Subject: Irish PM in East Timor

Source: The Irish Times Date: 10th March 2000


>From Geraldine Kennedy Political Editor in East Timor

political and military leaders sought, and obtained, an undertaking form the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) yesterday that he woudl raise renewed militia violence with the US Secretary of State. Ms. Madeline Albright, and at the EU Council meeting in Lisbon in two weeks.

Mr. Ahern said that he was very concerned at the renewed incursions and activity by pro-Indonesian militia along the western border. It had heightened tension and might inhibit refugees from returning to their homes in East Timor.

A nuiform message was given to the Taoiseach in meetings with independence leaders, Mr. Xanana Gusmao and Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta, and in briefings by top military personnel serving with the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) during his trip to the region yesterday.

Mr. Horta, effectively the foreign affairs spokesman for East Timor following September's referendum on independence, told the Taoiseach that there had to be a concerted effort by the EU and in Washington to send another warning to the Indonesian government that " they will not allow their territory to be used as a staging ground for aggression against another state and the United Nations".

Mr. Ahern was also met by Mr. Sergio de Mello, special representative of the transitional administrator, on arrival in Dili from Darwin. He reported that the militia incidents had started after the historic visit of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid in East Timor last week.

Mr. de Mello also told the Taoiseach that thye were setting up a special judicial system in East Timor and needed international lawyers to help them. Mr. Ahern undertook to discuss the matter with the Attorney General, Mr. Michael McDowell.

the Taoiseach and his delegation spent most of yestrday mornign on a helicopter tour of the ravaged area. Most buildings and homes in Dili and the countryside have been burnt out. There is no water supply and food is scarce.

Mr. Ahern piad a visit to member sof the Irish Army Rangers wing at their base near Taroman. He was told by them that the new attacks since the beginning of the month were to test the resolve of the UN. The platoon members were on orange alert for the previous 36 hours.

The Irish visitors were then taken by Army jeep to visit a local school.

Before departing East Timor, Mr Ahern met Irish volunteers working in the region. The administrator officer of the city of Dili is Mr. John Ryan, from Kilkenny. He also met Mr Noel Maloney, the head of Concern; Mr. Ken Byrne, head of Gaol; and the representatives of the Irish Red Cross in the region, Mr. Paddy McManus, Mr. Liam Browne, Mr. Kevin Kelly and Ms. Margaret Conway.

----- Source: The Irish Independent Date; 10th March 2000



The bright eyes of the little East Timorese children lit up as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern unwrapped a gift for them at their makeshift school high in the mountains.

Irish children of a similar age-between six and thirteen-attendign national schools here would have laughed in derision at what was inside the big cardboard box.

But tot he deprived children of this unfortunate land, it was sight to behold and something they had never seen before.

There, beign opened before their eyes, were rulers, chalk, pens, pencils, art materials, sweets and footballs, a virtual treasure chest for children with very little in life.

Mr. Ahern had travelled form the Irish Army Ranger outpost at Taroman on the short journey up the dirt road to visit villagers and their families.

It was the first time a VIP had ever visited and Mr. Ahern was made very welcome, and the beautiful children kissing his hand in gratitude.

" these children have nothing-it reallys puts everything we have at home into perpective when you see situations like this", said Mr. Ahern.

The Taoiseach saw for himself the effect of the systematic, palnned destruction of large areas of East Timor that was cruelly perpetrated by the Indonesian-backed militia last August and September.

The 40-strong Irish army contingent has responsibility for ensuring the saftey and rahabilitation od six villages here with over 2,000 inhabitants just a short distance formt he West Timor border. ------

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