Subject: Age: UN Failed in Dili Riots: Inquiry

The Age [Melbourne] Wednesday, November 19, 2003

UN Failed to Act Effectively in Dili Riots, Inquiry Finds

By Jill Jolliffe

Darwin - A United Nations official has pointed the finger at the UN police command for its failure to intervene effectively during riots in East Timor last December.

A UN report just released also said East Timorese police had been unco-operative in an investigation into the riots.

Kamalesh Sharma, head of the UN Mission to Support East Timor (UNMISET) told a news conference yesterday that at the time of the riots he had told commanders to "take whatever action required without wasting time consulting me", and had authorised the use of UN troops.

Mr Sharma said his own role was "not an operational one" and that he had given the police power to act. Although he did not name him, blame was clearly directed at Canadian UN police Commissioner Peter Miller, who completed his Timor posting in June.

Mr Miller spent his last months in East Timor under heavy security after threats over his role during the violence, which was sparked by the fatal shooting by local police of two student demonstrators.

About 16 people were wounded and millions of dollars in damage from arson and looting resulted when a mob raged through Dili as UN police failed to intervene.

More than 400 people were interviewed and 151 weapons fired for ballistic evidence in the UN investigation, but it failed to find who killed the students and wounded other demonstrators.

The report criticised "a high incidence of contradictory statements" by East Timorese police.

Earlier this year, Filipino policeman Nick Torre was demoted for criticising the police failure and left the UN mission.

He was deputy intelligence chief on December 4 and claimed that, as the first buildings were torched, he warned superiors that events were spinning out of control and that the military should be called in, but was ignored.

East Timor became independent in May 2002 but the UN retains command of the military and police until May 2004. Its failure to protect Dili led to anger among residents.

Mr Miller was replaced as commissioner by Australian Sandi Peisley, who has initiated reforms to improve the performance of local police.


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