Friday, May 12, 2006




From the Sydney Morning Herald : "Two navy warships have been despatched to northern Australian waters, ready to race to the aid of East Timor if violence returns to the fledgling nation.

"But Timor is adamant it has no need for military assistance, despite the death of a police officer during one of two violent protests that have rocked the country in the past fortnight.

"In the latest flare-up, about 100 people were arrested after a stone-throwing mob attacked a government office in a town southwest of Dili, killing the officer.

"The previous week, violence erupted during a protest by soldiers sacked for desertion, leaving at least five people dead.

Australia said last week it would consider sending troops, if asked.

"Prime Minister John Howard today said the navy's amphibious transport ships HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Manoora had been deployed and were ready to be called into service, if required.

"East Timor's ambassador in Australia, Hernani Coelho Da Silva, said the Australian government had not informed Timor about its plans to send ships to Australia's northern waters."

All the trouble has flared up just as the UN mission was due to a come to an end, on May 19. The UN is now considering a request to extend the mission by a month, at the minimu.

From : "East Timor does not need foreign peacekeepers, foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta said today, shortly after Australia said it had sent two warships close to Timorese waters.

"The East Timorese capital Dili was rocked by a riot on April 28 sparked by the sacking of 600 soldiers. At least five people were killed and thousands fled the city in fear of further violence.

"'East Timor does not need a peacekeeping force, because there is no war in East Timor,' Mr Ramos-Horta."

The two warships have been fast-deployed with as few as 50 crew members on each vessel. Should further trouble break out to a level that East Timor calls on Australia to send in troops, they can be moved onto the vessels via RAN catamarans and helicopters.

The low number of crew members on Kanimbla and Manoora points to the speed with which they have been sent into the far north Australian waters, but they may have also been purposely deployed with few crew so there is room for the 1000 Australians living and working in East Timor who may be evacuated if fighting increases.