Subject: RA: East Timor: UN chief says troop withdrawal should slow down

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Radio Australia March 5, 2003 -transcript-

EAST TIMOR: UN chief says troop withdrawal should slow down

United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan has recommended to the Security Council to slow the withdrawal of UN troops from East Timor. Citing the frequency of security-related incidents over the last three months, Mr Annan said there was a need to readjust the downsizing plan.

Presenter/Interviewer: Kanaha Sabapathy

Speakers: Marcia Poole chief spokesperson of UNMISET; Professor Jim Fox, director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University

SABAPATHY: When UNMISET, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor was formed in May 2001 it was agreed that the four thousand-odd troops and 2,300 support staff were to be phased out in four half year stages with a completion date of June 2004.

The plan was based on the assumption that the threat from former militias would gradually reduce, the new threats of a similar scale would not emerge and that major civil disturbances would not occur. But following the apprehension of five men for the attack on a bus and truck last week, it's quite clear that the former militias are still active.

Marcia Poole is the chief spokesperson for UNMISET in Dili.

POOLE: This is actually the first time a PKF detained people who've said that they were ex-militia. Prior to that there have been reports of sightings to PKF in other districts of Timor, But untill now we haven't actually caught anyone.

SABAPATHY: Apart from this evidence, is there any other evidence to show that perhaps the former militia and armed groups are forming bases in the country?

POOLE: The only evidence we have again comes from these attacks in Attabai because in fact our troops...PKF troops....they found a campsite, and in this campsite they did find military equipment and clothing, webbing and food and they actually found nearly 1,000 rounds of live amunition.

SABAPATHY: East Timor's problems however are not all militia related. In fact since independence there has been growing dissatisfaction at all levels leading to events like the December 4th student protest which turned into a riot. Professor Jim Fox, director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, explains.

FOX: There are problems with ex-combatants of all kinds including those who fought for freedom and feel very disgruntled over the situation where they feel that they've attained very little from the process of independence. They've sacrificed a great deal and had very little return. There was a great deal of what you would call millenarian expectaion that when independence came, everything would change.... this is very much in the rural areas. That hasn't happened, and so there is a lot of say....frustration.

SABAPATHY: Professor Fox says lack of resources is at the root of the problem, but he believes this would be rectified once the East Timor Gap Treaty is signed with Australia and the money begins to flow in.

FOX: Once that's signed there will be a go ahead for the beginning of funds. Most of these funds will not really begin to flow well until 2005, 2006, but at least there will be the expectaion of these funds coming into the country, and on that basis East Timor wil have a little bit more stability in planning.

SABAPATHY: So how much of a breather will the new phased withdrawal give the East Timorese? Marcia Poole from UNMISET

POOLE: At the moment they have 3,270 troops here in Timor, and according to the current plan they were meant to be cut back in June by about a thousand. And then again in December by about another 1,000, and then hopefully for complete withdrawal by June 2004. Now what we are considering and what I think the Secretary General is going to put to the Security Council, is that we keep the same level of troops i.e 3,270 untill December this year, and then review the situation.

FOX: President Gusmao said the next years to 2005 until some of the oil revenues begin to flow, would be very difficult years. He reminded the population that this was the time of struggle....if the struggle hadn't ended it was only begining....and I think that's true. And if anything that has happened over the past year has simply made those conditions even worse.


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