|Issue No 49||07 April 2000|
HT Lee - On Timor Rewards
As returning soldiers are feted Australian members of the UN Civil Police have been forgotten.
Allan Mills the UN civilian police (CivPol) commissioner was one of six people recently given an award for services in East Timor. The other five were members of Interfet including Major General Cosgrove.
However, the 50 odd members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) 1st East Timor Contingent who served under Mills have yet to be given any public recognition or awards.
Our members of CivPol both men and women were unarmed and had to endure confronting and life threatening situations before, during and immediately after the 30 August ballot when the armed militias were allowed to run amok by the Indonesian army (TNI) and the Indonesian Police (BRIMOB). Our AFP Officers did not even had the luxury of having flak jackets or helmets to protect themselves.
There would have been more killings of the East Timorese by the militia, the TNI and BRIMOB had it not been for the brave actions taken by members of the AFP CivPol Officers.
According to the National Vice President of the AFP Association, Allen LeLievre (who served in East Timor) members of the AFP in CivPol performed their duties in undeniably hazardous circumstances and should be given public recognition.
Allen said: 'All members were at the front line going beyond the call of duty 16 plus hours a day for nearly 90 days without one day for rest under extremes stress both physical and mental.'
Allen recalled the incident during the evacuation of Baucau (Tuesday 7 September) when AFP CivPol Officers whist being threatened themselves surrounded the local East Timorese staff to prevent them from being harmed by the armed militias.
'They refused to be evacuated until the locally employed UN staff were evacuated. When a C130 Hercules took off with the rest of their colleagues two officers stayed behind to assist these local staff board the UN (Lloyds) helicopters to Dili with no guarantee of themselves being evacuated.'
ABC journalist Tim Lester recalled an incident in Maliana in late June 1999 when the UN compound was under attack by the militias. According to Tim members of the AFP performed with great distinction under attack--they were very calm and discipline.
Tim pointed out one officer in particular--Craig Mann who played a key role in giving first aid to eight or nine injured East Timorese: 'Officer Mann was a natural leader who took control of the situation and kept the calm.'
Tim Lester who was in East Timor until his evacuation to Darwin on 7 September also agrees that members of the AFP CivPol should be given public recognition and some form of awards for the role they played in East Timor.
More members of Interfet will be given awards for their distinguish service in East Timor. Tick-a-tack parades welcoming them home have also been planned.
The Secretary of the ACT AFP Association, Wayne Sievers (who also served in East Timor until his evacuation on 10 September) welcomes such moves and said: 'Its pleasing the Interfet has been recognised.'
'However, we should not forget the role CivPol played in East Timor before Interfet was there. It was a very difficult and dangerous role when the unarmed CivPol had to face around 20,000 Indonesian troops and thousands of militias with nothing but the force of persuasion.'
The situation in East Timor was in many ways different from those in the civil war which took place in Rwanda, Bonsai or Kosovo where the boundaries of the opposing sides were more clear cut.
In East Timor there was no civil war, but we had a situation where the armed militias, TNI and BRIMOB were harassing, intimating and killing the unarmed East Timorese. The boundaries between the two opposing sides were changing constantly--from week to week, day to day and hour to hour, making the job of CivPol difficult and at times dangerous.
There were many acts of bravery by members of the AFP CivPol Officers who on numerous occasions put their lives on the line for the East Timorese. They acted in a cool, calm and collective manner even when under siege especially in Liquica, Maliana, Baucau, Viqueque and during the five days we were in the Dili UN compound.
Another AFP East Timor veteran, Superintendent Jeff Hazel has just finished compiling CivPol eye-witness accounts concerning actions of bravery, courage, outstanding and distinguish acts by AFP Officers who served in East Timor under CivPol Commissioner Allan Mills. The report has now been submitted to the AFP Commissioner in Canberra.
Let's hope the AFP and the Federal Government act on the report and give CivPol the public recognition and awards they so deservingly are entitled to. Let's make sure any tick-a tack parades welcoming home members of Interfet would include members of the CivPol.
HT Lee was Workers Online's Dili correspondent during the struggle for independence
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005