EWER Alert: TNI activities highlight tension due to unresolved border demarcation in Oe-Cusse

July 16, 2010


ALERT: During the last two weeks of May 2010, members of the Indonesian Military (TNI1) entered the community of bairo Naktuka, suco Bene Ufe, in the sub-district of Nitibe, district Oe-Cusse. Their purpose was reportedly to advise communities of their plans to halt construction of social housing by the Timorese Ministry of Social Solidarity. On 29 May 2010, TNI personnel again entered the community and damaged two units of social housing, displacing the resident families to a neighboring suco. TNI officials, supported by some community members from Indonesia and a small number from within the unresolved area, maintain that construction is not permitted in this area as its territorial status has not yet been fully agreed between Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

Immediate Recommendations: Although it is reassuring to witness the attention recently paid to this issue by the Head of the Government, as an issue of international engagement, ongoing responsibility for responding to these incidents lies with the Timorese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Continued follow-up to letters sent to the Indonesian authorities should be conducted to prevent any further action by TNI personnel that may escalate the situation while diplomatic talks are underway to provide final agreements on the demarcation of the border. Agreements regarding the areas in which Timorese Border Patrol Units (UPF)2 and TNI are permitted to patrol should be reviewed and reconfirmed, and plans by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide UPF and TNI with corresponding maps of the area3 should be implemented.

Close monitoring of the situation by UPF should be undertaken until assurance can be given to communities that this issue is being addressed at the national level and that no further action will be taken at the local level by either side. Clear communication channels between UPF, the Secretary of State for Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be necessary in order to ensure that all relevant stakeholders stay informed of monitoring findings. To prevent further confusion, any Ministry, governmental or non-governmental actors planning any visits or activities in the region should act in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.