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Cablegate: East Nusa Tenggara: West Timor's Perfect Storm--Refugees,

VZCZCXRO0374
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0055/01 2890932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160932Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0075
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0018
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0067
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0005
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0007
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0016
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0003
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0077

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000055

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, IRN/EAP, DRL/PHD, INL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TT PGOV PHUM KCOR ID PREF
SUBJECT: EAST NUSA TENGGARA: WEST TIMOR'S PERFECT STORM--REFUGEES,
CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUBSISTENCE FARMING


SURABAYA 00000055 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Surabaya Pol/Econ Officer and Pol/Econ
Assistant met with local officials and NGOs involved in the
resettlement of refugees from Timor Leste in the cities of
Kupang and Atambua, in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) during a October
2-5 visit. After our meetings in Atambua near the border with
Timor Leste, we visited the official border crossing at
Mota'ain. Violence associated with Timor Leste's independence
has abated but continuing food insecurity and local disputes
related to refugee relocation and aid threaten to become
flashpoints for renewed conflict in NTT. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) NTT is among the poorest of Indonesia's provinces and
remains unable to feed its population without outside
assistance. The NTT government has requested an additional
58,600 tons of rice from the central government to augment the
1,600 tons now on hand in the province. NTT Vice Governor Frans
Leburaya blamed local preference for rice instead of corn and
root crops which were staples in the past, according to media
reports. NGOs and local officials with whom we met echoed
Leburaya's assessment. Rice shortages are endemic to the
province due to insufficient, suitable land for rice cultivation.

3. (SBU) A vicious cycle of poor soil, slash and burn farming
and an unpredictable rainy season have spelled hard times for
subsistence farmers. During our visit to several refugee
village areas between Kupang and Atambua late in the dry season,
we saw little activity apart from the smoke rising on distant
hillsides preparing them for expected November rains. While our
sources differed on the precise timing, they all agreed that
farmers were finding it increasingly harder to predict the
arrival and duration of the rainy season beginning in 2000.
This challenge to their means of support coincided with the
massive inflow of East Timorese refugees.

4. (SBU) Casava and corn were staples prior to the
encouragement of water-intensive rice cultivation during the
Suharto regime. Over the past six years West Timor has
experienced particularly unpredictable rains causing farmers to
misjudge proper planting times and reducing yields. A
representative of Pikul (an Indonesian NGO that helps coordinate
cooperation between large foreign assistance organizations and
local NGOs) told us that corruption also plays a significant
role in NTTs annual food crisis). The Pikul representative said
that continued access to significant financial resources to
fight malnutrition paradoxically provides NTT provincial
officials with a disincentive to find a permanent solution.

Refugee Pressures
----------------------

5. (SBU) Over the past seven years an estimated 120-150,000
people have crossed the border from Timor Leste and settled in
refugee camps in West Timor. The type and quality of housing
provided them is generally limited to rough wooden structures
roofed with palm leaves or corrugated tin. The Regent of Belu
Joachim Lopez told us that refugees in his border Regency were
given the option of repatriation or relocation to another
Indonesian province, but most of these "warga baru," or new
citizens, chose to be resettled in areas close to the Timor
Leste border. Although linguistic, religious and even family
ties helped integrate the refugees into West Timor's landscape,
scarce farmland and water resources remain a source of friction
between the refugees and their new neighbors. Added to this,
the influx of foreign aid to the refugee communities living side
by side with similarly poor but non-refugee villages has caused
resentment and jealousy.

Reconciliation takes Resources
---------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In Kupang, we met with Armindo Mariano, the former
Chairman of East Timor Golkar, and Feliz Amaral, of the East
Timor Community Council (Makasti). Both men were born in East
Timor and opposed independence from Indonesia. Mariano served
as part of provincial government while East Timor was part of
Indonesia. Both men have immediate family living in Timor Leste
and described a strong desire to see the new country succeed

SURABAYA 00000055 002.2 OF 002


despite their opposition to its independence. Mariano told us
that the UN referendum regarding East Timor independence was
simply inaccurate and that reconciliation between the two
nations can only occur if Timor Leste and the rest of NTT have
economic parity. Feliz Amaral said reconciliation is a
precondition for economic development on both sides of the
border, rather than a product of it, as Mariano insists.

7. (SBU) Amaral told us that the potential for violence still
exists between East Timorese in Timor Leste and so-called ex-Tim
or refugee returnees. A sign of this latent potential for
violence was the continued use of the word "militia" in Timor
Leste to describe all pro-integrationists whether or not they
ever took up arms. This phenomenon is simply an effect of Timor
Leste's leadership keeping a hold on power, said Amaral.
Mariano and Amaral expressed the hope that reconciliation would
make it possible for those refugees who wish to return to Timor
Leste to do so without fear of being called provocateurs.

A Border that Breaks for Lunch
---------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Guided by local NGO worker and native of East Timor,
we traveled to the border at Mota'ain along back roads that
wound their way through refugee villages within just a mile of
the geographic border. The local population, long used to
freely visiting family and friends before there was an
international border, continues to cross, albeit out of view of
the border guards. Several sources told us that East Timor's
use of the US dollar has meant high prices relative to Indonesia
and the nearby footpaths see their share of smuggling.

9. (SBU) At the formal border crossing at Mota'ain, we noticed
people clustered atop a yellow line indicating the border
itself. One man standing with them explained that the Timor
Leste border guards were eating lunch in their guardhouse out of
sight and this made it easier for him to meet with relatives and
exchange gifts. A new Indonesian market complex within one
hundred yards of the border is clearly intended to take
advantage of border trade, but has yet to open. Meetings between
Indonesian and Timor Leste officials and NGOs will reportedly
take place in late October regarding the issuance of border
crossing cards to ease travel of both "new citizens" and
citizens of Timor Leste.

10. (U) Embassy Dili cleared this message.
MCCLELLAND

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