Subject: Timor diggers 'lack local knowledge' -Kirsty Sword Gusmao

Australian Associated Press September 03, 2006

Timor diggers 'lack local knowledge'

By Katherine Field

KIRSTY Sword, the Melbourne-born wife of East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao, has welcomed Australian forces to her troubled adoptive nation but says she is concerned about their lack of local knowledge.

Ms Gusmao said despite giving confidence to locals, international forces faced problems getting into remote areas as the search continues for 57 prisoners who escaped from a Dili jail last week, including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado.

"It's difficult because a lot of these forces have very little local knowledge," she told a charity launch in Sydney today.

"They are not getting into the places where people live."

Her comments follow Friday's renewed violence in which gangs armed with stones and machetes clashed in the East Timorese capital as the hunt continued for Reinado and dozens of other escapees.

At least eight people were wounded in the unrest, which broke out after a gang attacked a refugee camp in Dili hotel with stones, witnesses said.

International security forces arrived soon after to restore order.

But Ms Gusmao said while there was concern about Reinado, who appeared on television on September 1 criticising the country's government, he was not the biggest problem.

"He has been portrayed incorrectly in the Australian media as being a renegade, a rebel," she said.

East Timor descended into chaos in May amid fighting between factions in the impoverished newly independent country's security forces.

Ms Gusmao said between 100,000 and 150,000 people were still living in temporary camps.

Meanwhile, Ms Gusmao has welcomed an Australian charity initiative to provide the country with much-needed medical equipment.

The Humpty Dumpty foundation has raised more than $40,000 to purchase medical equipment for the country and plans to send to the country a crew of doctors and nurses in December.

Ms Gusmao said the equipment would go a long way to help women and children in the country, which has one of the world's highest fertility rates, but an average income of just 65 cents a day.

"I know all Australians are concerned with parenting, in Timor too we recognise that our children are our future," she said.

Australian troops, initially sent to East Timor to halt a bloody rampage by Indonesian-backed militia in late 1999, returned in May to quell the most recent flare-up of rioting, looting and arson.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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