Subject: RA: ETimor peacekeeping lessons must be learned

Radio Australia

August 31, 2007 -transcript-

East Timor: Peacekeeping lessons must be learned

Australia has announced an aid package worth more than 200-million-dollars for East Timor over the next four years. The package, announced by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on a one-day visit to East Timor, includes extra funds for water, sanitation and education. The aid package comes as Australia's police chief Mick Keelty said Canberra had lessons to learn from police and peacekeeping failures in East Timor. Commissioner Keelty says police withdrew too quickly after the intervention in East Timor in 1999, while fresh unrest over the past year has also shown up serious mistakes.

Presenter - Graeme Dobell Speaker - Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty; assistant commissioner of the Australia Federal Police, Andrew Hughes

HORTA: The announcement we have just made of additional assistance to Timor Leste is extremely generous. It is 70 million dollars a year that properly applied, particularly to the benefit of the poorest people of this country. In the rural areas, it wil make tremendous difference in the lives of the poor.

DOBELL: The international intervention that started in East Timor in 1999, and then the Australian-led intervention that started in Solomon Islands in 2003, have helped change - perhaps permanently - the shape of Australia's national police force. One of the lessons is that quick interventions and quick departures create future failures. The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, says the continuing problems of East Timor prove that rule.

KEELTY: We've got to go into these communities and work with the communities to solve some of the problems together and start thinking about what's left behind, rather than go in for two years or go in one year. We've seen it in East Timor where we went in '99 and we all left too quickly and the East Timorese police was really the newest and youngest police force in the world and their expectations in my view were way too high. And that's why we're back in there working with the UN, under the UN, and rebuild the capability and the skills of the PNTL. And we need to learn a lesson now of that. You just can't go in and think you have solved it overnight.

DOBELL: Mr Keelty says his force is creating a permanent International Deployment Group so it can do a better job of dealing with instability in the region. The Group - established in 2004, now has 600 police and is building to have 1200 police by the end of next year. Experience in East Timor and Solomon Islands shows the difficulty of what overseas missions must do. The police chief lists a series of tasks - getting basic law enforcement and public order, the reconstitution, monitoring and mentoring of local police units, and the broad issue of re-establishing judicial and jail systems and the legal code.

KEELTY: These interventions have increased over the last decade, particularly in the last five years, and I would like to see us get to a point where we rather than just move in, in numbers, we have a strategy, a sustainable strategy that we put in place before we move in and it may not necessarily be all about law and order. It has to be part of the whole of community response in terms of rebuilding communities that have been torn apart by conflict or other means.

DOBELL: An assistant commissioner of the Australia Federal Police, Andrew Hughes, heads to New York next month to lead the 10,000 police involved in United Nations peacekeeping. Mr Hughes' previous overseas role was heading Fiji's police force, a role officially terminated by Fiji's military regime. Mr Hughes says the increased police presence in peacekeeping reflects growing international awareness of the importance of not only making peace, but of keeping it. Mr Hughes says there's no point in stabilising a volatile country if the rule of law isn't secure, because most conflict is within countries, not between countries.

HUGHES: Most of the conflicts these days are intra-state conflicts rather than interstate conflicts. It is because the rule of law has either lost its grip, or has broken down entirely. And you can't just throw police at a problem like that. You have to develop. I mean what do we do when we arrest someone. We have to have a proper court system, public defenders, public prosecutors, prisons, a justice system, human rights organisation, NGO monitoring, watchdogs. A whole range of things that need to be in place to ensure that when the UN eventually leaves, there is a robust and sustainable law and justice sector in place.


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