/** reg.easttimor: 2468.0 **/
** Topic: E.Timor is first time UN civilian police not backed up by armed forc **
** Written 2:29 PM Sep 2, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: E.Timor is first time UN civilian police not backed up by armed force
Australian Broadcasting Corp. PM News Thursday, September 2, 1999 6:27 p.m.
For the first time in the history of UN operations, civilian police are working without the backup of an armed peace keeping force.
MARK COLVIN: Meanwhile tonight a senior Indonesian Government Minister has admitted it may be necessary to consider sending UN peace keepers to East Timor. The Justice Minister, Muladi, says it is Indonesia's responsibility to sort out the problem itself without help from abroad but, he says, a UN peace keeping force is an alternative that may be considered.
The Indonesian Government's been holding talks with the UN today in Jakarta and a proposal has been taken back to UN headquarters in New York. If there were a chance that Indonesia might allow a UN peace keeping force into East Timor it would come as welcome news for the Australian police working there. At the moment they're putting their lives on the line to protect civilians from militia attacks, and they're doing it unarmed.
Petria Wallace reports on the stories of police bravery emerging from East Timor.
PETRIA WALLACE: The escalation of violence in East Timor comes as no surprise to the 50 Australian police officers there. They had hoped for peace, but expected bloodshed during this week's uneasy wait for the ballot to be counted. Yesterday pro-Jakarta militiamen chased their targets to the very doorstop of the United Nations compound in Dili. It was Australian officers who hauled two British journalists through the door to safety, and then found themselves face to face with machete-waving militiamen.
The Australian officer's only weapon was an oustretched hand and a cool head. For the first time in the history of UN operations, civilian police are working without the backup of an armed peace keeping force.
Assistant Commissioner Mick Kelty is in charge of overseas operations for the Australian Federal Police. He's in daily contact with Dili and says he's heard many stories of his officers putting their life on the line to protect local UN workers.
MICK KELTY: On ballot day where two of our people attempted to render first aid to another UN officer who had been stabbed, a local engaged person, on Monday night and in fact took that UN person into their home where he later died from the injuries and were rashly surrounded by militia for almost 36 hours, awaiting help to get out of the situation in which they were in.
PETRIA WALLACE: But Mick Kelty stresses Australian police don't feel they are a target. It's locals the militias are after.
MICK KELTY: It is tense and it is difficult, but they're there and they're handling it very well. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. There have been peaks and troughs in the activity of the militias and other groups over there since day one.
PETRIA WALLACE: The Australian police officers in East Timor are due to come home soon to be replaced by a new contingent.
MICK KELTY: The second 50 finish their training tomorrow. They'll be deployed to Darwin starting from Monday next week and they'll go over and rotate with the people already in East Timor.
PETRIA WALLACE: The AFP has also approached State police forces in the hope they'll offer volunteers to boost numbers in East Timor if required by the UN. All States have agreed to do so with the exception of Queensland. Its Police Minister, Tom Barton, has knocked back the offer to get involved saying his officers have enough to do at home.
TOM BARTON: One of the concerns, of course, is that they would be unarmed while they're there. They would be in a police ... in a peace keeping role in a very volatile situation that's seen deaths in recent days and I believe that while Australia has a role to play there, it's a foreign affairs matter, it's a Federal Government matter, and personally I'd prefer to see the Australian Military used in a peace keeping role, not police.
PETRIA WALLACE: Tom Barton's other concern is that no-one knows how long Australian police will be in East Timor. The UN contingent is meant to pull out in December this year, but the AFP's Mick Kelty admits his officers are likely to be there for much longer.
MICK KELTY: I would not like to hazard a guess because I quite clearly ... we've been in Cyprus for 35 years.
PETRIA WALLACE: So it could be years?
MICK KELTY: It could be years. Yeah.
MARK COLVIN: Mick Kelty, Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, with Petria Wallace.
** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **