Subject: AKI: We Should Blame Ourselves, JRH


Dili, 31 Oct. (AKI) - As the debate about the conduct of Australian troops in East Timor escalates, prime minister Jose Ramos-Horta said that the problem lies with the East Timorese who are unable to resolve their own crisis. In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), the Timorese leader called for an end to the criticisms that have lately led to Australians - both civilian and military - being targeted by gangs of youths.

"I ask the Timorese people not to poison our good relationship with Australia. Australian soldiers are professional and we do not have to shame them now with accusation of partiality," he told AKI.

"If anything, we should blame ourselves for not being able to solve our own problems. We asked Australia to help us in solving our problem. Australia will always be in every East Timorese's heart and if any one here blames them, I am the first to condemn these people," he added.

About 1,000 Australian troops were deployed to East Timor following violence and disorder that erupted in May in which at least 37 people were killed and 155,000 forced to abandon their homes. The clashes led to the fall of the government of the former prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Australian troops have lately been accused of partiality, unprofessional conduct and even unlawful killings. The situation deteriorated after a full-page article was published on Saturday in Suara Timor-Leste, the main local newspaper, accusing Australians soldiers of killing two Timorese people. The headline on the article was "Bodies found in Bebonuk. Killed by Australian soldiers". The article sparked rage that led to the danger of Australian troops becoming targets of gangs.

However, a report recently commissioned by Australia's international development agency, AusAID, found that gangs are politically motivated and led by former anti-Indonesian resistance fighters who have loyalties and enmities within factions of the security forces and political parties dating back to the struggle for independence from Indonesia.

In Dili, the conduct of the Australian soldiers was further defended by Brigadier Mal Rerden, newly appointed commander of the 1,000-strong Australian force in East Timor.

“The important thing to understand is that we are here to ensure the security of all the people of East Timor, and we will do that in a totally impartial way,” he told AKI.

“Now is the time for people to stop being unlawful; to stop taking matters into their own hands ­ if they choose to do that they will be dealt with accordingly and we will continue to do that in the impartial way that we have so far,” he added.

However, the cloud of accusations is difficult to disperse and some locals swear that they have been mistreated by the Australians.

According to Maritz Sagadate, for example, Australians mistreated him and he alleged they were partly responsible for the killing of two people.

“The Australian troops captured three of us without reason. They put us in car and poisoned us with something that smelt like gasoline. We were soon unconscious. At about midnight I woke up, I did not know where we were but I found my two friends killed. I do believe that Australian soldiers were collaborating with western people [loromonu] in killing my friends,” he told AKI.

“I hate Australian troops very much now,” Maritz added.

Maritz is not alone. Joaquim Murobo, an internally displaced person, told AKI that he was wrongly detained and has lost trust in Australian soldiers and the police.

“Australian soldiers and police say they are professional but I think they are amateurs. They allow criminals and troublemakers to burn my house without doing anything but then arrest innocent people in refugee camps,” he said.

“I have had enough and I do not trust them,” he added.


Oct-31-06 11:39 

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