Interview Mari Alkatiri: Reinado Did Not Shoot Horta – Tempo Magazine No. 25/VIII/February 19-25,

ne day after the shooting of Ramos-Horta, a
number of publications in Dili pointed at
Alkatiri, charging his political party of being
behind Reinado’s activities. Alkatiri denied the
charges. Last Tuesday, he held a press conference to refute all charges.

In the middle of the emergency situation in Timor
Leste, Alkatiri spoke with Tempo correspondent in
Dili, Jose Sarito Amaral, in an exclusive
interview, which took place at his residence,
last Friday. Alkatiri provided additional
information to Tempo reporters Widiarsi Agustina
and Faisal Assegaf by telephone. Excerpts:

What is your view on the shootings of President
Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana?

It is all still very mysterious and I don’t want
to speculate on the incident. Clearly, the death
of Reinado poses many questions, particularly
since he died before President Horta was shot.
That is to say, Reinado actually did not kill
Horta because he died first. This is what confuses me.

So, who was actually responsible for the two attacks?

Once again it is difficult to determine who the
mastermind is. I just know that it was not
Reinado who shot President Horta. Strangely
enough, one hour after the shooting, Prime
Minister Xanana Gusmao was attacked. All this
requires an immediate and thorough investigation.
I suggest that a professional international team investigate the incidents.

Who do you think should be suspected?

I don’t want to accuse anyone, because that needs
evidence and a thorough investigation. Such as,
why were Reinado’s military attacks done
simultaneously but so unprofessionally? This is
strange. In my view, the shooting of Horta was executed by an organized group.

Do you have any idea who might have plotted this with Reinado?

I am not able to say much at this time. Clearly,
the assassination attempts are linked. I am not
an investigator, but I am attempting to seek some
information and trying to analyze who is behind
Reinado. Why did he die before Horta was shot?

According to some reports, the attack was linked
to a meeting President Horta held with a number
of politicians, a week before the shooting.

I think they are connected. Indeed, there was a
meeting of politicians at Horta’s residence a
week before the shootings. Attending the meeting
were members of the Timorese Reconstruction
National Party (CNRT) led by Xanana Gusmao, the
Social Democrat Party, the Timor Social Democrat
Party Association (ASDT) and the Fretilin Party.

What was discussed at that meeting?

President Horta welcomed the proposal of the
Fretilin Party to the UN Secretary-General.
Essentially it united all parties under the
Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) with the
Fretilin, and forming an inclusive government, a
national unity government. Fretilin itself
refused to join in the national unity government
like this one. The initiative was taken to
resolve the problem of Alfredo Reinado, deserters
led by Salsinha Gastao and also the refugees.

Do you think any of the party elites were involved?

I will just say that the person behind Horta’s
shooting perhaps disagreed with the President’s
initiative to form a new government and hold another election.

As the opposition, your party must be seen as a
possible instigator of the attempted coup.

We want another election, not a coup,
particularly since President Horta already
approved it. But suddenly the Reinado group took
the road to rebel against the state.

We want to ask whether you are involved or not in this attempted coup.

Well, I’ve been getting a lot of hate mail
accusing me of being behind all this. They don’t
want me to be prime minister again. They say they
are willing to do anything as long as Alkatiri
does not return as prime minister. Everyone seems
to hate me. I already explained: if Horta had not
been shot, the agreement on the formation of an
inclusive government and a repeat election would
have taken place. And that was the recommendation
of my party. So why should I kill anyone or pull a coup d’etat?

According to some reports it was you and Fretilin
who were behind Reinado’s actions.

It has become the tradition in Timor Leste that
if there is a problem, everyone blames it on Mari
Alkatiri. But that’s all right. That’s why I
called for the establishment of an international
investigation. The United Nations mission and
international peacekeeping forces in Timor Leste
must also clarify their weaknesses in the
country. Why weren’t they able to detect the attack? They were quite close by.

In your view, how credible is the government of
Xanana and Horta in the eyes of the public?

The coup and the shootings indicate the public’s
faith in the Xanana Gusmao government has fallen.
If it was not able to control its security forces
and protect President Horta, I can say that this is an inadequate government.

Did Fretilin want this to happen?

Fretilin did not want this. We do not want the
crisis to be worse. Fretilin defends this nation
so it is stable. The Fretilin chief and I called
Xanana. We told him that the shooting of Horta
was an act of rebellion against the state, not against Xanana or Horta.

What do you think was the intention of the Reinado group?

Fretilin never used Reinado for its political
objectives. I never separated from him because I
was never together with him in the first place.
They united to bring down my government, but now
they are split. In your opinion, who is behind all this?

So, you don’t approve of Reinado’s movement?

It’s not a matter of supporting Reinado’s
movement or not. I just regret that it happened at all.

Is it true that a few days before the shooting
Reinado met with a number of parliamentarians?

Three members of parliament met with Reinado
three days before the shootings. They were from
PSD/ASDT and PD. If Fretilin parliamentarians had
met with Reinado that day, imagine what people
would be saying now. Their meeting was secret and
the international forces actually saw them. That
is why the Attorney General must investigate
them. I don’t want to accuse anyone of the
shooting right now. But on the other hand, there
must be an investigation to seek the truth.

What about political support towards the government?

I think that politically, AMP is beginning to be
destabilized. Perhaps it will soon fall. From the
political viewpoint, they are already weak, they
are unable to solve the Reinado problem, the
deserters under Gastao and the refugees. This is
making the supporters of AMP very unhappy. From
the security viewpoint, President Horta could not
be protected. He was shot. From the economic
point of view, everyone knows that there is a
rice crisis currently going on. Prices of
commodities have gone up and the government has
not been able to control this. This is what will
bring down the AMP government, unless there is
another election or an inclusive government is formed.

How strong are the Xanana supporters on the ground?

There are none at all because they were incapable
of providing security for President Horta. If the
people really want it, this cowboy government can
prevail. Otherwise, I don’t know any other
solution. Pending the President’s return to
health, we must continue with preparing for repeat elections.

On security, what about the UN forces and the Australian troops?

The government is in a better position to answer
that question. Personally, I question their
professionalism in Timor Leste. They were very
close to where it happened, yet they were not
able to see the Reinado group. I don’t want make
accusations, but this quite clear.

It seems there has been continuous violence in
Timor Leste since independence. Why is this?

This is because there is a group which uses
violence for their political ends. Actually, we
should really learn from this experience to
better understand what the people want.

What about efforts at reconciliation so far?

There has been no attempt at reconciliation.
Before and after last year’s election, all the
parties wanted to get rid of Fretilin. They did
not want to unite, they wanted to be separate.
And during the elections, Fretilin was accused of
many things to damage its reputation.

What if Horta dies?

I am sure he will recover. But if he does pass
away, there must be a new presidential election in six weeks’ time.

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