Subject: CNN: Organized crime threat to East Timor

Organized crime threat to East Timor

CNN September 2, 2002 Staff and wires

DILI, East Timor -- The fledgling nation of East Timor risks being exploited by organized crime and developing institutionalized corruption, because of its poverty and rudimentary legal system.

The head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Kelty, said Sunday East Timor could be vulnerable to drug traffickers, money launderers and those engaged in the sexual exploitation of children.

The warning comes two days after East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao urged his people to focus on the task of nation-building in the face of a growing law and order problem.

In a national televised address marking his first 100 days in power, Gusmao said East Timor still had no laws on immigration and citizenship or public prosecution.

"If we continue to roam, with no strength to enforce the law right at the beginning of our independence, by the time corruption develops deep roots it will be most difficult to combat it," Reuters reports Gusmao saying.

He also urged the police not to use violence to enforce the law.

"We should all remember that we have just come out of 25 years of a situation where violence became part of our way of being ... and that the reaction of the people is still pronouncedly aggressive."

Kelty, who on Sunday opened a permanent office of the AFP in the capital, Dili, said only one month ago East Timor had its first contact with people smuggling with the unlawful arrival of a boatload of Sri Lankan nationals.

He said the Australian police would help the East Timorese monitor crime trends and help it gain access to criminal intelligence. "An important first priority for the office will be to assist with East Timor's application to become a member of the international policing organization Interpol," Kelty said.

Police training

The office will also provide expert advice and help with training East Timorese police. More than 500 AFP officers have been in East Timor since June 1999 working on community policing, investigations, and training.

East Timor was under Portuguese colonial rule for 400 years before being annexed by Indonesia in 1974.

After an independence ballot in August 1999 descended into anarchy, the United Nations took control of the region's administration until it achieved full independence on May 20 this year.

During Indonesia's occupation, many educated East Timorese fled abroad. Some have since returned, but the country still lacks skilled administrators and civil servants.


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