Subject: SCMP: Plea to airlift fresh food, drug supplies to E.Timor
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:17:28 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo:

Tuesday March 16 1999

East Timor Plea to airlift fresh food, drug supplies


The international community should prepare to fly urgently needed fresh food and medical aid to the region, a visiting Portuguese diplomat said yesterday.

Ana Gomes, the first Portuguese diplomat to visit East Timor since 1975, said supplies - including urgently needed drugs - could be flown in from neighbouring countries such as Australia.

"There is a fantastic air base in Baucau for that purpose, only 45 minutes' flight from Darwin," said Ms Gomes, who heads the Portuguese diplomatic interest section in Jakarta.

Once used to land 747s carrying holiday-makers from Portugal, Macau and Australia, the airfield is now closed to commercial flights.

Ms Gomes told members of the National Commission on Human Rights in Dili there was an urgent need for international medical groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres to be allowed to work in East Timor.

"The fact there are no surgeons operating here and the hospital closes at two o'clock is unacceptable," she said.

The Portuguese-based International Medical Association has applied to set up operations in East Timor after dozens of migrant doctors returned to Java, fearing further violence.

Jakarta is stalling on granting permission for a Red Cross surgical team to work at the Dili General Hospital.

Ms Gomes, who will report her findings to the Portuguese President in Macau this week, said the crisis in the territory's schools was also critical.

More than 2,500 teachers have asked to be transferred from the territory, moves that have disrupted classes and left students at a loose end.

The military's information centre in Jakarta says it is preparing 1,000 army teachers and doctors to take up essential positions in the territory.

But Ms Gomes said: "From what I've seen the people do not trust the military, even if their intentions are good."

The diplomat said there was a strong need for an unarmed international peacekeeping force in East Timor to cool tensions and give residents confidence the forthcoming self-determination process would be fair.

"This is the only way people will feel confident to vote freely," she said.

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