geert lovink on Fri, 25 Feb 2000 09:38:44 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] sam in east timor

from: Sam de Silva (
subject: Thoughts/View by Sam (back in Darwin from Dili)

Thoughts/Views by Sam - 25 Feb 2000

Recently, I returned to Darwin (Australia) from Dili in a US Air Force
C-130. Landing at Darwin, there was another aircraft with the words 'United
States of America' sloganed across its long fuselage. Walking along the
tourist streets of Darwin, it's difficult not to notice the Americans. They
are everywhere.

According to a recent NT News (23 Feb), the Northern Territory's tabloid
newspaper, two US navy ships carrying 1830 marines are in Darwin. The
marines are part of an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). This ARG is apparently
heading for East Timor soon.  The article goes on to say that a US aircraft
carrier with 3,000 sailors will arrive in Darwin on Friday, 25 February. 

"The Hotel Olympia is contracted to the United Nations and the Amos V is
contracted to the United States Government", says the general manager of
the two floating hotels that are now part of the Dili foreshore. The Hotel
Olympia provides accommodation to UN staff and special guests, but why is
the Amos V contracted by the US Government? According to various sources,
the floating hotel is apparently the home to many US marines and
representatives from US corporations.

So, there are many US marines already in East Timor, and a whole lot more
in the region. But is the US military contributing troops to the UNTAET
peacekeeping forces? Not according to breakdown figures published by the
transitional administration in late January.  An East Timorese friend asks
"who is responsible for the marines". A good question. 

A 'public-relations' marine says they are in East Timor doing humanitarian
assistance work. Their first target for assistance was to help reconstruct
the new offices of Fokupers, the East Timorese NGO focused on womens'
development and advocacy. No doubt other groups are in line for the
treatment and it's interesting to consider whether there is any strategy
behind which groups get assistance and which groups don't.

The US Ambassador to Australia says that the US commitment to the United
Nations force "will be shaped by events on the ground" (Feb 2, NT News).
So, are there any "events on the ground" that has brought the US Navy's 7th
Fleet (Jan 25, NT News) to the region? Unfortunately, the NT News doesn't
go in to too much depth. It is only concerned with the economic benefits
the sailors will provide for Darwin.

What has the global surveillance system Echelon been exposing about the
activities in Indonesia? Does the TNI have any special plans for the coming
weeks and months? Or is the US Force simply in the region to boost Darwin's
economy and provide some moral support to the new UN peacekeepers?

Shall leave it at that for now. Looking forward to feedback.

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