FIJI TROOPS IN EAST TIMOR COMPARED TO U.S. VIETNAM SOLDIERS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---Fiji troops in East Timor face a difficulty similar to that faced by United States soldiers in Vietnam, said Commander Timoci Lesikivatukoula.

"It is very hard to differentiate between a militiaman and a villager," said Lesi, commanding officer of Fiji troops in East Timor.

"What makes it harder is that the villagers are not willing to point out the militiamen for fear of reprisals. Apart from that, everything is all right, and the boys are coping well," he said.

He said there had been no problems with the transition from INTERFET to UNTAET.

"This is because the UN operation (UNTAET) is a continuation of the Australian one (INTERFET). We are still carrying out the same tasks and still have the same responsibilities," Commander Lesi said.

"Apart from the security aspect of our mission, we are very much involved in the daily lives of the people. When a patrol goes out, we have different types of people on it," he said.

"For example, we have medics who will look at any medical problems. We are also in the process of teaching them basic hygiene, simple things like washing of faces and brushing, when people wake up," he added.

He said this is part of their civil aid, which comes under civil military affairs.

He said that in comparison with the Middle East missions, East Timor is better.

"In the Middle East, the militiamen are much more sophisticated, advanced in terms of weaponry and explosives. Compared to this, the militiamen of East Timor are primitive. They are still using home-made weapons, spears, and bow and arrows," Commander Lesi said.

He said the food can be compared to that which the soldiers get in Sinai.

"There is an allocation of $A 15 (US$ 9.17) a day for each soldier. This is for his water and food ration," he said.

Their diet is supplemented by dalo, dalo leaves and cassava.

"In fact, on Sundays, we have lovo food for lunch. The boys are also teaching the locals how to cook dalo leaves (rourou) so that it does not go down with an itch in your throat.

"The Timorese do not eat cassava very much. They have their corn, so we have been making use of the cassava," Commander Lesi said.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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