Mixed reactions to peacekeeper pull-out in East Timor | Connect Asia

Mixed reactions to peacekeeper pull-out in East Timor

Mixed reactions to peacekeeper pull-out in East Timor

Updated 23 November 2012, 16:47 AEDT

East Timor is preparing for life without an international peacekeeping presence.

Both the United Nations Peacekeeping mission and the Australian-led international stabilisation force are drawing down their remaining personnel.

Sara Everingham reports from Dili on what the withdrawal of peace keepers will mean for the people of East Timor.

Correspondent: Sara Everingham, Dili

Speakers: Bartolomeu Soares, languages student; Jesuina Guterres, Timorese Australian restaurant owner

(Sound of water and children playing)

SARA EVERINGHAM: At sunset on Dili's waterfront a large group of children are out swimming. There are people jogging and young people with laptops taking advantage of the wireless internet.

There are no apparent signs of the tensions that brought international peacekeepers back to East Timor in 2006.

Back then United Nations vehicles were ubiquitous on the streets of Dili. Now they are few and far between.

Twenty-nine year old languages student Bartolomeu Soares says as the United Nations peacekeeping mission winds up his main concern is for the East Timorese employees who'll be out of work.

(Sound of Bartolomeu Soares speaking)

"My point of view as a student," he says, "is when the UN withdraws there will be unemployment and some people will lose their jobs."

Bartolomeu Soares worked as a translator for the United Nations but he says he is most worried about people in lower skilled jobs such as cleaners and security guards.

(Sound of Bartolomeu Soares speaking)

"For me it's okay," he says. "When I was working in the UN they trained me and that was good experience for me to help find another job. For those who have not had the opportunity of training, it's difficult to find a job. But for me it's okay."

SARA EVERINGHAM: The United Nations peacekeeping mission employed about 850 East Timorese workers. The mission says it's been providing training to the Timorese workers, particularly to the lower skilled staff, to improve their chances of finding other work.

(Sound of sweeping)

Teresa Dos Santos sweeps up leaves at a park on Dili's waterfront where she earns $US115 a month working as a cleaner.

She thinks that as the United Nations departs the biggest challenge for East Timor is tackling unemployment.

(Sound of Teresa Dos Santos speaking)

"Especially for the young people," she says. "Some have jobs but some of them are just sitting around with no jobs. I want our leaders to create jobs for them so they can avoid conflict. The government has to create jobs because if they can create jobs, they can avoid violence.

On one of Dili's quieter streets Timorese Australian Jesuina Guterres runs a small restaurant and she is opening up another one near the beach.

JESUINA GUTERRES: We just open up last week. Until now is only four or five people come for lunch. Yeah, we don't mind it. Maybe in the future I hope that everything will be okay.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Jesuina Guterres says her business which serves local food is unlikely to be affected by the draw-down of international peacekeepers but their departure has left her feeling uncertain about the future.

JESUINA GUTERRES: I'm worried about the security. I hope that nothing can happen in the future because now we are alone.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Why do you worry about that?

JESUINA GUTERRES: It's happened - how many years ago eh - there is a problem between the parties and the groups.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Student Bartolomeu Soares hopes previous conflicts can be left in the past.

(Sound of Bartolomeu Soares speaking)

"I hope for security police and community can work together," he says, "so we can maintain the peace, we can work together and collaborate together."

SARA EVERINGHAM: East Timor's government says the stability in recent years is evidence of the country's progress but it acknowledges there are challenges ahead.

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