CARITAS Australia’s chief executive officer Jack de Groot has welcomed plans for a full and independent United Nations inquiry into the recent bloodshed in East Timor and warned the death toll was much higher than so far acknowledged.
Mr de Groot said the death toll from months of violence would be significantly higher than the 20 reported deaths.
The firing of 600 disgruntled soldiers by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri from East Timor’s 1400-member army triggered the unrest in March.
Mr de Groot, who recently returned from East Timor where he was part of Caritas’s assessment team, said he found evidence the death toll from the violence had been underestimated.
The official death toll is around 20 since the first riots in April, but Mr de Groot said between 400 and 500 houses had been burnt down in recent weeks, businesses destroyed and countless deaths.
Mr de Groot said the independent inquiry was important for the people of East Timor.
He said the investigation needed to find out how many people had died, the causes of their deaths, and who was to blame.
Caritas Australia is leading the combined international Caritas humanitarian response assessment team, which also consists of members of its international Caritas network, a confederation of 162 Catholic aid agencies.
There is still an urgent need for food, water and sanitation.
Donations can be made by phoning 1800 024 413, posting cheques/money orders to GPO Box 9830 in your capital city, or online at www.caritas.org.au
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