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Ethnic leaders called to ease border clash

Investigator seeks peaceful end to villagers' disputes

  • Albertus V. Rehi, Kupang
  • Indonesia
  • August 15, 2012
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The latest in a series of border clashes between Indonesian and Timor Leste villagers has underlined the need for input from ethnic and local community leaders.

"They play a crucial role and must be involved in settling these disputes," said Thimotius Susetyo, head of the official team that investigated the incident.

“This will be one of our recommendations to central government in finding a solution to this issue. Other recommendations will include efforts to build infrastructure, economy, health and education facilities in border areas."

The latest violence, between Indonesian villagers from North Central Timor and East Timorese from Pasabe-Oecusse, erupted over a disagreement on the location of a new customs office in the neutral zone.

Villagers from both sides hurled stones at each other, but there were no reports of serious casualties.

Susetyo identified three potential flashpoints where Indonesian and Timor Leste settlements are in close proximity in disputed areas along the border. He expressed the hope that conflicts can be resolved locally, with the full involvement of ethnic and community leaders, before being passed on for discussion at the national level.

“The discussions between both countries will be under the coordination of [Indonesian] Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa,” he said. "We hope the border disputes can be settled peacefully, as these villagers have family and cultural ties."

Raymudus Sau Fernandez, head of Timor's North Central district, called on both governments to respect an existing agreement that “no activity is allowed in the neutral zone, whether by Indonesians or East Timorese,” in order to avoid further clashes.

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