Subject: SMH: Border zone ... angry East Timorese confront a UN representative

Threatened Timorese town seeks troops

By Jill Jolliffe in Hatolia February 1 2003

Border zone ... angry East Timorese confront a UN representative.

The United Nations is in a quandary after insecure border villagers demanded that it extend a controversial military operation that has resulted in mass arrests.

The UN deputy administrator in East Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, visited the town of Hatolia on Thursday in response to residents' letters asking for the newly formed East Timor Defence Force to remain in the area to protect them. Their operation was due to end yesterday, but is under review.

Seven people died in attacks at nearby Atsabe in early January, apparently by militia infiltrators from West Timor.

Angry townsfolk confronted Mr Hasegawa. A former guerrilla, Afonso Martins, told him: "I was a resistance commander and can mobilise my men again if you don't protect us."

Others said they would dump bodies outside government buildings in Dili if their demands were not met.

Human rights organisations have criticised a January6 agreement between the UN and the Dili Government after the Atsabe attacks, allowing East Timorese soldiers to take over security from UN peacekeepers.

The agreement has allowed the East Timor Defence Force to question and arrest civilians, and has thrown East Timor's fledgling judiciary into turmoil, creating a tug-of-war between the army and human rights activists.

Members of the Colimau 2000 sect have been accused of involvement in the Atsabe attacks and arrested en masse. The courts later freed them.

Mr Hasegawa stood his ground with the villagers. He insisted that law and order was a police matter in the new democracy, and no one should be arrested without evidence.

"Do not make the same mistakes of the past 24 years, when the Indonesians set up their administration," he said. "They used their forces to round up anyone against it."

At the centre of the conflict is the hamlet of Leimea Kraik, where up to two-thirds of residents support Colimau 2000, one of many cults springing up in rural areas as a result of poverty and unrealistic hopes for independence.

Their mainly illiterate followers believe that certain dead resistance heroes will be reborn and emerge from the jungle.

Colimau 2000 members have been imprisoned in the past for terrorising their neighbours to extort money. The main difference between it and other sects is its proximity to the border and its support in refugee camps on the Indonesian side, making it more vulnerable to manipulation by third parties.

Civil war ignited in this area in 1975, paving the way for Indonesia's invasion.

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