Subject: SMH: Wall of military blocks doctors
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:40:31 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Sydney Morning Herald 03/06/99

INDONESIA Wall of military blocks doctors

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Indonesian authorities have blocked an Australian medical team working in Dili as scores of sick or wounded East Timorese are unable to receive treatment.

It is embarrassing for Australia's Prime Minister, Mr Howard, who personally negotiated with Indonesia's President, Dr B.J. Habibie, for the fully equipped team of two doctors and a nurse to go to East Timor to ease an unfolding humanitarian disaster. One of the few foreign doctors working in East Timor, American Dr Dan Murphy, appealed yesterday for the Australian team to be allowed to start work. As he treated a man shot by pro-Jakarta militia, and as more than 100 patients waited outside the small church clinic he runs in Dili, Dr Murphy threw his hands in the air: "Where are these Australians? People are dying here."A spokesman for AusAid, the Australian Government aid agency, told the Herald the team arrived in Dili on May 15 but had trouble starting duties due to initial restrictions imposed by Indonesian authorities.

The team also had a problem with a significant military presence in the main Indonesian-run hospital in Dili where they were supposed to work. Most East Timorese refuse to take wounded or sick family members to the hospital because of the soldiers, police and intelligence agents. Indonesian security forces maintain a 24-hour guard post outside the hospital and security officials regularly tour wards.

Instead of going to the hospital, most East Timorese either swamp the few small private clinics run by the Catholic Church, where facilities are primitive and medicine scarce, or go without any medical care.

The Australian doctors are now in Bali, while the nurse carries out training, counselling and other work at the Dili hospital.

The AusAid spokesman said the International Committee of the Red Cross was negotiating with Indonesia for the team to take up its initial assignment.

Asked why the doctors and nurse could not work at a non-government clinic while the red-tape was sorted out, the spokesman said: "Don't know." The team was to work under the auspices of the Red Cross, one of the few international agencies the Indonesian Government has allowed to operate in East Timor. The spokesman said the Red Cross was uncomfortable with the number of soldiers at the hospital.

More than 100 people have been killed and many more wounded since January when Dr Habibie announced he would give 800,000 East Timorese the right to decide their future at a UN-supervised ballot scheduled for August. Paramilitary groups backed by the Indonesian armed forces have been responsible for most of the violence. Mr Howard had appealed for the medical team to be allowed into East Timor when he met Dr Habibie in Bali in April. more than 40 Indonesian doctors have left the territory since Dr Habibie announced the ballot.

Peter Cole-Adams reports from Canberra: The Defence Minister, Mr Moore, said yesterday that the Government expected, and would agree to, a UN request to contribute to an international team of military liaison officers in East Timor.Indonesia's armed forces chief, General Wiranto, has called for about 45 unarmed foreign military officers to monitor Indonesian security forces ahead of the vote. Three Australian officials are due in Dili today to establish the new Australian consulate.

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