Subject: Australia's E. Timor peacekeeping efforts in the spotlight

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Radio Australia February 5, 2003 -transcript-

East Timor: Australia's peacekeeping efforts in the spotlight

To East Timor, where a reported militia insurgency has put a spotlight on Australia's peacekeeping efforts in properly securing the border. Local authorities say they're struggling to repel fresh militia raids from West Timor, prompting calls for a tougher Australian stance on border security. It comes just one month after seven people were killed in attacks on villagers in the western part of East Timor. But Australia's contingent - which is part of a multinational peace keeping force in East Timor - has defended its performance

Presenter/Interviewer: Quinton Temby, East Timor Speakers: Brigadier General Justin Kelly, deputy commander of the Peacekeeping Force; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lean, commanding officer of the Australian Battalion; UN Police Commissioner Peter Miller

TEMBY: Last month an attack by assailants with automatic rifles left six villagers dead in the subdistrict of Atsabe. The attack came only a month after looting and burning struck the capital Dili. As the United Nations is still responsible for security in East Timor, it's the task of UN Police Commissioner Peter Miller to resolve what the government is calling a "crisis of national security."

MILLER: It's a challenge us but we've had challengers before like this, we've had major problems in Bacau, we've had problems around the country with different groups. I've been here 14 months and we have had other challenges. Now suddenly it's the militia that we're hearing about, but that strikes a very raw nerve with a lot of the people because they have memories of 1999 and dates prior to that. And some of the terrible things that took place here. And I guess that's the main reason why people are very upset, but it's who might be commiting these murders and the possibility that their back.

TEMBY: While criticism has been leveled at the United Nations authorities for not doing enough to prevent recent security incidents, news of a militia insurgency has put the spotlight on Australia's peacekeeping operation on the border with Indonesia. According to the deputy commander of the Peacekeeping Force, Brigadier-General Justin Kelly, if armed groups have entered the country from West Timor, they've most likely passed through the Australian Battalion Area of Operation.

KELLY: We're not sure that they have actually infiltrated from West Timor, but the testimony of the couple who have been captured is to that effect that they originated in Atambua and infiltrated into East Timor in the late November, early December period.

TEMBY: Infiltrated in through where exactly?

KELLY: Well, the two districts are Cova Lima which is in the south or Bobonaro which is in the north and so they're very likely to have come through one of those two districts.

TEMBY: So we're still not sure whether they came through the Australian zone or the southern Thai zone?

KELLY: No, and we're unlikely to be sure, but if they did originate in Atambua, then Bobonaro which is in the Australian battalion AO is the most likely infiltration group.

TEMBY: The notion that militia could be crossing through the Australian area is vigorously disputed by the commanding officer of the Australian Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Lean.

LEAN: The key issue here is that no armed groups are crossing that line, because if there were armed groups, the Australian forces on the border or TCL would have stopped them.

TEMBY: In a weekend tour of the peacekeeping operation, the Australians' main message for journalists visiting from Dili was that there is no militia insurgency. The Atsabe attack, they said, was staged by local criminals targeting 40,000 US dollars in cash. Nevertheless, the Australian Battalion is serious about defending the border. Lieutenant Colonel Lean again, in a press briefing held at the massive battalion headquarters in the jungle east of Maliana.

LEAN: There will be no warning shots. If they threaten us with a long rifle, we will shoot them dead. One shot, one kill.

TEMBY: The centerpiece of this official media visit was the graduation of East Timor's first Border Patrol Unit accompanied by the 5/7 RAR Pipes and Drums. The Unit was trained by the Australian battalion as part of a programme of withdrawing troops from border postings and transferring responsibility for security to the East Timorese police. While critics claim that this process is allowing militia to infiltrate, the Australian peacekeepers say it allows them to have more soldiers on patrol. While the anxiety and argument over border security continues, the deadline for the United Nations withdrawal from East Timor in June 2004 draws nearer.


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