Subject: UN warns Dili hotel on prostitution

Sydney Morning Herald 04/12/99

UN warns hotel on prostitution

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

An Australian-run hotel business in Dili has been formally warned by the head of the United Nations in East Timor against prostitution and illegal money-changing on its premises.

The head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, wrote a letter on Thursday to the Australian management of the Dili Lodge Hotel warning against use of the premises for prostitution.

''Yes, I can confirm there is an exchange of correspondence between UNTAET and the Dili Lodge,'' a UN spokesman said, but declined to give details.

Mr John McCauliffe, a partner in the Dili Lodge (just renamed Timor Lodge), denied that he or the hotel were linked to organised prostitution.

''We're here for the long haul,'' he said.

''When I first came here I didn't realise how powerful the [Catholic] Church was but I've warned all my blokes, if there is any mucking around, I'll wring their necks.''

A UN police officer and a UN soldier had previously stayed in the hotel overnight with East Timorese women. He declined to identify the nationality of the peacekeepers or say whether he thought the women were prostitutes.

''We're not intrusive here,'' Mr McCauliffe said.

The mostly Catholic local population have been concerned that the influx of thousands of UN personnel will erode social values.

In Cambodia earlier this decade, the presence of more than 20,000 peacekeepers helped create a booming sex industry.

The pro-independence political coalition, the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), has also visited the hotel to investigate complaints about prostitution.

''It has been a concern - prostitution at the Dili Lodge,'' a CNRT spokeswoman, Ms Inez Almeira, said.

The hotel occupies a former Indonesian Army barracks near the city's airport and includes more than 100 air-conditioned rooms using converted containers. The business also includes car hire and a small shop.

The UN Civilian Police commander in Dili, Mr Graeme Cairns, confirmed he had received reports of prostitution at the Dili Lodge hotel. If enough evidence was gathered, his first response would be to issue a warning.

But this could be backed by stiffer action. Legal experts in Dili say Mr de Mello is empowered to expel ''undesirable'' persons from East Timor.

Story Picture: Jose Ramos Horta visits Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili yesterday after having returned on Wednesday from 24 years in exile. Photo by AFP

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