The Aussie Hero of Montaain
By PAUL TOOHEY
24 Nov 99
AN Interfet report to the UN has commended an Australian army corporal, claiming his composed actions in a fatal border clash with Indonesians on October 10 "prevented a greater loss of life".
Corporal Paul Teong, 25, with Townsville's 2nd Battalion, was leading his men in convoy on a mission to secure the border village of Montaain, whose citizens were said to be in the grip of the militia and suffering brutal treatment.
Interfet maps showed Montaain inside East Timor, but Indonesian maps – which Interfet admitted in the report to the UN were correct – showed it was just within West Timor.
Indonesian troops fired warning shots above the heads of the Australian-led patrol.
Corporal Teong had just enough time to order his men to prop, or crouch low in the ready position, acknowledging the warning shots while keeping a good knowledge of his own patrol's position.
Indonesian mobile police, manning a border post, then fired directly on the Australians. The Australians returned fire, killing one member of the Indonesian mobile police brigade and injuring another, who remains in hospital.
An Indonesian second-lieutenant, Erwin Egy, was also praised for maintaining an understanding with Corporal Teong – who had some basic Bahasa Indonesian – during the 8-10 minute exchange.
The report says the clash was due to conflicting maps and "appears to have been initiated" by Indonesian troops who overreacted. It says the exchange would have been much worse if Corporal Teong and Lieutenant Egy had not remained cool.
You're magnificent, Howard tells Timor troops
By SIAN POWELL in Maliana
PRIME Minister John Howard made a one-day tour of East Timor yesterday, becoming the first Australian leader to visit soldiers on active service since the Vietnam war.
"The actions of you men and women as Australians have brought tremendous repute, tremendous esteem and tremendous regard to our country around the world," he told troops in the border town of Maliana.
Timor troops welcomed home with open arms
By SIAN POWELL and PAUL TOOHEY
THE first large contingent of Australian troops to return from East Timor landed in Darwin yesterday after more than 10 weeks' service in the territory.
The troops flew into Darwin within hours of the East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, who arrived to discuss the Timor Gap Treaty with the UN and Australian government officials.
Both arrivals were signs of the recent progress in restoring order after the devastation that accompanied Indonesia's grudging withdrawal from the territory.
Corporal Russell Ward, who was one of the first Australian troops into East Timor and returned yesterday with 50 other members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, said he was shocked by the extent of the destruction even though the damage had been extensively canvassed in the media.
"Just to actually be there and see more than the main streets, to get into the nitty gritty, it was devastating," Corporal Ward said.
"Everywhere you looked it was destruction. It wasn't just Dili, it was everywhere. "I just couldn't believe that they could destroy the whole country."
Yet, on his return to Dili, en route to Darwin, Corporal Ward noticed a great improvement in the capital city. "I hadn't been back. It's different, it's 100 per cent cleaner, it's now in the rebuilding phase."
RETURNED TROOPS ENTITLED TO FULL BENEFITS
Veterans’ benefits for Australian Defence Force personnel deployed in East Timor
The Minister for Defence has declared the Australian deployment in the United Nations International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) to be a peace enforcement operation.
This means Australian Defence Force personnel who are deployed with INTERFET will be covered by the widest range of benefits available under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).
The Department of Defence is maintaining a full nominal roll of the INTERFET deployment, to be made available to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This roll contains a complete record of each member’s service in East Timor and will be the only authority needed to certify the service of a claimant.
All personnel on peace enforcement service are entitled to disability pensions for any injury or disease caused by that service and lifetime medical treatment for any such disability. The determination that an injury or illness is service-related will be governed by the more generous standard of proof applied to operational service under the VEA. All claims will be determined in accordance with the Statements of Principle issued by the Repatriation Medical Authority.
Should any ADF personnel lose their lives, their widow or widower will be eligible for the full benefits of a War Widow’s/Widower’s Pension, including full health cover. These benefits also include financial support and full health cover for any dependent children, through the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme.
Every member of the Australian Defence Force INTERFET deployment will have the status of "qualifying service" and therefore be eligible for the Service Pension in case of invalidity, or later from age 60 (56˝ for female veterans) subject to normal means testing provisions.
Defence Service Home Loan
Members who enlisted for the first time before 15 May 1985 and serve on peace enforcement duties in East Timor will have access to a Defence Service Homes loan on the same basis as other veterans.
All other ADF personnel will have access to the Defence HomeOwner Scheme, with the waiving of the five-year qualifying period for eligibility.
HMAS Newcastle leaves with gifts for E Timor
The Royal Australian Navy's guided missile frigate, HMAS Newcastle, has left Sydney for East Timor loaded with nearly 20 tonnes of Christmas gifts.
The donated gifts, including toys, beds, clothing and building materials, will be given to the local East Timorese.
The frigate, carrying almost 192 sailors, will relieve HMAS Sydney in its peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts in East Timor.
Tuesday December 21
11:04 PM AEST
Rain Fails To Dampen Troops' Spirits At Concert
A concert for troops in East Timor has been completed successfully, with a downpour of monsoonal rain failing to dampen enthusiasm.
Thousands of Australian soldiers and Dili locals turned out to see some of Australia's leading pop and rock stars.
John Farnham and Kylie Minogue joined in duets, while the Dili All Stars sang A Liberdade, a song dedicated to East Timor's independence struggle.
Roy and H.G. suggested yelling insults to Indonesia's former Defence chief, General Wiranto, across the border.
Australian soldiers danced and held placards bearing messages to loved ones at home.
While East Timorese kids sat on soldiers' shoulders, one soldier tried his hand at crowd surfing.
One thing from last night's Tour of Duty concert in Dili is certain: Roy and H.G. are not slated for ambassadorships to Indonesia.
Rampaging Roy Slaven opened the show with an irreverent swipe at Indonesia's former defence minister: "I wanna go up to the West Timor border with a megaphone and bellow out very clearly: 'Wiranto's a poof.'
" I've spoken to General Cosgrove and he's ordering the megaphones."
The crowd, mostly Australian peacekeepers, roared approval. Italian paratroopers stood with hands on their hips trying to comprehend Australian humour.
About 8,000 people crammed into Dili's soccer stadium to hear Australian pop musicians including Kylie Minogue, John Farnham and The Angels' Doc Neeson.
Thousands of East Timorese lined the walls and climbed on parked cars, trees and nearby buildings to see the concert on
two huge screens beside the stage.
"I want to see Kylie Minogue and The Angels," said Lance Corporal Tim Costin, of Dural. "We've been pretty flat-out working and I've just knocked off. Everyone has been pretty keen to get out here."
The show began just after 2pm local time with a joint East Timorese-Australian band, the Dili All Stars. Some songs were in the local Tetum language.
They dedicated You're Going Home in a Divvy Van to General Wiranto, blamed by many for much of East Timor's devastation.
"I follow the All Stars," said Rosa Garcia, 26, a local journalist. "They have a lovely voice and they sing East Timorese songs. I've even got their cassette."
"Before, there was no entertainment here. I think this will help lift the people up from their trauma," she said, referring to the widespread militia violence that followed East Timor's August 30 referendum.
A soldier near the stage held a huge sign: "To My Beautiful Wife, Debrah Casell, Happy Birthday."
Security was tight, with heavily armed Australian soldiers patrolling inside and outside.
UN civilian police were at the entry points and helicopters circled overhead, but there was no sign of trouble and East Timor's first post-ballot foreign rock concert looked set to be noisy but trouble-free.
Triple M Brings Music To
The Ears Of The Troops In Dili
An Australian radio station is now broadcasting directly to the Interfet Forces, and can be received in East Timor. They are accepting cheerios so ring the number and send a message.
Missing a loved one or just want to say "G'day"? The number to dial to leave your message is 1300 133 033
Monday December 20 6:03 PM AEST
Crowd welcomes home troops from East Timor
At the wharf in Darwin, hundreds of family members and friends have welcomed about 100 troops from the Second Cavalry Regiment, returning from East Timor.
Corporal Andrew Coulson was met by his wife, his young son and a baby son born while he was away.
Corporal Coulson says the Australian Army and other members of Interfet have done a great job, and the next challenge is getting through the Christmas season.
"For us it's getting back on with our home lives, for the guys back in Timor it'll just be getting on with operations and hopefully having a good Christmas and New Year's away from their families, unfortunately for them," he said.
E Timor troops arrive home for Christmas
CHRISTMAS EVE 24th Dec 1999
4.15pm (AEDT) "DAD, we love you; welcome home," the banners read, as children wearing Santa hats greeted the 210 Australian troops who arrived home from East Timor today in time for Christmas.
The troops, 175 men and 35 women, had been away for two months supporting Interfet and rebuilding a hospital in Dili.
"It's the best Christmas present we could get," Joanne Smedley said of having her 19-year-old daughter Amber home.
"It just wouldn't be the same without her."
Relatives and friends cheered and waved as HMAS Sydney, with a Santa hat covering its large radar dome, docked at Garden Island.
An on-board Santa greeted the children and handed out lollies.
Martina Baker arrived home to her husband Jamie after missing their first wedding anniversary, but Jamie greeted his wife with a dozen red roses.
"They're actually sorry flowers, for not being home when she called me from Darwin last week," he said.
Martina said she was glad to be home.
"It was a real-time first experience, I wouldn't want to do it again," Martina said.
"(But) you feel you're helping people a lot less fortunate than yourself and realise the material things you have are the ones you take for granted," she said.
Both Martina and Jamie are in the navy and are used to spending time apart, they said.
Commanding Officer Simon Cullen said it was a treat to have arrived home for Christmas.
"We've arrived on Christmas Eve - obviously an opportunity for us to get home before Christmas and spend time with family and friends and we're also very excited about that," he said.
"They'll all be heading home to their families and friends this afternoon and the only drawback is we're on standby over Christmas as well."
He said the trip had been the most satisfying of his 22-year naval career.
"Many of the ship's company said it was the most satisfying thing they've ever done in their naval career and it was really a great achievement."
EAST TIMORESE CELEBRATE A FREE CHRISTMAS.
The people of East Timor have celebrated a Christmas Eve midnight mass free of Indonesian occupation, for the first time since the Indonesians took over the island 24 years ago.
Dili's cathedral bell marks the start of midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
Thousands of people spilled out into the car park in front of the cathedral as the devoutly Catholic nation enjoys an evening free of curfews imposed by the Indonesian military. Hymns sing out into the Dili air as the faithful sing under a full moon.
At another outdoor ceremony Bishop Carlos Belo asked his congregation to rejoice in the new freedom this Christmas brings.
UN expects force to be deployed by end of February
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 22 (Reuters)
Wednesday December 22, 7:45 pm Eastern Time
The United Nations intends to field its own peacekeeping force for East Timor in February, one district at a time, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.
Hedi Annabi, an assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the 15-member Security Council and reporters that more than 8,000 soldiers would be put under U.N. command ``between the beginning and end of February.''
He said he expected few difficulties because of the military structure established by the Australian-led 11,000 member international force, known as Interfet, that went to East Timor in September to quell violence by armed gangs opposed to independence for the territory.
Many of the Interfet troops will don blue helmets and be under U.N. command, Annabi said. The force is expected to be led by Philippine Maj.-Gen. Jaime de los Santos.
Friday, 7 January, 2000
AUSTRALIAN UNITS PREPARE TO RETURN HOME
AFTER nearly four months of protecting the people of East Timor, two Australian units, the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), and B Squadron, the 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment are returning to their base at Lavarack Barracks, Townsville.
The return is part of the transition from INTERFET to the UNTAET peace-keeping force. Other INTERFET elements are now in the two units’ former area of operations to continue providing a secure environment in the western regencies.
Arriving in Dili on D Day, 20 September 1999, 2 RAR’s soldiers were some of the first infantry elements into the East Timorese capital. In the first days of October, the battalion and B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment deployed to the western regencies, bringing hope and security to numerous towns and villages and paving the way for humanitarian aid.
The Commander of INTERFET, Major General Peter Cosgrove, praised the 600 men of the battalion and 120 men of the squadron for a "job well done."
"The 2nd Battalion has performed in the finest traditions of the Royal Australian Regiment on active service, and is to be congratulated," Major General Cosgrove said.
"B Squadron was with them all the way, providing mobility and fire support. They too are a credit to the Australian Army and to their corps, the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
"Both the 2nd Battalion and B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment have made an outstanding contribution to bringing peace and security to East Timor, and to improving the lives of the East Timorese."
Operating M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers, B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment, also arrived in Dili in the very first days of the operation. Since then, the tracked vehicles have proven their "go anywhere" reputation in rugged terrain and wet conditions, handled by some of the Australian Army’s best armoured fighting vehicle crews.
The soldiers of 2 RAR will board the HMAS Jervis Bay in Dili Harbour to depart for Darwin early Monday evening, 10 January. They are expected to start arriving back in Townsville between Tuesday and Thursday. Defence staff in Townsville will notify their next of kin of exact arrival dates and times.
B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment, will board HMAS Jervis Bay on Wednesday, to return to Darwin. Again, exact arrival times and dates in Townsville will be advised to next of kin.
Congratulations on a job More than well done.
Well troops, there hasn't been much news out of East Timor of Late. This, by no way, means that you are forgotten. That will never happen! It just means that you are doing the job that you were sent to do, and doing it extra well. You should be, like I am, very proud of all you have achieved. It will go down as the most successful peace keeping mission ever entered into this century. Congratulations. I hope to see you all when you get to march through our cities.
Regards, Terry Dwyer
Wednesday January 26 12:03 PM AEST
US prepares to pull out of East Timor
The United States is winding up its operations in East Timor, in preparation for the United Nations take over at the end of next month.
More than 6,000 Americans on board five ships will pass through Darwin, over the next six weeks on their way to pick up personnel in East Timor.
The USS Juneau will be the first of the visiting ships, arriving in Darwin on February 2.
US Interfet spokesman Major Rick Long says the United States will play a role in the UN peacekeeping operation, but it is unclear at this stage just what that role will entail.
"USS Juneau is coming down to assist with the retrograde of Interfet personnel and just to assist with movements related to the transition of Interfet to UNTAET," he said.
"They have four heavy lift helicopters aboard, have a landing craft aboard, they have approximately 250 marines that could be utilised in a variety of different ways."
Wednesday January 26 10:02 AM AEST
New Interfet commander arrives in Dili
The newly appointed leader of the United Nations peacekeeping force in East Timor has arrived in Dili.
Filipino Major General Jaime de Los Santos is due to take charge of peacekeeping operations next month.
Major General de Los Santos says border tensions are likely to be the greatest challenge facing United Nations peacekeepers in the following months.
He says while he believes the problem can be contained, care needs to be taken.
In the past few weeks there have been a number of border incursions mainly centred on the isolated enclave of Oecussi, which is surrounded on three sides by Indonesia and backs onto the sea.
General de Los Santos will take over from the Australian led multinational Interfet force later next month.
Cosgrove welcomes deal on security
By MICHAEL WARE in Dili
THE Indonesian military has accepted Australian soldiers acted appropriately in a series of armed conflicts with militia units who launched illegal raids in East Timor's Oecussi enclave last week.
The concession yesterday from regional commander Major-General Kiki Syahnakri was made at the third round of border-control negotiations, held at Batugade, 3km inside East Timor, and attended by Interfet and the UN.
Interfet commander Major-General Peter Cosgrove described the acceptance by the Indonesian military (TNI) of a UN report, which found paratroopers of the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment blameless in shooting at militia members, as the "real advance" of the Batugade talks.
Major-General Syahnakri said he had agreed to reinforce the Indonesian border to prevent further militia incursions into Oecussi and to commence a joint investigation into militia leader Moko Soares.
"I will pass instructions on, the matter will be dealt with within Indonesia and within West Timor," he said.
Mr Soares is the man Interfet believes directed the attacks, at least five from January 17 to 19, against villages and Australian positions inside East Timor.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that East Timorese villagers saved the lives of two Australian police officers and two UN colleagues when they thwarted a militia ambush almost 2km inside Oecussi.
In the most daring militia raid across the Indonesian border so far, a group entered Oecussi on January 10 and set up a roadblock with the intention of ambushing a UN vehicle with a grenade.
Two members of the ambush team were captured by villagers, who attacked the militia unit with machetes. The pair are held in Dili.
Under interrogation one of the men admitted his militia membership and revealed details of the ambush plan, saying the group was going to cut body parts off their UN victims to take back to Indonesia as trophies.
Details of the ambush have not previously been released but were confirmed by the UN yesterday.
Tuesday February 1 5:44 AM ET
UN Peacekeeping Operation Begins in E.Timor
By Joanne Collins
BAUCAU, East Timor (Reuters) - A U.N. peacekeeping operation in wrecked East Timor formally got underway on Tuesday as international troops swapped hats in a symbolic ceremony.
Some 210 Thai, Korean and Filipino troops exchanged military caps for the blue berets worn by U.N. peacekeepers around the world. The ceremony took place at an airbase in the second city Baucau, east of the capital Dili.
They were also presented with U.N. brassards, an arm band, as they formally transferred from the international force known as INTERFET that was sent in to stop mass violence in September after an August 30 vote for independence.
East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in that ballot to end a near quarter century of often brutal rule by Jakarta.
``Okay troops of the eastern sector, change to blue berets,'' was the first command of peacekeeping force chief, Lieutenant-General Jaime Delos Santos.
About 2,100 troops will make the transition this week to join what will grow to an 8,900-strong operation by the end of February.
``This afternoon I am accepting full responsibility of all the troops of the eastern sector,'' said Delos Santos.
``Although we have laid the foundation, it is not a time to relax because there are still a lot of responsibilities for us to perform,'' the Filipino commander said.
Chief Offers Praise
In an earlier ceremony at Baucau, INTERFET chief Major-General Peter Cosgrove addressed 450 Thai troops for the last time as their commander, commending their efforts in securing the region when they arrived in late September to scenes of destruction and violence which followed the August 30 ballot.
``You came here to perform a critical task more than 136 days ago responding to an emergency situation which shocked and energized the world,'' Cosgrove said.
``For four long and arduous months you have toiled within this shattered country, frequently in harm's way, shielding and uplifting its people.''
The Australian-led INTERFET force, which arrived in Dili on September 20 to secure the territory, grew in strength to around 11,500 troops.
Security -- especially in the isolated enclave of Oecussi where anti-independence militia have been accused of exploiting INTERFET's imminent departure -- has been a key concern amid the transition but Delos Santos said security would be only one priority among many.
``We shall perform other tasks that are non-military in nature,'' he said. ``It may involve humanitarian activities as well as developmental activities.''
Jordanian Troops Stir Fears
Later speaking to reporters, Delos Santos re-affirmed the U.N.'s choice of Jordanian troops for the enclave, which is surrounded by Indonesian West Timor.
``I don't think the apprehension is well founded,'' he said. ''I see the Jordanian troops as very professional, very committed and they were the only unit that accepted deployment in the Oecussi area.''
Some East Timorese leaders fear lack of impartiality by the Jordanians because of the country's links to Indonesia's General Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of former Indonesian president Suharto and former head of its Kopassus special forces. Prabowo is now based in Jordan.
Between 600 and 800 Jordanians will be deployed in the enclave.
About 23 nations will contribute to the U.N. peacekeeping force, 80 percent of whom are transferring from INTERFET.
A contingent of 200 Portuguese will arrive in East Timor on Thursday -- the first arrival of peacekeeping troops who did not serve under INTERFET.
Portugal is East Timor's formal colonial master.
Wednesday February 2 12:03 PM AEST
More troops to fly out to E Timor
Another group of Australian soldiers will fly out to East Timor today after being farewelled at the Puckapunyal Army Base in Victoria.
The group of 34 troops will be followed by a further 60 tomorrow.
The men and women of the 26th Transport Squadron will provide logistic support in East Timor and will replace a contingent from the same squadron that has been there for four months.
Commanding Officer Peter Hutchinson addressed the group, assuring them they were well prepared and encouraging them to look after their mates and their health so they could avoid malaria and dengue fever.
One of the soldiers leaving today, Private Peter Mountny, says he is looking forward to helping the East Timorese but would miss his family.
"I wanted to go over in the first lot but with a new baby I wanted to spend Christmas with her but I want to [go] now," he said.
WELCOME HOME. HMAS NEWCASTLE
Friday 4th Feb 2000
HMAS Newcastle steamed through Sydney Heads this morning. It was one of the first ships to Dili and has been there ever since.
Radio Station MMM was playing as the ship made it's way down Sydney Harbour, bathed in good Australian sunshine. Congratulations to the crew on your safe home-coming.
EAST TIMOR TRANSITION BEGINS
Feb 2nd 2000
The transition of command from INTERFET to the UNTAET Peacekeeping Force commenced early February in a symbolic ceremony in the East Timor town of Baucau when the soldiers of Sector East exchanged their INTERFET hats for the UN blue beret.
"The East Timorese should be very confident…the country is safe. The Peacekeeping force will do a magnificent job."
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