Subject: Age: UN police Chief Defies Local Anger

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Age

January 30, 2003

UN police chief defies local anger

By Jill Jolliffe

Dili - The United Nations' police chief in East Timor is refusing to resign despite criticism from Fretilin government officials over his handling of riots in December.

"I'm not a quitter, and the UN wants me to stay, so I'm staying," Commissioner Peter Miller said.

He was speaking after a week in which he was publicly criticised by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and East Timor defence force commander Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak. Some politicians also demanded his resignation.

In an interview with The Age, the police chief, a Canadian, gave his version of events leading to the December 4 riots, saying panic by inexperienced Timorese police and the takeover of a student demonstration by outsiders who "used special tactics, moving in small groups, hitting targets selectively" had proved a fatal combination.

Key buildings in Dili were set alight and two people were killed in the day of rioting. The commissioner said that among other reforms since the riots, police training has been increased from three to six months, and gun distribution limited. "It was a wake-up call," he said.

The latest dispute began over the use of the East Timorese army to track down militiamen from West Timor accused of killing seven people at the border town of Atsabe early in January. It then widened to discussion of the failure of UN policing in December.

Human rights groups have criticised the ongoing Atsabe operation, sanctioned by UN administrator Kamalesh Sharma, which they say bypasses proper police procedures.

Mr Miller later wrote a letter to Brigadier Ruak asking him to ensure rights were respected. The letter was leaked to the press.

"I think it must have been a bad translation," the police chief said, "because I never said they had violated human rights."

The army leader accused Mr Miller of incompetence, saying he was "covering up his weaknesses" by raising the issue. A promised government report on the causes of the Dili rioting has not yet been released, with the spectre of the militia threat overshadowing domestic problems.

The trouble on December 4 began after East Timorese police, who are under UN command, shot dead a student protester and wounded 16 others. Mr Miller said the police panicked when students stormed their compound. "They went straight for their guns instead of using the other tools in their toolbox, such as pepper spray and tear gas," he said. A criminal investigation was under way and those responsible would be charged, he said. A second student died the next day.

He said more than 100 international police were deployed as the riot gained force, but were scattered around the city to protect strategic points, so were not readily visible.


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