Subject: Bouquets and brickbats for outgoing Interfet

South China Morning Post Tuesday, February 15, 2000

EAST TIMOR Bouquets and brickbats for outgoing Interfet


When Interfet forces landed in East Timor on September 20, refugees watched their arrival from their hideout in the hill town of Dare.

"We watched the ships sail into Dili in the morning and we prayed and thanked God that they came," said Sister Lourdes, who was sheltering refugees in her church above the capital.

"You ask the East Timorese how they feel about the force and they will say they have a tremendous impression of the quality and compassion of these troops," International Force for East Timor (Interfet) commander Major-General Peter Cosgrove said yesterday.

However, despite its popularity, Interfet has received criticism for being slow to secure the border region and the enclave of Oecussi and for allowing militia to escape into Indonesian West Timor.

Dili human rights organisation Yayasan Hak said when it was first deployed, Interfet did not carry out proper investigations into murders committed after the United Nations-sponsored ballot last August which brought a landslide vote for independence and triggered the militia violence.

Citing an incident when Interfet forces burnt bodies of victims of the violence at the port in Dili, Yayasan Hak head Aniceto Guterres said that although Interfet was successful in securing the country, it was not prepared to deal with the situation on the ground.

"As international forces, they should have been aware they would face a situation where bodies were everywhere and been prepared to investigate the murders not just dispose of the bodies."

However, he also praised the international force for helping his organisation collect evidence by providing logistics and transport.

The UN peacekeeping force to replace Interfet faces the same challenges of maintaining security and providing humanitarian aid.

One of its major tasks will be to assist in the rebuilding of towns and villages destroyed amid the violence.



Deployment: September 20-October 22.

Principal troop contributing countries:

Australia 5,570, New Zealand 1,053, Thailand 656, France 544, South Korea 419, US 399, Canada 306, UK 285, Singapore 270, Philippines 246, Others 193.


Full deployment: February 23.

Contributing countries (in alphabetical order): Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Pakistan, Portugal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand.

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