Geoff Hazel - Arrival in East Timor

Running time
4 min 43 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Well, Habibi had said you can have a vote for independence, and the UN was invited to run it. And it was actually run by the UN. The ballot complete, from start to finish, was run by the UN. Australian electoral commission provided all the electoral material. You had 247 UN police as they are called now, not CIVPOL from all over the world. With me, there was Spanish, Brazilians, Senegalese, Malays, Pakistanis, Australians, Kiwis, I keep forgetting the last one, but yeah eight different nations in 24 police. Oh, Americans were the last one.

Yeah. Now, I was in the Amira Regency. I remember when we arrived, we flew in, in three groups, the Australians. The Australian contingence was 50. And there was three groups flown in one week apart, so it didn't look like it was an all-Australian operation. You mingled in with a bunch of others all the time. And I always went on the last group to fly in.

We flew in. And I met the commissioner, and he told me where I was going. He said, "You'd be going to the regency district of Amira," and I'd be the boss. He said, "But I'll probably have to replace you later on with one of the South American contingent commanders that will be coming in, because they're coming in with large contingents." "Yep, not a problem. I can do whatever job you give me."

The funny thing was, we arrived one morning, in the morning, we were supposed to get a convoy of six vehicles, each three different groups of six to go via three different areas. Two of the convoys turned up and headed off, and two vehicles of my six turned up. And I talked to the drivers, "Oh yeah. Well the other four turned up and went to different direction." Right, now those are four vehicles the UN will never see again.

So we're sitting there, and eventually, we didn't know what we were going to do, but we eventually said, "Right, let's go and load up." Somebody came in with a minivan, and we loaded that, used that to put some stuff in. And we went down and filled up whatever we could from the store. We met JJ. He was a British storeman who ran the place. Excellent guy. Turned a blind eye while we stole him blind, robbed him blind, because he just believed, "I don't need it in here. I need to get it out."

Then we drove to the headquarters there. I walked into the operations room and was met by a liaison officer. And he said, "Well, they're busy." He said, "Sit down." So we sat down and we were just having a coffee. Me and him, well we actually had two, and I could listen. There were two Australian officers in there, and some of the Indonesian senior officers. And it was just pure accusing each other of everything. And there was no attempt to compromise from either side. And it was just a damn mess. And they stormed out, never said hello to me. But I said, "Okay."

Well I finished my coffee, and this young fellow went over, and next, the two officers come down, there's another coffee. And we're sitting down, and said, "Look, I'm sorry, I'm late." Told them the story about the vehicles. And we all agreed I'd never see those four vehicles again. "Right, so what are we going to do?" I asked, I said, "Well, what do you suggest or what do I need to fill in to get an escort for tomorrow to go up to where I want to, and where do you suggest I put my people up for the night?" And he said, "Oh." He was the head of the Brimob in East Timor. Well he said, "Yeah, I will be your escort and we'll go now." It was just a simple matter.

And this is where stuff from the training team and working with people really was excellent. So he became our escort, and we drove to Gleno. And when we got there, there were the other four vehicles already there. They thought that the two I had, were the ones they'd never see again. It was something we learned about the Timorese is, they might try and kill you, but they wouldn't steal from you. It was amazing.

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