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East Timor: military commander says more police are needed to stop the violence in Dili.

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Monday 5 June 2006

East Timor: Military Commander says more police are needed to stop the violence in Dili


MARK COLVIN: The Australian commander of the international inter vention force in East Timor, Brigadier Mick Slater, says the military effort has achieved as much as it can be expected to achieve. 


He says it's now time to start bringing more police into the fight against the gangs which are continuing to terrorise parts of the capital. 


As he spoke, 127 Portuguese riot police equipped with trail bikes prepared to join the effort working in coordination with the Australians, but outside their command. 


And the Australian Government was pushing for a UN-led multinational police force to take over the role of keeping the peace in East Timor. 


Foreign Affairs Editor Peter Cave reports from Dili. 


(sound of man crying) 


PETER CAVE: A young man pleads for his life as members of an opposing gang beat him senseless in Comoro on the main road to Dili airport. Australian troops in armoured personnel carriers eventually arrived to save his life, as half a dozen houses went up in flames nearby. They used tear gas to disperse the gangs.  


On the opposite side of Dili near Bacora the story was the same. 


One-hundred-thousand people have now been driven from their homes by the violence, and at Dili airport the first airlift of emergency supplies from the UNHCR arrived on a giant Russian transport plane. 


(to Arianne Rummery) How long do you think you'll have to look after these people in camps?  


ARIANNE RUMMERY: Well look that's difficult to say. Obviously that's going to depend on the security situation and the way people feel about whether or not they can return to their homes. But what the situation at the moment means is that the conditions at the moment are so appalling that we really do need to now move to ease the congestion and to improve those conditions because we really can't say how long those people will be here.  


PETER CAVE: UNHCR spokeswoman Arianne Rummery. 


Brigadier Mick Slater the Australian military commander in Dili says it's time for more police to become involved in the role of peacemaking. 


MICK SLATER: The military effort that we have been undertaking has achieved as probably about as much as we can expect to achieve in the short-term. We're now starting to integrate our planning with the prospective police forces from the different countries who have advance teams in Dili at the moment scoping what their involvement may be in future.  


PETER CAVE: Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd was in Dili today to inspect the situation. He spoke to reporters after meeting Prime Minister Alkatiri. 


KEVIN RUDD: Look, the Australian Army can't produce miracles. The Australian Army is faced with a primary mission of ensuring the containment of the former elements of the East Timorese Defence Force and of the East Timorese Police Force.  


Having arrived here, they've had to take up a second mission as well, relating to domestic law and order. That's not their primary mission, but that's one that they've had to fall into. That's why it's important that they get additional police resources ASAP (as soon as possible).  


PETER CAVE: The arrival over the weekend of 127 Portuguese paramilitary police equipped with motorbikes for rapid response will take some pressure off the Australian troops. 


GONCARLO CARVALHO: The situation is tense and is not easy situation. They have weapons but most of the situations are anti-riot situations. We have anti-riot equipment, grenade launchers, shields, a number of baton, nothing special.  


We can control with the normal… with the rest of the police and with the military forces.  


PETER CAVE: Captain Goncarlo Carvalho.  


The Portuguese come to East Timor with a reputation for toughness born from their recent colonial past here, but Brigadier Slater denied that what is needed is some arse kicking. 


MICK SLATER: What we need is a police capability in the city. At the moment there is no police capability.  


And this isn't about, as you say, strong-handed kicking arse, what we need are police who know how to do policing activities. So that we can get these people off the street and lock them up till we get them before a judge and let the judge take care of them.  


We're not about kicking arse. It's about getting criminals off the streets. And police do that better than soldiers.  


PETER CAVE: Brigadier Mick Slater.  


This is Peter Cave reporting from Dili for PM .