Monthly Archives: September 2006

Suggested letter to Foreign Office on UN control

Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign And Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1a 2AH

Dear Mrs Beckett

I am writing to urge U.K. support for a fully integrated UN mission in Timor-Leste.  Australia’s wish to keep its troops under separate command is not in Timor-Leste’s interest and  will make international support for Timor-Leste in its current crisis less effective.  Such an arrangement will also exacerbate resentment toward Australia among the Timorese people.

In response to Timor-Leste’s recent crisis, the UN has expanded its mission for Timor-Leste.  In creating UNMIT (United Nations Intergrated Mission in Timor-Leste) on August 25, the UN Security Council deferred deciding on whether  the bulk of its military component should be part of the UN mission or remain under Australian Command.  A  Final decision on the military command structure  will be made after the Secretary-General reports on the issue October 25.

While Australia has placed its police within a unified UN police force, it has insisted on keeping its military troops (the majority of the multinational force deployed in late May at the request of Timor-Leste government) under Australian command.  This position is contrary to the recommendation of the UN Secretary-General and to the wishes of Timor-Leste and other governments who prefer a unified military force integrated into the UN mission.  The U.S. and UK support Australia.

Australia’s insistence on keeping its troops under a separate, national command structure will make coordination difficult, lessening the confidence and security that the UNMIT is intended to provide for the people of Timor-Leste.  It will also increase already heightened suspicion amoung many East-Timorese of the motives of the Australian forces.

The Timore-Leste NGO Forum has also urged an integrated mission, saying that “there will be a greater degree of accountability for UN forces as it is a civilian led, international, neutral institution.”  The group added, “There is an inherently unequal relationship in Timor-Leste’s dealings with other more powerful countries on a bilateral basis.  Working though the UN would avoid this situation..”

CC your local MP

Claim That Gusmao Ordered Dili’s Days of Rage

by John Martinkus

The Age (Melbourne)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

VIOLENCE that ran over four days in May in East Timor and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was part of a plan instigated by the President Xanana Gusmao, according to new claims in Dili.

A statement by the former vice-commander of Dili district police, Abilio “Mausoko” Mesquita, alleges that Mr Gusmao ordered him to carry out an attack on the house belonging to army Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak.

Mesquita was arrested by the Australian Federal Police on June 19 with several automatic rifles. He was filmed at the scene of the attack on the brigadier’s house on May 25, which he was alleged to have led.

In his statement taken from Dili’s Becora prison, Mesquita says: “During the confrontations between PNTL (the police) and FDTL (the army) and the shooting at the brigadier’s house, the Supreme Commander, Mr Xanana, gave the command and ordered the shooting.”

Mesquita says in the statement that he told his story to the UN head of mission in East Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, who visited him in the prison after his arrest.

He says that before carrying out the attack, he had notified Taur Matan Ruak and four senior commanders in the army of his orders from the President.

He repeatedly told Mr Hasegawa that Xanana was the author of the crisis.

Mesquita says he repeated these claims to Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta when he allegedly visited Mesquita in jail on August 13.

If true, the statement implicates the President in what was effectively an armed coup to create the conditions for the resignation of the legally elected Prime Minister.

Mr Gusmao could not be contacted last night for comment.

The statement also details the visit of two Australian army majors who questioned Mesquita on his role in the violence and about his political allegiances.

Mesquita is still in the Becora jail, from which rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado and 56 others walked out on August 30.

The statement was said to have been written in the prison and delivered to the US embassy in Dili as a means for Mesquita to secure his release.

The statement refers to a meeting at the President’s office before the crisis, where, in the presence of local leaders, including chief of police Paulo Martins, Mr Ramos Horta and the Bishop of Baucau, it is alleged that the President discussed the need to get rid of the government of Mr Alkatiri because of its perceived “communist” sympathies.

Other sources within the veterans’ organisation independently confirm that they were invited to a meeting with the President at his residence in the hills above Dili in March, where a plan to remove Mr Alkatiri was discussed.

Investigation of the individuals involved in the three main attacks on the East Timor Defence Force in May shows that every one of them was led by leaders who have since publicly acknowledged their allegiance to the President.

Those who led the other two major attacks on the army, namely Major Reinado and Vicente de Conceicao, have repeatedly declared their support for Mr Gusmao.

Airport IDPs laments about International Forces and PM Horta

Representatives of the IDPs at the airport met the National Parliament on Monday to protest the actions of Australian forces who reportedly broke into their camps and arrested and beat some IDPs including some security guards. Speaking to journalists after the meeting at NP, one of the IDPS also lamented about the attitude of PM Horta who had shown no interest in them. Horta had reportedly said that he had worked very hard but that the IDPs had made him suffer so. Replying to an IDP who said it was the leaders who had made them suffer, Horta reportedly replied that in 30 years he never taken a cent from the Timorese people.

From UN daily media reports

Reports from East Timor and Brazil

Dear Comrade Cassia,

Just back from Los Palos, Narciso my adopted son was getting married, went up to participate in the traditional ceremony. Sad to see this email when I got back, do you have any further news on the arrests?

Things are still very bad in Dili, there are hardly any Loro Sae people living here now – displaced peoples camps still attacked daily while the internationals (really mean the ADF) look on.. While I was in Los Palos an armed gang attacked one camp, am told six people were hurt, two people were killed. The gang were well organised and came in vehicles from the hills behind Dili.

This week a delegation from the displaced people living near the airport went to see Ramos – Horto about attacks on their camp, indeed about attacks and lack of security all over Dili.. Am told that the ADF went into the camp at the airport last weekend, arrested six people,(don’t know why they were arrested at the moment). Apparently 2 people were punched by members of the ADF. The delegation wanted to know why people who are already facing daily intimidation from gangs have to face this kind of behaviour from people who are supposed to be protecting them. Ramos-Horto declined to comment. – this one actually made the TV news so guess no one can accuse me of sending out an inflammatory email! However, I will be going to the airport this morning to speak to the people concerned, hopefully be able to send update later, but also had news from England that my Dad is in hospital, trying to decide what to do.

Did you know that Reinaldo and 56 of his men had escaped from prison and are now hold up in the hills?

Hope Jaime Amorim has been released – and join you in calling for justice for Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Mattias Barbosa, guess we keep up the struggle.

Love Lidia

On 26/08/06, cassia bechara wrote:

COMRADES,

THE SITUATION HERE IN PERNAMBUCO IS VERY COMPLICATED RIGHT NOW. MST PEAPLE ARE BEING KILLED, IMPRISIONED AND PERSECUTED. I’M SENDING YOU SOME INFO RELEASED BY GRASSROOTS INTERNATIONAL WEBBLOG ABOUT THE SITUATION.
LOVE
CASSIA

Leaders of the MST assassinated, imprisoned in Pernambuco

Earlier this week, while Saulo Araujo and I were visiting our partners at Polo Sindical, hearing about the long history of violent struggles there to re-settle families displaced by the a series of large hydro-electric dam projects (including some families that still have not been resettled 20 years later) we received news that two leaders of the MST were assassinated at an encampment in greater Recife, Pernambuco. The encampment was on land that a local gas company wanted to use for a gas pipeline, and it appears that the company hired thugs to infiltrate the encampment to try to encourage the people in the encampment to accept a cash settlement to leave the land.

“We don’t want want money, we want land,” said Cassia Bechara, “so the encamped people refused the offer. Josias Barros, a state leaders of the MST who was working in the encampment said, ‘The flag of the MST will only leave this land over my dead body,’ and one of the infiltrators shot him dead”. Samuel Matias Barboça, another leader of the movement in Pernambuco, was also killed.

Since then, the state police for in Pernambuco have not managed to arrest the gunmen who commited these murders, but they have arrested several leaders of the MST, including local leaders of an encampent in Sertânia and Jaime Amorim, one of the national coordinator of the movement.

Aton Fon, one of the co-directors of Grassroots’ partner REDE-SOCIAL, a national network of human rights lawyers who defend the rights of activists and memebers of social movements throughout the country, has arrived in Recife to assist in the legal work underway to demand the release of Jaime Almorim, who is being held because of his participation in a protest against Prsident Bush’s visit to Brazil last November. His arrest is based on a law to protect the public order that was created during the military dictatorship to repress dissent.

Grassroots joins the MST and REDE in demanding the release of Jaime Almorim and the prosecution of the assassination of Josias Barros Ferreira and Samuel Matias Barboça.

Saulo and I are going now to try to visit Jaime in jail.

I will write more as soon as I have a chance.

Social Movement Faces Violent Repression in Brazil
This morning I accompanied Fernando Prioste, an attorney for the Brazilian human rights organizaton Terra de Direitos (Land of Rights), to visit Jaime Amorim at the Centro de Triagem pre-trial detention center in Abreu e Lima on the outskirts of Recife, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

Jaime is the state coordinator for the Grassroots’ partner Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Pernambuco, and a member of the national leadership of the movement. He was arrested August 21 while he was travelling between the funerals of two leaders of the MST, Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Matias Barbosa, who were assasinated the previous day in what is reported to have been a dispute over the land of the encampment with a company that wanted to install a gas pipeline.

Jaime’s arrest appears to be politically motivated and arbitrary. Some believe it was carried out in order to distract attention from the assassination of two MST leaders. Jaime was charged with failing to appear at a hearing to investigate his participation in a protest againstU.S. President George Bush’s visit to Brazil in November, 2005.

Jaime never received notification of the hearing, and the judge in the case claims that this was because Jaime has no fixed address. This claim is clearly untrue, and easily disproven. As a registered voter in Pernambuco, Jaime’s address is on file with the state. It appears the judge never sent a request to the electoral authorities to obtain the address. There is also the fact that Jaime is a visible public figure and as such is usually easy to find.

The movement’s legal advisors, including Fernando Prioste and Atom Fon (co-director of Grassroots’ partner, Rede Social de Diretors Humanos [The Social Network for Human Rights], an organization that provides legal support for members of Brazilian social movements) have petitioned for a writ of Habeas Corpus and are appealing to the federal courts to declare the arrest illegal, based on the fact that the judge never tried to get Jaime’s address. The judge suggested in an interview that he will release Jaime on Monday, but as the judge has taken this week off for vacation, it is unlikely that anything will happen before then.

When we saw Jaime today he said that going to jail was just another part of building the movement. He ate an apple that Fernando brought him voracioulsy, but he he appeared to be in good spirits and made light of the fact that some of his wealthy fellow inmates have air-conditioners and big-screen televisions.

I asked Jaime what the significance of his arrest was for the movement.

“The arrest occured at a moment of great sadness for the movement, when we were mourning the loss of two companheiros,” he said. “Josias was a great leader in the movement who was very active in developing the culture and values of the MST, and Samuel was a great yound leader and long-time member whose parents were members and activists. He grew up in the movement. To execute the warrant at that moment was a provocation. In the struggle for agrarian reform, we try our best to operate within the laws of the land and the spirit of justice, but the state wants to brand us as criminals. They want to make it illegal for us to demand our rights.”

A coalition of social movements and civil-society groups has mobilized to demand Jaime’s release and to demand justice for the killers of Josias Ferreira and Samuel Barbosa. These events, along with the arrest of a two other local leaders of the MST in the town of Sertania, here in Pernambuco, and a series of illegal evictions of encamped families, reinforce the idea that it is essential to combine protection of human rights with movement building and community-led development.

Grassroots is proud to support the MST and Rede Social and to join them in calling for the release of Jaime Amorim and for justice for the assassins of Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Mattias Barbosa.

Reinado and Gusmao

East Timor: The President’s Man
By: John Martinkus
Wednesday 6 September 2006

What appear to be written orders from East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmão to rebel former soldier Alfredo Reinado confirm the close relationship the now escaped criminal ­ who is wanted for murder and weapons offences ­ had with the President.

The hand-written note, seen by New Matilda and available here (in Portuguese), on the letterhead of the President and signed by him, sets the tone of the relationship between the two.

‘Major Alfredo, Good Morning!’ It begins. ‘We have already combined with the Australian forces and you have to station yourselves in Aileu,’ writes the President, referring to the inland hill town an hour south of Dili where Alfredo did go with his rebel soldiers.

The letter continues ‘I am also going to write to Lieutenant [Gastão] Salsinha [the leader of the dismissed East Timorese soldiers who, unlike Reinado’s men, left their barracks without their weapons] to implement this order. Abraços a todos [Embraces to all], Xanana’.

Gusmão’s office could not be contacted for comment on the document.

The letter is dated 29 May this year ­ only three days after the first Australian forces had landed in Dili and seven days after Reinado had led his men in an attack against the East Timorese national army, the F-FDTL, in the hills to the east of the capital.

The letter confirms the close relationship between the President and the breakaway officer at the time ­ a relationship Reinado himself has never tried to hide. When David O’Shea from SBS TV’s Dateline program interviewed him in Dili just days before he was arrested on 26 July, Reinado said:

Until 22 May I [was] still bound to my General, Taur Matan Ruak [F-FDTL Commander]. After I [was] attacked and I am defending myself I think I should only follow orders from my Supreme Commander, the President. Until today, anywhere I go, I always notice him and I always take order from him. Whatever I am going to do, whatever order is being [given], as long as it is clarified and justified, I’ll do it.

Reinado also revealed that he had been in close contact with the President from 14 May, before the violence started. The exchange was as follows:

‘On 14 May on the Sunday I heard that you met with the President,’ says O’Shea.
‘Yes’ replies Reinado.
‘What did you discus then?’
‘I’m going to tell him why I left Dili. Because as the Supreme Commander he has to call me to ask me that. Why I left Dili on 3 May. I am going there to explain why I left Dili,’ says Reinado, referring to the day he left the army barracks in Dili with 20 of his men and two ute-loads of weapons and ammunition.
‘And [Gusmão ] accepted your explanation?’ asks O’Shea. ‘Of course,’ replies Reinado.

When I interviewed Reinado on 11 June he was still in the hill town of Maubisse. He was there with his heavily armed men and eight Australian SAS guards. He said the guards were there for his security, but Head of the Australian forces, Brigadier Mick Slater, said the detachment was there to monitor him.

Reinado was his usual arrogant self ­ loudly proclaiming that he was fighting for the justice of his people and referring to so-called ‘atrocities’ by the F-FDTL, which he greatly exaggerated. When pressed on his plans to disarm, he grinned and told me to talk to the President about that. He proclaimed he was not a rebel and that he was still a member of the army and had a right to carry weapons as he was still under the orders of the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, the President Xanana Gusmão.

The circumstances of Reinado’s arrest also require examination. I was in Dili that day, 26 July, and the incident started in the late morning. Reinado claimed that he had been offered the use of a house by the President himself. The house was situated directly across the road from the main gate of the Australian military base at Dili’s heliport in the suburb of Bairo Pite. As he was moving in, the Portuguese police (GNR), acted on a tip they had received, and came and searched the house. They found nine handguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition and grenades.

The day before had been the well publicised deadline for the handing in of weapons, and Reinado and his men were clearly in violation of that. The GNR wanted to arrest him. The Australian Federal Police were soon at the scene as well as several Australian armoured personnel carriers. It was a stand-off that lasted all day with the local and Portuguese press outside, and Reinado occasionally sauntering on to the verandah and issuing statements such as ‘I am a free man in a free country,’ much to the amusement of reporters.

(Meanwhile, at the President’s office across town, a series of meetings were being held between officials and military and police representatives. No press access was allowed.)

Finally, after dark, the press were told to leave, the Portuguese police loaded the weapons in a vehicle and the Australian army moved across the road and cordoned off the house. I waited in the dark and filmed as the Australians led Reinado’s men out, one by one, bound in plastic cuffs, and photographed them before marching them across the road to their base.

However, the Australians must have led Reinado out the back, as he was not with his men.

The sequence of the day’s events and the way the Australians actively tried to play down the event, gave me the impression that they had only reluctantly arrested Reinado and his men, and that they had been forced to by the GNR’s discovery of the weapons. The crisis meetings at the President’s office also suggested Gusmão’s close involvement in the case.

The fact that Reinado was not arrested earlier raised many questions among observers in Dili. Why, people were asking, was this man who was filmed shooting at the army, and even declaring on film that he had ‘got one,’ still remaining free? As one member of the UN investigation team said, ‘this guy has some serious political top cover.’

The links between Reinado and the President are even more relevant now, following his ‘escape’ from Dili’s Becora prison last week, when he and 56 others simply walked out the door. He has since recorded a half-hour interview with local Timorese television. Those who watched it placed the interview as having taken place at Daralau, in the hills above Dili. Incidentally, the President’s house is also in the hills above Dili.

It is inconceivable that the Australian military and Federal Police cannot place the backdrop to the interview ­ as so many people in Dili have ­ and locate and arrest Reinado.

But perhaps that is not a high priority. Perhaps they are taking the position of the President’s Australian-born wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, who told ABC Radio this week that Reinado ‘has been portrayed somewhat incorrectly in the Australian media as being a renegade, a rebel.’ She added that ‘when he defected from the military police, it was a protest action against what he saw as terrible violations committed by our armed forces.’

There is still little evidence that the armed forces committed violations. Claims of massacres and mass graves have never been backed up with facts, and appear to be politically motivated allegations designed to discredit the F-FDTL.

One of the most prominent opposition figures to repeatedly accuse the F-FDTL of massacres is Fernando De Araujo from the Democratic Party. When I interviewed him for Dateline in August he told me that, even though former Prime Minister Marí Alkatiri had resigned, the ‘plan’ had failed: ‘My plan was to have a transitional government that the President controls and in six months have a general election,’ he said.

It is similar to what Alfredo Reinado is now calling for, and from what one can divine from the supporters of East Timor’s now famously silent President, it is what he is positioning himself for as well.

About the author

John Martinkus covered the conflict in East Timor from 1995 until 2000. He was resident correspondent in Dili for Associated Press and Australian Associated Press, from 1998 until 2000. He is author of A Dirty Little War (Random House, 2001), about the country’s violent passage to independence. He recently co-produced the report East Timor: Downfall of a Prime Minister for SBS TV’s Dateline, which aired on 30 August.