Hendren's Magic Marker
U.S. Admiral Inspects the Disarray of E. Timor
Things Considered, October 27, 2006 · Adm.
William Fallon, head of the U.S. Pacific Command,
tours tumultuous East Timor. House before Fallon
arrived, the airport was still closed, the result
of a deadly clash with rioters.
The newly independent country is in danger of
becoming a failed state. Australian peacekeepers
are trying to hold it together, but 10 percent of its housing has burned down.
East Timor comprises half an island between
Australia and Indonesia, with bountiful natural
resources. It won independence from Indonesia in
2002. But it remains the poorest nation in Asia.
Like other international observers who have come
here, Pacific Command officials left the country
concluding that East Timor is a failed state,
with leaders who are unlikely to fix it.
Listen via --Listen via http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6394195
National Public Radio (NPR)
All Things Considered 8:00 PM EST
October 27, 2006 Friday
U.S. Admiral Inspects the Disarray of E. Timor
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
East Timor is the world's newest nation. It's
half an island between Australia and Indonesia
with beautiful natural resources, a place that
won independence from Indonesia in 2002. But it
remains the poorest nation in Asia, and it has
grown increasingly violent since clashes between
eastern and western residents of the capital of
Dili began this spring. This week, things got
worse. The head of the U.S. Pacific Command made
his first visit yesterday, hours after factional fighting killed four.
NPR Pentagon correspondent John Hendren was with him and he filed this report.
JOHN HENDREN: On his way into town, Admiral
William Fallon's convoy rolled past hundreds of
rocks, the rival gang's weapon of choice, littering the airport road.
Admiral WILLIAM FALLON: It's a rather sad story
of people rather destitute and the statistics are
pretty grim. Fifty percent literacy and estimated
60 percent unemployed. And clearly people in
tough straits. And now on top of this, we have
the turmoil of the criminal activity, the gang
activity that just adds to the woes. So seeing
all the displaced persons in the various camps
around the city, pretty discouraging.
HENDREN: Scattered throughout the camp, are camps
housing many of the 150,000 internal refugees,
more than one in ten people in this nation of less than 1 million.
Army Major Ron Sergeant is based in East Timor
and he gives a driving tour of ambush sites where
American officials have been attacked with rocks.
Major RON SERGEANT (U.S. Army): The ambassadors
got hit here. ACM's gotten hit here. The USAID
director got a couple windows knocked out there a few nights ago.
HENDREN: Along the road are the shells of burned
out cinder block and wooden homes. Nearly 10
percent of the housing stock in a city has been destroyed.
Major SARGENT: Early yesterday morning the
fighting began. The intensity level was what is striking about it.
HENDREN: As the day went on, a hodge podge of
local Australian military and United Nations
believes scattered outside the airport. A battle
grand were mostly eastern Dili refugees live
among western Dili homes. As the day wears on,
more police gather along with more youths. Some
through a lot using deadly sling shots, on
occasion others use automatic weapons, especially
when commissions recently call for the former
defense and interior ministers to be prosecuted
for providing state guns to renegade militias
that left at least 33 people dead this spring.
Major SARGENT: What we're getting ready to go
into right here is the big combat zone from
yesterday. And there are certain neighborhoods
you can go into here, and what you will see is essentially are lone capes.
HENDREN: It's a safe ride past the roadside
stands and hums during the day especially with
the military escort. But Sargent says don't try it at night.
Major SARGENT: You're going to be extorted for
cigarettes or money. You'll have your car
vandalized, damaged while you're sitting in it.
And lastly, you will be kidnapped and murdered.
HENDREN: Admiral Fallon is impressed with the
Australian military police largely credited with
restoring peace in the neighborhood. But he does
not seem impress with the United Nations police
who are widely expected to take over the mission.
Admiral FALLON: The expectation is that the U.N.
is going to play a major role in this nation
building. If that's the case, then they've got
their work it up for them. It looked pretty shaky
to me during our visit there. There were lots of
police on the street but they were gangs of
youths and they did not appear to be at all intimidated by the police presence.
HENDREN: Fallon over the office of East Timor's
president Xanana Gusmao, a long time leader of
the resistance movement, the one East Timor its
independence. NPR was allowed to attend the
meeting but not to record it. We finally ask what
the people were telling him, Gusmao admitted that
he hadn't been out among the people much lately.
When Fallon what Gusmao could do to crawl the
violence, Gusmao said, talk, what else can a
president do? Fallon was diplomatic but not impressed.
Admiral FALLON: It seems to me from our time with
the president, acting prime minister that there's
a tremendous amount of work to be done and very
few hands that are experienced, savvy and
literally even enough to be able to do this. So
it seems to me that they're going to an awful lot need outside help.
HENDREN: Like other international observers to
have come to East Timor, Pacific Command
officials walk away concluding that it is a failed state leaders who are unlikely to fix
it. And the United Nations appears to be unlikely
to turn the newest nation around anytime soon.
John Hendren, NPR News.