Subject: RA: Foreign minister calls for security assistance

EAST TIMOR: Foreign minister calls for security assistance 22/10/2002 16:57:00 | Asia Pacific Programs


East Timor is calling for international assistance to train its security forces in counter-terrorism techniques, in the wake of the Bali bombings. East Timor's foreign minister says the tiny new nation is ill-equipped to deal with the threat of regional terrorism. He says in the future, he's hopeful East Timor will become a safe haven for foreign travellers, who may view neighbouring Indonesia as a security risk following the Bali attacks.


HORTA: The impact that is felt in East Timor is more emotional, psychological, but economically it has had no impact on East Timor. If anything probably as East Timor shows itself to be a haven free of al-Qaeda and free of other terrorist groups, Australians and others might start looking at East Timor as a safe place to go for their holidays in the future.

FITZGERALD: You mentioned that there has been an emotional and psychological impact from the bombings though, what was that impact?

HORTA: It is more in the sense of outrage over the actions of the terrorists in stirrings of sympathy and a solidarity with the victims, in particular the Australians who seem to be the largest number of victims. Yesterday, Sunday in Dili in the afternoon Xanana led a service with the vicar general in tribute to the victims of the Bali terrorist attack. Hundreds and hundreds of people went to the service, which was very emotionally charged and there are many Australians who live in East Timor and many other foreigners, but also the East Timorese people felt a lot of sympathy for Indonesia for the Balinese in particular who are also suffering because of this terrorist attack. The terrorist attack it maybe is not only directed at westerners, it also directed at Bali itself because predominantly Hindu and for the Muslim extremists the Hindus are also infidels, are also barbarians and is also a target.

FITZGERALD: How equipped and ready is East Timor to deal with this terrorism threat that has sprung up in your very close region?

HORTA: If we talk about the international terrorist then I would say East Timor is poorly equipped, is very vulnerable. I made this point very, very clearly in discussions in Washington with US President George W. Bush that East Timor is completely vulnerable to any international terrorist threat, because a. certainly we have a big peacekeeping force in East Timor at the moment but the peacekeeping force as such as a conventional army is not equipped to deal with terrorism. To deal with terrorists you need specially trained intelligence services, specially trained anti-terrorist units, which East Timor does not have. So we hope Australia, the United States and other countries including Indonesia can help provide training to East Timor so that it can cope with threats to its stability from terrorist groups, particularly in view of the quick downsizing of UN presence in Timor, by May 2004 UN forces and police would have been completely withdrawn from East Timor.

FITZGERALD: How satisfied are you with President Megawati's containment of this problem? Do you think she's allowing terrorism to build up in Indonesia, which is having a contamination effect in the region to smaller countries like East Timor?

HORTA: I don't know whether it is Indonesia that is allowing terrorist to contaminate other areas, or it's other areas that are contaminating Indonesia. You know terrorism in the Philippines has been going on for many, many years, long before Indonesia. I think it is sometimes is too easy, too simplistic to blame the Indonesians, they are 17,000 islands, they just came out of a dictatorship of more than 30 years, it's a very poor border, anyone can enter Indonesia almost with impunity from anywhere in the world. I would find it difficult to pass judgement on President Megawati Sukarnoputri, I think in the first circumstance Indonesia is a difficult country to cover, and I don't think anyone anywhere in the world could do, could have done a better job than Megawati Sukarnoputri has been trying to do so far.

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