|Subject: AGE: I warned embassy in Jakarta, says
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:36:41 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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The Age [Melbourne] Thursday 22 April 1999
I warned embassy in Jakarta, says worker
By BRENDAN NICHOLSON CANBERRA
An aid worker who ran an Australian government aid project in East Timor says he warned embassy officials, as long ago as July last year, that the Indonesian army was arming and training pro-Jakarta militia groups.
Mr Lansell Taudevin said yesterday he was convinced the worst of the recent bloodshed could have been avoided if Australia had heeded such warnings and applied more pressure on Jakarta earlier to rein in those supporting the militia groups.
``They interpreted what I was saying as extremist, alarmist and unreliable. Events have totally vindicated everything I have said and I feel that waiting for it to get to Dili before any action was taken was appalling,'' he said.
Mr Taudevin was the leader of a team working on a water and sanitation project funded by AusAID. He was in East Timor from June 1996 to the end of February this year. He said it was made clear to him that he was expected to provide information on security to Australian officials in the Jakarta embassy.
The Age has copies of e-mail messages Mr Taudevin sent to the embassy that included details of Indonesian troop arrivals, warnings that violence was growing and the likelihood of ``something like civil war'' increasing daily.
One message warned: ``In the mopping up operations in Alas, the military have been tracking down individuals suspected of involvement and executing them.''
Another told how troops dug two large pits in the villages of Narlau and Darlau, called the villagers together and demanded to know what they had told Mr Taudevin. ``The purpose of the pits? Their graves if such visits continued.''
Mr Taudevin said his warnings were couched in the terms that the situation was getting out of hand. ``They were not taken seriously. I was eventually pulled out because I was considered to be an alarmist, biased, fraternising with Fretilin, all this kind of rubbish,'' he said. ``They were even denying that I was required to provide that sort of information.''
An AusAID spokesman, Mr Matt Francis, said Mr Taudevin was pulled out of East Timor after receiving death threats. He insisted that Mr Taudevin was never asked to spy.
The leader of such a team would normally be required to prepare contingency plans for any civil or medical emergencies, Mr Francis said. ``There is an expectation that project team leaders are aware of the security situation on the ground in order to fulfil that responsibility.'' A spokesman for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, said it was only natural that the embassy staff would talk to Australians in an effort to ascertain what was happening on the ground.
``It is completely nonsensical to suggest he was asked to spy and those sort of claims would do no good for the locally engaged staff on that project.''