07 February 2013

More trouble at border with Indonesia as unknown group terrorises local residents

Map showing location of Naktuka. Image: The Dili Insider
ETLJB 7 February 2013 - There have been more disturbances at the East Timor-Indonesian border at Naktuka village in the border area of the East Timorese District of Oecusse.

Newspaper Suara Timor-Lorosae reported on 1 February 2013 remarks by the Bene Ufe village chief, Simao de Carvalho that an unknown group had been entering East Timorese territory at Naktuka and intimidating local residents.

According to an English translation of the report published by Suara Timor Lorosae, Village Chief Carvalho said that the unknown group had tried to burn down a house belonging to one Mrs. Tereza Elu’s and had destroyed the door of her house.

“I feel unhappy with the situation because Indonesia and Timor-Leste have commitment to resolve border security issues but in fact the recent situation in Naktuka shows that there is still a threat to the people,” Carvalho said. He added the people in the area were feeling unsafe and he therefore called on the Government to provide community police in Naktuka to provide security at night.

The dispute between local Indonesian and East Timorese residents has been festering since at least 2006 but the governments of the respective countries have failed to settle the demarcation of the international border in this area.

The Jakarta Globe reported on 13 June, 2009 that the local Indonesian leader of the remote Indonesian subdistrict of East Amfoang bordering East Timor says his people were ready to take up arms if the ownership of a disputed piece of land was not settled. The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) had barred a community in the subdistrict in the Province of  East Nusa Tenggara, from using the land in disputed Naktuka village.

At that time, Robby J. Manoh, a village head on the Indonesian side of the border, said he did not understand why the East Timorese were allowed to remain in Naktuka. "People from East Timor are starting to plant on Naktuka soil, but our government has done nothing to stop them," Robby is reported to have said.

"This is not fair. If this injustice continues, we have no choice but to force [the Timorese] to leave the area."

Police in East Amfoang confirmed the Timorese presence in Naktuka, but were told last month by the military that such cases were common along the border. Daud Saul Ndaumanu, the subdistrict chief of police, said then that the problem had persisted since 2006.

The sub-district police chief was also reported at that time as saying that regulations state that [Naktuka] should be clear of any establishments or activities initiated by either country, but for some reason, that hasn't stopped the people of East Timor from staying in these disputed areas. I think the government should intervene in this matter."

Robby also appealed  at that time to authorities to look into the situation. We're in a tough position because we cannot take care of our own land," he said. "We've brought this up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but nothing has been done to settle this issue."

On 13 June, 2009, The Jakarta Post reported that legislators in East Nusa Tenngara (NTT) had urged the Indonesian military (TNI) to expel hundreds of Timor Leste people who have "unilaterally" built settlements along a the disputed area.

"The TNI should act firmly. If there is already an agreement that the neutral zone still under the status of dispute should be clear of any civilian activities, the two countries must abide by it," senior NTT legislative council member was reported to have said. Jonathan, who was the deputy chairman of the council's security affairs commission, said that unless the TNI took firm action, the disputed 1,069-square-meter area, "rich in mining resources", could be occupied by Timor Leste.

Council deputy speaker Kristo Blasin asked the Foreign Ministry to pay serious attention to the issue. "Never let bloodshed break out. This problem can actually be settled through diplomacy," he was reported to have said. Kristo also called on the two countries to involve communities in finding a solution to the disputed border at Naktuka village in East Amfoang subdistrict in the NTT capital of Kupang. Timor
Leste claims the area as part of its Oecusi district.

Earlier, Indonesia's security border force lodged a protest with Timor Leste police, which had allowed its citizens to build settlements in the disputed area.

Adding to the tensions, an East Timorese man was murdered at the locality in January 2013. It is believed that members of the Indonesian military were responsible for the murder after they tortured the man.

Related reports
TNI soldiers illegally enter Naktuka
Indonesian army attacks and destroys state facilities in Timor-Leste
Naktuka border dispute needs diplomacy, says MP Carmelita Moniz
More shootings by Indonesian military at Timor-Leste citizens engaging in illegal trade 
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Indonesian TNI raises Merah Putih flag in Oe-cusse

Sources: Suara Timor Lorosae, The Jakarta Post, The Jakarta Globe, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin. Edited by Warren L. Wright 

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