|Subject: Dili cops not equipped' for gangs
[+Rules of engagement; Australian Marshall Plan for the Pacific?]
- Dili cops `not equipped' for gangs
- The Australian: Let's develop a Marshall Plan for the Pacific [By Dennis Shanahan]
The Australian Saturday, March 10, 2007
Dili cops `not equipped' for gangs
AUSTRALIAN Federal Police say they are hopelessly underequipped to deal with the emergence of deadly new gang weapons on the violent streets of Dili.
The discovery of homemade pistols, primitive bombs, even a giant armour-piercing catapult designed to be mounted on the back of a ute, have alarmed AFP officers, who are armed only with pistols.
The Weekend Australian understands that anger is mounting over a decision by Canberra to deny the officers tactical shotguns for self-defence. Ordinary uniformed police officers have been on the front line in the battle to control the gangs that now occupy virtually every neighbourhood in the riot-battered capital.
The backbone of the UN's policing requirements in East Timor is provided by 201 Portuguese officers, 50 Australians and 25 New Zealanders, supported by specialised UN tactical riot police.
"We are woefully under-resourced and lacking proper protective equipment. I really worry for the safety of my men," said one New Zealand police officer, who asked not to be named, echoing comments by many of his Australian colleagues.
The weapons haul off the streets now includes home-made pistols capable of firing a single 5.56mm copper-jacketed bullet and primitive but potentially deadly bombs made from steel fragments packed around an ammonium nitrate core.
"The (gangs) are getting very inventive," said the New Zealand police officer. Whole neighbourhoods are now run by martial arts gangs running protection rackets and prostitution rings.
The Advertiser Saturday, March 10, 2007
The Australian military will have to change its rules of engagement
Time our troops got tough
Australian policy-makers have traditionally been driven by a romantic view of East Timor, but if violence and disorder continue, Australia could have troops on the ground in the troubled nation for decades to come, as Defence Writer IAN McPHEDRAN reports. ON the streets of Dili, they call them FOMs - Fat Old Men. That is the derogatory term used by local gang members to describe Australian Federal Police officers trying to impose law and order in the violence racked city.
The fit, hard tactical police have been replaced by older and in some cases, rounder officers.
Some have been recruited from station desk jobs around the country.
Police vehicles are stoned almost daily by steroid-fuelled thugs who emerge from back streets to throw rocks and fire their steel darts.
As soon as troops or Portuguese riot police arrive in force, the gangs melt into the background only to meet later to plan their next attack. This is just one of the threats facing Australians every day in Dili.
The other more insidious one is the well-armed militias doing the bidding of their shadowy political masters.
These are led by people like former major Alfredo Reinado who believe it is their role to protect their people from their political opponents. In his case, the enemy is the ruling Fretilin party.
The botched operation to capture or kill Reinado signalled a major policy change on the part of Australian forces in East Timor.
In the past, a "softly, softly" zero casualty approach has been the norm, but it has failed.
As one of Australia's leading defence experts, Professor Hugh White, from the Australian National University, told The Advertiser this week: "There is way too much romanticism in Australia about East Timor".
That rose-tinted view of the East Timorese has allowed people like the Australian-trained Reinado, former prime minister Mari Alkatiri and his backers and other corrupt politicians to run amok.
Meanwhile, those regarded by Australia as honest brokers, such as Acting Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta (when he is in the country) and President Xanana Gusmao, have become virtually ineffectual.
Indonesia ruled East Timor for 25 years with an iron fist.
The Javanese regarded the East Timorese as a hard people prone to extreme acts of violence and revenge. And they were correct.
Australian policy makers have unfortunately been driven by the romantic view of the East Timorese as a poor, oppressed people who helped to protect Australia during World War II.
This is factually correct, but it takes no account of the reality of Timorese society. They are capable of acts of extreme violence against their fellow citizens based merely on whether they are from the east or west of the country.
AND anyone who gets in the way, is likely to cop the same treatment.
That is why some of the old hands, who have spent years dealing with the East Timorese are fearful of the fallout from this week's attack against Reinado.
As the gangs roamed the streets looking for Australians, or other non-Portuguese foreigners, some old hands thought it was time to pull up stumps.
"They were specifically hunting for foreigners," one observer said.
Professor White said the Howard Government had dug itself a deep hole in East Timor.
Unlike the Indonesian military - the TNI - our armed forces are structured to defend Australia against an outside attack. Its personnel have a strong sense of justice and human rights.
The TNI is designed to defend the Indonesian republic from internal uprising without any consideration of human rights.
In East Timor, it had 25 years of limited success against local rebels. "The Indonesians were better suited to the task in East Timor than we are," Professor White said.
The bottom line is that the gangs of Dili are laughing at the Australian troops and police.
The level of violence on display in recent days would have been met with lethal force by the Indonesians. The fact that Australian forces have killed seven locals in the past couple of weeks, signals a significant policy shift. But will it be tough enough?
Australia can keep deploying troops until the cows come home, but until the deepseated political and social ills of the country are sorted out, it will be an expensive waste of time.
Professor White says Australia is on a hiding to nothing and the Indonesians will be sitting back and saying, "we told you so".
"At this point, there appears to be no way out and no way to fix the deeper problems," he said.
"Having deployed the military and police and not having dealt with the issues, we are stuck there forever . . ." If this analysis holds true, then Australia is going to have troops and police on the ground in East Timor for decades to come. Local politics is as dysfunctional as ever and the bad guys still exert huge influence over events.
The so-called "good guys" are ineffectual, and in the case of independence hero President Gusmao, have plainly had enough. He is not running for re-election in the presidential poll scheduled for April 9 and the globetrotting Mr Ramos-Horta is his likely successor. Australia is fast running out of options in East Timor.
Either we depart and leave them to it, which is unlikely, given the strategic importance of our near neighbour, or we put in place a policy of robust engagement.
That means not only cracking heads, it means arresting and jailing thugs and corrupt politicians and it means responding with maximum force when necessary.
Australia has a long history of tolerance and limited rules of engagement when it comes to applying military force in regional trouble spots.
Unless our troops are provided with more robust rules and until the judiciary is equipped to back them up, then East Timor will remain a basket case.
The Timorese people and Australia want the same outcome - a prosperous, law-abiding and peaceful country where people have enough to eat, reasonable health care and educational opportunities.
Unfortunately the path to achieving that has more to do with force than it does with reason. Until Australians understand that we will continue to see our troops and police humiliated by gangs of thugs who should simply be stopped.
The ultimate solution is not Australian troop and police cracking heads alone on the streets of Dili, is it a United Nations force with robust rules of engagement and the power and will to act against the gangs and their shadowy masters. The world owes East Timor that much.
The Australian March 9, 2007
Let's develop a Marshall Plan for the Pacific
Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor
Military responses to local instability should be only the start of our role in the region
IT used to be a proud boast of Australian troops on the ground in East Timor in the latest security assignment that they had never fired a shot. Not one; not into the air and certainly not at people. Other UN forces were considered trigger-happy and some all too ready to fire unnecessary warning shots.
All of that has changed and Australian troops have reverted to the role they had before East Timorese independence: muscling up to rebellious factions and shooting, in anger and fatally. It adds to the image of politics being played out in East Timor (and elsewhere) at the point of an Australian gun.
It is a sad commentary on events in East Timor that Australian soldiers, so long a symbol of safety, independence and security, are being subjected to anti-Australian protests in Dili. This is not to criticise the military serving in a difficult and political hothouse atmosphere. Australia's professional soldiers are undoubtedly among the best in the world in a variety of ways but, good as they are, they are not the sole answer to the arc of instability that stretches from East Timor in the northwest through Papua, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and now Tonga.
The problems in this arc are obvious: tiny nation-states unable to survive economically; high unemployment, especially among young men; disproportionate military influence in a democracy; endemic corruption; Third World standards in services such as water and power; and a susceptibility to international crime and terrorism.
But what were problems in Indo-Pacific states for decades have undergone a dramatic strategic reassessment since 2001. Failing states are a strategic global concern in the war against transnational crime and terror. What's more, Australia's long-dormant view of the Pacific has changed under the Howard Government from one of benevolent paternalism and neglect to one of active intervention, which has led to the downfall of governments and more troops and Australian Federal Police officers being committed to the Pacific than to Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The success and basis of Australia's military intervention in East Timor and the Solomons were based on the military view of a "big footprint". A relatively large mass of highly professional soldiers simply scares the daylights out of local roughnecks and ruffians and restores order.
Unfortunately, that has been the beginning of the long-term problem for Australia, not the solution.
Australian troops have had to return to East Timor and the Solomons. Unrest in East Timor, uncertainty in PNG, guerilla war in Bougainville, coups in Fiji and social disorder in Tonga have been temporarily quelled by an Australian presence but never entirely resolved.
That's the point; we can't simply keep returning our soldiers and federal police to war zones or areas of civil disorder and rely on their professional capabilities to restore calm. The fact is Australia is the South Pacific superpower and the brutal reality is the Government has begged off further troop increases in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan on that basis.
On his recent trip here, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said he believed Australia had "made an enormous contribution to Iraq" and thought "Australia should be very proud". But his second observation was that Australia had taken on the role of a regional power, relieving the US of such a duty in the South Pacific. It was a complimentary remark about a complementary role.
This, then, is the reality: Australia's neighbours are unstable; Australia is the power in the region most capable of delivering assistance; Australia is getting strategic credit for its role in the Pacific; and it is in Australia's interests to have stability. Furthermore, although military and police intervention are necessary to establish order and build a climate for the construction of a modern, working and economically viable democracy, it is not enough. If Australia is the main power in a region of instability and economic failure, it has to behave like one: it is time for Australia to develop a Marshall Plan in the South Pacific.
Although necessary, the military commitment is expensive and will remain so each time it is made. The European Union as a group and individual nations, such as France, are providing aid to the South Pacific. But there needs to be a sympathetic framework to stop endemic corruption and inefficiency wasting millions in aid.
As with the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004 when Australia set up a $4 billion reconstruction fund for Indonesia -- a fund with tight fiscal controls and Australian oversight -- there is surely an argument for a similar arrangement with the Solomons, Fiji, PNG and Tonga, and to a lesser extent, because of its potential gas income, East Timor.
When the Treasury is rolling in money to the extent that $6 billion can be found almost overnight for Brendan Nelson's Super Hornet fighters or $10 billion can be offered for a once-only deal to the states that share the Murray-Darling Basin, the funding of a regional future fund can be found.
Not only can and should it be found, but the longer-term savings and advantages for Australia make it a worthwhile investment for the 21st century.
Yes, good governance is a priority, but asking nations to provide a corruption-free environment without putting the individuals in place and training them beforehand is unrealistic. Australia was sympathetic to Indonesia after the tsunami and now has an extensive aid-reconstruction system that is not as demanding as the World Bank or as wasteful as a UN program.
Australia has been right to insist on conditions with Indonesia and negotiate with East Timor on gas rights, but there has to be a place for trying to replace military expenditure with funding for professional training, long-term loans and infrastructure.
Just this week the Australian defence forces spent more than $10million recovering a crashed helicopter and the body of an SAS trooper who had been assigned duties during the latest unrest in Fiji, a sad and costly by-product of our readiness and requirement to intervene in the Pacific.
As Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland said recently: "A short-term military response to the manifestation of these problems only applies a Band-Aid. A longer-term commitment isrequired to address the underlying problems."
Instituting a Marshall Plan for the Pacific instead of an additional $6billion for fighters may be a longer-term commitment.
----------------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service
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