|=Subject: SMH: Indon police warn Australia of
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:28:10 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Sydney Morning Herald 06/05/99
Indonesian police warn of 'misunderstandings'
By LINDSAY MURDOCH in Dili and PETER COLE-ADAMS in Canberra
East Timor's top policeman warned yesterday of a perception that Australia supports independence for the territory, which was likely to lead to "misunderstandings" when Australian police arrive within weeks as part of a United Nations contingent.
On the eve of the historic signing of a UN-sponsored peace accord in New York, Colonel Timbul Silaen, the chief of 4,000 East Timor police, also ruled out Australians and other UN police "advisers" carrying handguns to protect themselves during a potentially violent vote on August 8 to decide the territory's future.
His warning came as a senior Australian official in Canberra agreed that Australian Federal Police sent to East Timor as part of the UN mission would be exposed to serious security risks.
Mr John Dauth, a deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told a Senate estimates committee there were now thousands of members of pro-integrationist militia groups in the territory who had acquired "a lot of weapons" in recent months.
The most significant negative factor in the "serious security situation" was the extent to which the many militias were now well-armed and engaging in aggressive and hostile behaviour, he said. The pro-independence Falintil guerillas were also well armed, though not to the extent of the militias, according to Australian assessments. He said it was clear some weapons had been provided to the pro-Indonesian militias by elements of the Indonesian armed forces in East Timor, but it was hard to know who had authorised this. The flow of weapons to the militias seemed to have flowed significantly over the past month or six weeks.
Colonel Silaen's warning about potential "misunderstandings" about Australian police among local pro-Indonesian elements follows death threats against Australian aid workers, businessmen, journalists and diplomats visiting East Timor. Pro-integrationists were angered by the Howard Government's switch in policy from accepting Indonesia's often brutal rule to supporting an act of self-determination, though Mr Howard has stressed it was Australia's preference that East Timor remained part of Indonesia with special autonomy.
Hundreds of independence supporters have gone into hiding after the pro-Indonesian militias went on killing sprees last month. With continuing reports that tens of thousands of villagers are being forced from their homes in areas outside Dili, human rights activists and diplomats doubt that the UN can supervise a free vote.
After meeting an advance team of four UN personnel yesterday, Colonel Silaen said the responsibility for securing the election would remain with the Indonesian police, not the UN. He said 200 UN personnel, including drivers, logistics experts and civilian police from Australia, Britain, the United States, the Philippines and Japan, would only support Indonesian police supervising the vote.
Asked about reports the UN was considering sending a contingent of more than 800 people to East Timor, Colonel Silaen said the UN officials he met only mentioned the 200 who would arrive very soon.
Sources close to the UN advance party said the UN had not decided how many people it needed to send to East Timor or what expertise they would require. Estimates on the number of police advisers being considered range from 50 to 250 as well as 600 civilian personnel.