Subject: Australian police heading to East Timor

Australian police heading to East Timor

Herald Sun

Ian McPhedran

June 19, 2008 12:00am

AUSTRALIA is about to dramatically boost its police presence in East Timor as the country wrestles with booming youth unemployment and simmering social unrest.

The first of 80 Australian police officers deployed under a two-year $53 million program will depart this month to join 12 already supporting the Timor Leste Police Development Program (TLPDP).

Another 54 Australian police work with the United Nations and other agencies in the troubled country.

The Government hopes the program will eventually help train 2000 Timorese police.

The move comes as the top UN official in the country, Atul Khare, predicted that Australia would be involved in Timor Leste well into the next century.

He said the nature of the commitment would change, but the time frame would be at least "50 to 100 years".

Speaking at the Lowy Institute yesterday, Dr Khare welcomed the expanded Australian police presence.

He also said he had a personal assurance from Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon that Australian troops would be there for the long haul to develop and nurture a professional, rules-based army.

Under the Australian-led police development program Australian advisers have been mentoring local police.

The Indian-born diplomat and medical doctor warned that East Timor was "precariously balanced", but he was optimistic about the future.

"I categorically reject the characterisation of Timor Leste as a failed or failing state. It is too young . . . to be a failure.

"I hope that decades from now it will be a beacon, a shining light for all of us."

Dr Khare said a major challenge confronting East Timor was youth unemployment.

More than 20,000 young people entered the job market each year but not a single new job was created.

No country could bear an unemployment rate growing at two per cent a year, Dr Khare said.

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