Monthly Archives: March 2007

Capture of Reinado rebel group in Timor Leste

Timor-Leste Democratic Support Network


March 4, 2007

Today’s long-overdue Australian military operation to capture and disarm the group of rebel soldiers and police led by Major Alfredo Reinado is another trauma for the Timorese people, but a major step forward for democracy and the prospects of peaceful development.

The Timor Leste Democracy Support Network, an Australian support group for constitutional rule and respect for elections in Timor Leste, welcomed the Australian military action to capture Reinado’s group and urged that Reinado and his fellow rebels be brought before a properly constituted court as soon as possible.

“This military action is belated, but will at last help restore the rule of law in Timor Leste,” said Peter Murphy, a spokesperson for the Network. “The Howard government has insisted that its military forces in Timor remain under its own command, and not under the command of the United Nations or of the Timor Leste government. Therefore the Howard government is responsible for the failure to disarm and detain Major Reinado and Commander Rai’los in June last year, the failure to keep Reinado in Becora Jail last August, and the failure to recapture him until now”.

Major Reinado’s actions since May 4, 2006 have aimed at overthrowing the elected FRETILIN government and changing the country’s Constitution to ensure that the prime ministerial system is changed to an executive presidential system.

Supporting Major Reinado in Same this last week were two other key players in last May’s attempted coup – Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha and independent MP Leandro Isaac. Salsinha and Isaac were disarmed and put under the control of Australian soldiers – but not arrested – this morning. Reports indicate that Major Reinado may be wounded and holding out in a tourist resort in the town.

“We continue our call for the arrest of Reinado, Isaac and Salsinha because of their joint role in the rebellion in Same,” said Peter Murphy.

When news of the military operation reached Dili around midnight, Reinado supporters attacked and burned the warehouse and vehicles of the Department of Education, youth gangs went on a stoning rampage, chanting ‘Viva Reinado’ and there were widespread reports of gunfire as the UN police force moved to reassert control.

Major Reinado spelt this out his political goals in the Dili opposition newspaper, Suara Timor Lorosae last week: “He accused those who want the elections to go ahead as ‘traitors who would easily forget the needs of the people once they are in power’, claiming that the military political crisis should be resolved before stepping into elections. He is of the opinion that elections should be postponed and the priority should be on resolving the crisis and then holding a referendum on the Constitution and the type of government that the people see suitable for the country”.

In an interview given to The Bulletin on February 28, 2007, Alfredo Reinado repeated his absurd claims of June last year that the FRETILIN government is ‘communist’ and that he was therefore fully justified in taking up arms to fight it.

Surrounded by Australian troops in Same, in the mountains south of Dili, Reinado abused the Howard government and the current Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, for talking to ‘the communists’ and also declared that President Xanana was ‘stupid’ for calling for his arrest.

The Australian media continue to promote Reinado as a ‘folk hero’, but he was not welcome in Same, where village leaders asked him to leave, and set up their own roadblocks to stop any Reinado supporters entering the area from outside. His repeated threats to shoot Australian troops should cause a reassessment in the Australian media.

It is so ironic that Reinado’s brazen outburst coincides with the evidence given in the NSW Coroner’s inquest into the death of cameraman Brian Peters at Balibo on October 16, 1975. That evidence indicates that the Indonesian military responsible considered Peters and the four other media workers to be “Australian communists”. The Indonesian military executed over one million civilians in 1965-66 in an anti-communist purge.

Reinado was raised as a boy in Kalimantan by an Indonesian soldier, and in 2005 received Australian Staff College training. His wife worked at the US Embassy in Dili, as manager of the Peace Corps, until the violent incident of April 28-30 last year

On March 1, independent MP Leandro Isaac was in Same, speaking to the media on behalf of the increasingly desperate Reinado. He reinforced the message that Reinado would not surrender but that he wanted to ‘negotiate and dialogue’, presumably about his political demands.

Leandro Isaac took part in the armed attack on the home of the Timorese Army commander, Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak on May 24, 2006, according to the UN special investigation report. SBS TV’s Dateline reporter David O’Shea phoned Leandro Isaac for help when caught in the crossfire between Major Reinado’s group and government soldiers on May 23 last year.

The UN Independent Special Commission of Inquiry reported on Mr Isaac’s role in the attempted coup last year, on page 33-34 of its report issued in October 2006:

69. At about 8 a.m. on 24 May the F-FDTL protection unit stationed at the residence of Brigadier General Ruak observed about 10 PNTL officers, including Deputy Commander Abilio Mesquita, close to the house. All the PNTL officers were armed with Steyr weapons except Mr. Mesquita, who carried an F2000 fully automatic machine gun. Later in the morning the armed PNTL officers were seen even closer to the house. Mr. Mesquita then gave a hand signal which precipitated gunfire from his group directed against the house. The resulting exchange of fire continued until around 5 p.m. At about midday, the F-FDTL protection unit moved to the primary school situated above the house in order to gain a better vantage point. One of the PNTL officers was killed by a soldier about 30 minutes later. The soldiers, who were armed with M16 weapons and rifle-propelled grenades, then came under heavy automatic weapons fire from the east. They responded with heavy fire, including the launching of several grenades, and were reinforced by FFDTL soldiers throughout the day.

70. During the afternoon of 24 May Brigadier General Ruak telephoned Member of Parliament Leandro Isaac, who passed the telephone to Abilio Mesquita. Both Mr. Isaac and Commander Mesquita live near General Ruak. Mr. Isaac was armed with a Steyr weapon and at least three men armed variously with Steyr and FN-FNC semi-automatic weapons were present. The Brigadier General requested that the shooting cease to allow his children to be evacuated from the house. The Ruak children were taken to safety during a ceasefire on the evening of 24 May. The exchange of fire between the PNTL officers under the command of Commander Mesquita and F-FDTL recommenced on the morning of 25 May and continued until about 5 p.m.

The UN report further investigation of the role of Leandro Isaac in the violent events of May 24.

Lt Salsinha was the leader of the ‘petitioning soldiers’ whose strike in February helped to spark the political crisis. His group participated in the armed attack on the Timor army headquarters on May 24, 2006. His group also attacked the peaceful political rally of 3,000 FRETILIN supporters in Gleno, Ermera District, on February 17, 2007.

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Fretilin rally Gleno

FRETILIN proceeds with Gleno rally despite security concerns

From correspondents in Timor Leste

FRETILIN supporters are confronted by petitioners and their supporters as they arrive in Gleno, Ermera district, 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.

FRETILIN supporters gather in Gleno


Arriving by the truckload (pictured on the left) and supporters enjoying themselves at the rally despite the security concerns (pictured on the right)


11,000 At Fretilin Rally Oecussi

*11,000 supporters at Fretilin Oecussi rally*

DILI, 26 February 2007

FRETILIN held a mass pre-election rally on 24 February 2007 in the district enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno on the western half of the island of Timor. The rally was attended by around 11,000 FRETILIN supporters who shouted “Viva
Fretilin! Viva Lu’Olo! and Viva Alkatiri!” (Long live Fretilin, Long live Lu’Olo and Long live Alkatiri) when the Fretilin delegation arrived. The total population of the district of Oecussi-Ambeno is slightly less than 60,000 people.

The rally eclipsed the Baucau rally held on 27 January 2007 as Timor Leste’s biggest public meeting since Fretilin supporters staged a counter-demonstration against coup plotters in Dili in June last year.

The rally was the first held by Fretilin since party president and guerilla fighter turned politician, Francisco “Lu’Olo” Guterres, announced that he would stand in elections for President of the Republic to be held in April.

Speaking on his return to Dili, Lu’Olo said (English translation from Tetum)”The rally was a success and demonstrates the great support that Fretilin has in Oecussi. We must never forget the people of Oecussi who suffered so much, as we all did, during the struggle for independence and who have always wanted to be a part of an independent Timor-Leste despite their isolation”. Lu’Olo added that the huge turn out at Oecussi gave him confidence that he made the right decision in standing for President of the Republic.

Lu’Olo, having spent the entire 24 years of the independence struggle in the mountains and whose campaign slogan is “I shall be the President of all and a President for all”, stated that “as President I will work tirelessly to
strengthen the country’s political and economic independence. To do this we must strengthen the country’s institutions, particularly that of the judiciary and also focus on economic development at the grassroots level so that our people can be alleviated from abject poverty”. Lu’Olo said that as President “I will promote the interests of youth and equality for women; I will work to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable communities; and I will promote housing, health care and pensions for veterans of the independence struggle”.

Lu’Olo wished all the other prospective candidates the best of luck and was confident that the presidential elections would be peaceful despite the latest spike in violence which has resulted in the death of two Timorese nationals who were shot by Australian soldiers. A joint investigation is being conducted by the UN, the Australian army and the East Timorese government to ascertain the facts and circumstances that led to the death of the two Timorese nationals.

The presidential elections will take place on 9 April 2007, with several prominent East Timorese politicians, including current Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, having announced their intention to contest the election. Under
the Constitution, each prospective candidate will need to obtain the support of at least 5000 voters to be eligible to stand in the election.