Thursday, June 8, 2006
The international forces in East Timor have reached an agreement about the coordination of the military and police forces in the field. Representatives of the four countries reached the agreement during an urgent meeting after an incident between Australian and Portuguese soldiers yesterday.
In the agreement reached between Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal and the Timorese government, operational autonomy is given to the international forces, which will operate in cooperation and coordination with each other.
The agreement also stated that in an initial phase Dili will be divided into sectors, and each area will be under the control of an international force. Outside of its area of responsibility, the military or police force will only be able to operate if other international forces request their actions. Also was agreed that the police forces will assume total control of the city after the military forces leave their current occupied positions. A situation that is expected after the arrival of the remaining equipment, mainly vehicles, for the Portuguese Republican National Guard (GNR) and the arrival of the remaining Malaysian police officers and their equipment.
In an official notice, the Timorese Foreign Minister, José Ramos Horta stated that “the objective on a long run is for the GNR to operate has a tactical intervention force in all the city of Dili”.
Ramos Horta explained that “in the next days, maybe already tomorrow morning, they [the Australian, Malaysian, New Zealand and Portuguese forces] will do some coordination training, in way to assure that the four forces know exactly what each one will do”. “Since some are from the Army and the others [Portuguese Republican National Guard] are a specialized police and that they never worked together, its useful to carry out some practical exercises”, he added.
In another subject, Ramos Horta explained that the Australian soldiers that are in Maubisse, next to a rebel group lead by major Reinado, and in Gleno, Ermera, next to another group of “military opponents”, are there “containing those elements”.
“Those groups are not comparable with other people that are here in Dili and that must be disarmed”, Ramos Horta said.
“The Australian presence in Maubisse and Gleno aims in containing those groups on their areas, until arrives the moment in which the President decides that is time for also mister Alfredo Reinado and the others to put down their weapons”, he said. “This is not urgent because they are not causing problems to anyone”, he justified.
The urgency of the resolution and clarification of the command and cooperation of the international forces was originated after an incident between Australian and Portuguese soldiers. When yesterday a Portuguese GNR patrol transported three people to a temporary detention center managed by Australian soldiers.
The detainees were arrested by a GNR Special Operations team, after being caught looting a governmental warehouse, in Balide, Dili.
The Australian soldiers then refused to receive the detained men, questioning the legitimacy of the Portuguese soldiers to make arrests. The Portuguese contingent transported the detainees to the Timorese prison services in Dili.