Subject: ABC: Border, security concerns fuel calls for UN to stay


EAST TIMOR: Border, security concerns fuel calls for UN to stay

The United Nations has announced it may maintain a presence in East Timor beyond the end of its peacekeeping mandate on May 20. The announcement comes amid concerns that East Timor's troubled border with Indonesia still poses a major threat to future political stability.


Presenter/Interviewer: James Panichi

Speakers: Ingvar Anda, Caritas Australia; Gary Gray, chief of political affairs, UNMISET; Robert Ash, regional representative, UNHCR; Cristiano Da Costa, leader, CPD-RDTL- West Timor

PANICHI: Last week, police moved to close down what it believed was a subversive political organisation in the town of Bobonaro, on East Timor's side of the border.

The group in question - known as CPD-RDTL - is led by Australian educated Cristiano Da Costa.

He's unhappy with recruitment procedures which led to the formation of East Timor's armed forces.

And now, he says his campaign to change the constitution will intensify if UNMISET - the UN's peacekeeping and assistance mission - wraps up its operations in May.

DA COSTA: "This is a political battle and we have to wait and see what is going to happen next, whether the government is going to be able to hold its position after the UNMISET withdrawal.

"We have to wait and see before we come out with some plan, or action, which will force for a constitutional readjustment."

PANICHI: Well, what type of action would you consider in this case?

DA COSTA: "Well, we don't want to be seen as inciting violence in East Timor. But of course it is a political battle.

"We rule out any kind of violence. So we will try to press this government first to accept the CPD-RDTL as a legitimate organisation. And secondly, we will continue to push for a national dialogue."

PANICHI: But in spite of reassurances that it won't use violence, the organisation's eagerness for the UN to leave the country appears to have unnerved East Timor's government, which ordered the operation against the group.

Gary Gray is UNMISET's chief of political affairs, in the capital Dili.

GRAY: "The groups themselves tend to be a bit murky. We haven't seen any hard evidence that there is a highly organised threat out there from these groups.

"But, I think the government looks upon them as a kind of threat because they are outside the establishment.

"They are unofficial, they are not within any formal structures and have tended to collect together a number of people who have grievances abouit the current dispensation who may have felt they played an important role in the struggle in the past and maybe haven't achieved the awards that maybe they think they are due.

PANICHI: The government argues members of both the CPD-RDTL - and a more mysterious group called Kolimau 2000 - are being supported by East Timorese living across the border in Indonesia.

There are about 28,000 of them still in camps, with up to 3,000 believed to be former members of pro-Indonesian militia.

None of them are classified as refugees, and they've been offered resettlement by the Indonesian government.

However, those who work along the border say there's no evidence to link West and East Timorese miltants.

Robert Ashe is the regional representative for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.

He's just returned from a visit to a European-funded housing project in West Timor.

ASHE: "The people now are really looking forward to trying to establish new lives as Indonesian citizens within East Timor. They are looking more to try to find employment or land to farm so that they can take care of their families.

"We found no evidence to suggest any of them are thinking of mounting cross-border activities to destabilise the [East Timorese] government."

PANICHI: Although, while the anti-government groups may simply be a domestic problem for East Timor, those living in remote areas close to the border still say they don't want UN peacekeepers to leave.

Communities in Oecussi - an East Timorese enclave surrounded by Indonesian territory say former militia members are still too close for comfort.

Ingvar Anda works with aid agency Caritas Australia in remote parts of the Oecussi border region.

ANDA: "The former militia leaders were recognised by my staff. The most active leadership - people like Marco Suares, who was responsible for the worst massacre in Oecussi - he's still operating on the other side, working for the local government. He's got a job... "

PANICHI: Could that be a disruptive presence for the people of East Timor?

ANDA: "Well, potentially. Because these people have committed serious crimes against humanity and there's been no attempt to bring them to justice.

"So, if at some times in the future there were better relations and a better attempt to bring these people to justice, these people would stand at risk. So it's in their interest to maintain a relatively unfriendly attitude."


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