems for those still living in camps, and
stressed that the enactment of a land law guaranteeing property
rights remains essential to avoid future land disputes which
could create the conditions for further displacements.
Representatives from the above noted NGOs expressed the same
concerns to Embassy officials, adding that another lingering
question remains what will take place after government subsidies
are spent by the end of the year. Nevertheless, all
representatives praised the government for tackling one of its
highest priorities and toughest challenges with speed and
efficiency given its present resources.

5. (SBU) The establishment of new National Police of
Timor-Leste (PNTL) posts in several neighborhoods where
residents returned contributed significantly to reducing and
preventing community tensions previously predicted by government
critics. However, it remains to be seen whether conflicts will
re-ignite if the new posts are not kept open permanently.

6. (SBU) Despite the progress, some questions remain on the
long term benefits of the government's resettlement program.
For instance, while families received between $2,500 to $4,500
to leave the camps and rebuild their homes, many of these faced
communities which objected to their return, thereby requiring
community dialogue and mediation assistance from the Ministry of
Social Solidarity and its partner NGOs. Some of the subsidy

DILI 00000288 002.2 OF 002


funds have been paid to communities to accept returning
residents, thereby reducing the amount of funds available to
rebuild homes. Some observers have expressed concern that IDPs
may return to the Dili camps if they use their subsidy money for
purposes other than building or repairing their homes. They
may, for instance, be pressured by relatives to share the money.
Unemployed youth not attached to a family unit as defined by
the government also posed a problem since only a percentage of
these received up to $200 to abandon the camps.

7. (SBU) The potential for old tensions to flare up remains. A
tent erected by the Ministry and NGOs in Dili's neighborhood of
Becora for community reintegration dialogue was burned down last
September by hostile residents not welcoming to returning IDPs,
allegedly due to "east versus west" rivalries.

8. (SBU) More significantly, the absence of secure property
rights and land titles in Timor-Leste exacerbates the
displacement problem. Several residents in government/NGO
operated transitional housing have reported to Embassy officers
that they moved routinely around Dili and the districts prior to
the 2006 crisis, therefore underscoring the question of where
exactly those residents should return after leaving the camps.
In addition, Secretary of State Rigoberto acknowledged that many
residents have simply moved in with relatives throughout Dili
and the districts.

A Dili-Centric Approach
-----------------------

9. (SBU) The overwhelming majority of camps currently being
closed are in Dili, and very little attention has been paid by
the GOTL to IDPs outside the capital. There are still at least
six camps in Baucau with an estimated 160 families (1,000
residents). Local authorities and the Ministry have instructed
donors not to supply IDPs in Baucau with food or water, since
this would fuel jealousy on the part of other local residents.
The city of Ermera has approximately 150 families (700
residents) living in transitional housing. Also, the GOTL has
yet to tackle the tense Metinaro camp outside of Dili, a
stronghold of the FRETILIN opposition party with an estimated
1,600 families (20,000 residents), which Rigoberto described as
"our toughest challenge because it is very politicized."

10. (SBU) Secretary of State Rigoberto summarized that the
government has taken the first steps towards resolving the
"internationally visible problem of the IDPs within a short
amount of time." However, he warned that "(national) water
distribution and land law reform are critical to guarantee (long
term) stability in Timor-Leste." When asked by Poloff his
assessment of the government's resettlement program to date, he
concluded: "Now the tents are not there. People still need help,
but they are no longer in tents."

11. (SBU) USAID is currently working with the government on a
5-year, $10 million project to draft a land law and extend
property rights. In addition, USAID's three most significant
partners for crisis response (excluding food aid) were CRS,
CARE, and NRC, all of which Rigoberto praised for their positive
contributions to resolving the IDP situation.
KLEMM

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