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Role of Aust troops in E Timor scrutinised -

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Role of Aust troops in E Timor scrutinised

Broadcast: 08/03/2007

Reporter: Mark Willacy

The role of Australian troops in East Timor has come under renewed scrutiny after an upsurge in
violence there.


TONY JONES: The role of Australian troops in East Timor has come under renewed scrutiny after an
upsurge in violence there. The Australians believe that the vast majority of East Timorese want
them to stay, but as Mark Willacy reports from the capital Dili, patrolling the streets is still
dangerous duty.

CPL RYAN COOKE, LEADER CHARLIE COMPANY: Make sure you take your bloody helmets. At this stage
they're starting to throw rocks over the back fence again.

MARK WILLACY: Responding to an attack on a UN rice warehouse, the soldiers of Charlie Company fan
out to find the youths responsible. The weapons they face today are rocks, but sometimes it's metal
spears fired from slingshots.

CPL RYAN COOKE: If you could imagine a primitive spear gun, that's basically what you're looking

MARK WILLACY: Charlie Company has confiscated dozens of weapons during its patrols, from darts to
machetes to medieval-style spiked clubs. While some want the Australian troops to leave, most East
Timorese believe it's vital for their country that they stay.

EAST TIMORESE MAN: (TRANSLATION)"This country is not a free country, poor people are still
suffering so the Australian Army is welcome to stay. "

MARK WILLACY: While the Australians are keeping the peace in the slums and suburbs there's been
some justice delivered by East Timor's fledgling court system. Former Interior Minister Rogerio
Lobato has been convicted of arming civilian militias during last year's explosion of violence. His
lawyers say he will appeal his seven-and-a-half year jail sentence. Just a few kilometres from the
courtroom, the soldiers of Charlie Company have moved from vehicle to foot patrol, combing the
ruins of this slum for weapons and militia.

This is the western outskirts of Dili, one of the most dangerous areas of the capital. This is
where a lot of the gangs are, gangs armed with darts, rocks, sticks, some very lethal weapons.

CPL RYAN COOKE: Big problem with Timor at the moment is gangs and the impact they have on the
community is quite significant.

MARK WILLACY: For some of the men of Charlie Company their tour of this tiny nation will end in
three weeks' time. But most East Timorese hope the Australian presence here will remain until their
future is secure.