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MUI condemns expulsion of Moslems from East Timor

Antara - December 1, 2004

Jakarta – The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) here Wednesday condemned the expulsion of 253 Moslems from East Timor, saying the action was a violation of the Moslems' human rights.

"They are natives of East Timor who have lived there for generations and they are not Indonesian nationals. [The expulsion] is an act of discrimination and a violation of their human rights." MUI Secretary General Din Syamsuddin said.

Because they were natives of East Timor, the responsibility to protect them lay with the East Timorese government, not with the Indonesian government, he said. Moslems should not be considered as foreigners in East Timor as historically they had been living there for centuries, Din said.

He said the East Timorese government had made life difficult for Moslems, prevented them from performing their prayers as many mosques had been turned into other kinds of buildings. "By these actions the East Timorese has hurt the feelings of Moslems," he added. "The Moslems deportees did not have criminal records or were not involved in anything that could legally be a reason to expel them," Din said.

He said the MUI would send a formal protest to the East Timorese government through the latter's representative office in Jakarta and urge the Indonesian government to take diplomatic steps to protect the group of deportees. The MUI would also call on the United Nations to stop the violations of human rights in East Timor.

Meanwhile, Coordinator for the National Committee for East Timor Political Victims Batista Sufa Kefi regretted both countries' failure to determine the nationality of moslems in Alor village which had now caused them to be deported. "The problem now is which country will accept and recognize them as their citizens," Batista said.

Earlier, on Tuesday, the East Timorese government deported 63 moslems in Alor village, out of 253 people planned to be deported from the country, on grounds that they did not have legal documents to stay in the country. The group has been accommodated in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara.