Subject: ABC: Appeal for international police contingent


Last Updated 28/07/2006 1:03:15 PM

EAST TIMOR: Appeal for international police contingent

East Timor wants to underwrite its security over the next five years by bringing in more than 800 international police. The East Timor Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, says the police request will be considered by the UN Security Council in the next two weeks. Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says East Timor is right to focus on its weak police force, but is doubtful it can get such a big commitment from the UN. Dr Ramos Horta and Mr Downer spoke at the ASEAN talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Presenter/Interviewer: Graeme Dobell

Speakers: Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor's Prime Minister, Alexander Downer, Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister

DOBELL: East Timor's new Prime Minister is lodging the most ambitious of ambit claims: effectively asking the United Nations to start the job of rebuilding East Timor's police force from scratch. Jose Ramos Horta says he wants more than 800 international police. He says the new mission being discussed in New York would be, initially, for two years, but he says the understanding must be that the police commitment to East Timor should be up to five years. Mr Ramos Horta says the UN has a chance now to repair its earlier mistakes.

HORTA: The mistake of the past in 1999-2000 made by the Security Council against my own appeals, against the advice of some of the best experts was that the Security Council was in no mood to commit itself to a long-term engagement in East Timor.

DOBELL: Mr Ramos Horta says the UN now understands it can't be guided only by cost-cutting issues when engaging in nation building, as it is again in East Timor. The Prime Minister says the recent violence shows the fragility of Timor's institutions and the need for the UN to commit to a long term mission - especially rebuilding the police.

HORTA: Ironically one of the problems with our police force was that it grew too fast and with not enough proper training And therefore we are very cautious not withstanding our desire to be on our own feet, we're very cautious, we want the international community to stay there as long as possible.

DOBELL: Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, agrees on the need to reconstruct East Timor's police, but says getting 800 international police for five years is a big ask.

DOWNER: Well 800 is a very big number. I wouldn't like to put a figure on it, but I think the focus in terms of providing security for East Timor is going to have to be more on police than the military. I mean you only bring in military in extreme circumstances. We've had those and I hope we can downsize the military although there will be some military presence left there no doubt. But I think the focus of the UN operation there other than its political focus needs to be on police, and I think you have to expect there to be quite some number of police. And the reason I say that is that the East Timor police force turned out to be dysfunctional earlier this year, in April of this year when the violence erupted in East Timor. So it's going to take quite a while in my view to rebuild the East Timor police force.

DOBELL: East Timor's Prime Minister says he'll move within weeks to ratify the multi-billion dollar boundary deal with Australia on oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. Mr Ramos Horta says he'll put a robust argument that East Timor's Parliament should approve the agreement on the Greater Sunrise field which was signed with Australia in January.

He says Greater Sunrise is one of the largest proven oil and gas reserves in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Ramos Horta says Australia and East Timor agreed to a 50-50 split of revenue and that deal should now be accepted by his Parliament.

HORTA: I have no doubt that we will secure the majority needed to ratify it, and I have the full intention of honouring this agreement and bringing it into ratification. Timor Leste cannot be in the habit of negotiating agreements, signing them and then we change our minds and withhold ratification. So we will intend to do it in the next few weeks, I intend to bring it to parliament and make a robust and convincing argument, in defence of this agreement. 

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