FRETILIN proceeds with Gleno rally despite security concerns

From correspondents in Timor Leste

DILI, 19 February 2007

Amidst security concerns, FRETILIN staged a
pre-election rally on 17 February 2007 in the
football stadium in the town of Gleno in the
Ermera district west of Dili. The rally was
attended by around 3000 FRETILIN supporters, with
security provided by members of the elite
Portuguese Republican National Guard and
Australian forces. The Gleno rally follows
similar pre-election rallies held recently in
Baucau and Same and is another example of
FRETILIN’s continuing strong support throughout Timor-Leste.

FRETILIN supporters stoned and abused

Credible sources from FRETILIN have informed
TimorTruth that some members of the
“petitioners”, the term loosely used to describe
army soldiers who deserted their

barracks in early 2006, and their supporters,
physically attacked and verbally abused FRETILIN
supporters throughout the course of the day. Some
of the petitioners involved in these incidents
were believed to have been armed with steyr
rifles and grenades, although none of these weapons were used.

The attacks by some of the petitioners and their
supporters included a stoning attack at Atabae on
a convoy of 37 vehicles transporting FRETILIN
supporters from the district of Bobonaro to
Gleno. The resulting injuries to four people and
the safety concerns forced the convoy of
supporters to return home without having attended
the Gleno rally. Supporters were also attacked
as they made their way from Liquiçá to the rally
and another group was attacked at Fatubesi as
they made their way home. Two people were injured in these attacks.

At the rally itself, a small group of people
continuously provoked FRETILIN members and its
supporters in an attempt to disrupt
proceedings. As with previous confrontations
between FRETILIN and anti-FRETILIN forces, it was
left to FRETILIN to refrain from retaliating and
escalating the situation, despite the extreme provocation.

Security situation at Gleno

Security at the Gleno rally was always going to
be a concern for FRETILN members and its
leaders. Ermera district, which does have a
strong FRETILIN presence, has over the last year
witnessed various anti-FRETILIN and
anti-government activities. In early May 2006, a
police officer was killed in Gleno when
supporters of the army petitioners clashed with
members of the Rapid Intervention Unit which were
protecting the Secretary of State for Region III
on an official visit to Gleno. Last week, local
FRETILIN member and caretaker of the party
headquarters in the district, Valente Soares was
killed. Soares, an orphan, was only 24 years
old. A suspect has been identified in relation to
Soares’ death but has yet to be detained.

Ermera was also, until recently, the cantonment
area of rebel leader and key player in the May
2006 crisis, Major Alfredo Reinado and his group
of heavily armed men. Reinado and his group were
meant to be under strict surveillance by the
Australian forces during their cantonment in
Aifu, Ermera. However, TimorTruth understands
that Reinado and his group disappeared from the
cantonment area on 2 February 2007 and the
whereabouts of the group have since been unknown to the general public.

Independent observers continue to ask why the
Australian media still fails to point out that
opponents of FRETILIN who have resorted to
violence, including Major Reinado, continue to
escape capture, while FRETILIN leaders accused of
any wrongdoing have agreed to subject themselves to the judicial system.

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