Pacific force ends
Timor mission

U.S. troops supervised the nation's
transition to independence

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Stability and peace seem to have taken hold in Timor-Leste, the nation formerly known as East Timor as the Pacific Command ended its three-year presence there.

That was the assessment of Marine Lt. Col. Paul Maubert as he discussed his last assignment as commander of the U.S. Support Group East Timor, which ended Tuesday.

However, although the U.S. Embassy has now assumed the mission of U.S. presence in Timor-Leste, Maubert said the U.S. Pacific Command, headquartered at Camp Smith in Halawa Heights, will continue to have a representative working out of the American Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste's capital, to coordinate future humanitarian missions.

It was the Pacific Command that was called in February 2000 after the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in a referendum five months earlier. The United Nations then established a three-year transition period, sending in an international peacekeeping force. Timor-Leste was created as a new nation May 20.

But Maubert said the transition is not complete and will not be easy, referring to riots in Dili two weeks ago where two people were killed and dozens were injured.

"It is an unreasonable expectation for a country that experienced strife and revolution for close to a century to make a peaceful transition overnight," Maubert said.

Although the riots could be considered "a slight setback," Maubert said he doesn't believe the people there want "to go back to the destruction of 1999 and what preceded it." Dili was set afire and looters roamed the city. Most of the residents had fled to the mountains before U.S. forces landed in 1999.

Maubert believes that the U.S. has developed "a deep and fundamental friendship" with the people of Timor-Leste.

"My uniform has an American patch on my shoulder," Maubert said, "and everywhere I went school children would smile and wave when they saw it. They would jump up and down and cry 'America, America.'"

He said the U.S. military renovated 80 school buildings and clinics during its three-year stay. It also completed 50 engineering projects, including renovations to power plants, water filtration and distribution systems.

Medical teams treated more than 10,000 islanders and even delivered babies.

Maubert said he is hoping that Timor-Leste will continue "on the path toward peace and prosperity" and that he would like to return to the island nation in five years.

"It was one of the most rewarding things I have done," Maubert said.

U.S. Pacific Command

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --