Monthly Archives: April 2008

Tea and biscuits concluded

Dili-gence Blog

29.04.08

Posted in Culture/Society at 7:18 pm by Squatter

You could hardly have missed the commotion today as Gastao Salsinha and 11 of his “rebel” mates were escorted into the “Palacio do Governo” (Parliament House and associated Ministries). It was not the time to be out on the road around midday when the howling vehicles streamed in, the sirens blew and the chopper escort flapped in.

An hour or so later, it appeared to be repeated as the “rebels” were escorted to the Memorial Hall for a de-briefing by the “Joint Command” – the name for the combined F-FDTL (Timorese military) and PNTL (Timorese police).

Hopefully, all states of emergency and curfews can now be lifted and the coffee season can get underway, particularly in the Gleno/Ermera area.

Hopefully, some of the roadblocks (ie near the President’s home and around the Memorial Hall area) will be lifted. While the road out to the Christ Rei statue to the east is in absolutely marvelous condition after its recent re-surfacing, some of the normally quiet roads around the Memorial Hall traffic deviations have copped a pounding.

The road upgrade from Pig Bridge to the Hera turn-off is magnificent compared to what it was 2 months ago. What was becoming a torture track for the cyclist is now a smooth bitumen race-track all the way. Now if the President could just acquire a few more residences around town and share out his occupancy between them, then maybe we can have a few more road improvements.

On another note, I made the mistake (again) of declaring wet season over, only to be savaged again last evening by a proverbial bucketing *. Back to the knitting.

* Bucketing – a quaint term for acquiring extreme wetness in a similar manner to having a bucket of water poured over one’s head. Also used to describe being the victim of a verbal assault as if a full bucket of insults were poured on one’s head. Take your pick.

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East Timor rebel leader surrenders

also East Timor rebels, suspected in ambush on PM, surrender

By Tito Belo Tue Apr 29, 3:38 AM ET

DILI (Reuters) – The leader of a group of East Timor rebels accused of trying to assassinate President Jose Ramos-Horta surrendered on Tuesday, raising hopes that the troubled young nation can find some rare stability.

Gastao Salsinha and 12 of his men surrendered to Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres in a closed-door meeting at the government palace in the capital Dili, witnessed by other officials including Ramos-Horta.

“As an individual I have no hatred against the one who shot me, I forgive him, but as the head of state he has to face court to explain it,” added Ramos-Horta, who has previously singled out one of the fugitive rebels as being his shooter.

The 58-year-old Nobel laureate, who was critically wounded during the February attacks on his Dili home, recently returned to Dili after recuperating for two months in Australia.

“The people want to know who gave them the support of uniforms, weapons and bullets,” added Ramos-Horta, who upset Jakarta by suggesting that elements from neighboring Indonesia were behind the plot.

During the surrender, the rebels handed over guns and other military equipment, including camouflage uniforms and grenades.

Salsinha, who took command of the rebels after their leader, Alfredo Reinado, was killed in the February 11 attack, had been negotiating with authorities from a house in Ermera district, 75 km (47 miles) west of the capital.

Salsinha told reporters that he and his men had “surrendered to justice not to the government.”

East Timor had issued arrest warrants for Salsinha, a former army lieutenant, and 22 others over the attacks, which also targeted Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

An army major said that two rebels remained in hiding.

“GREAT DAY”

Deputy prime minister Guterres described the surrender as a “great day for the East Timor people.”

The country’s tiny army imploded along regional lines in 2006, when about 600 soldiers were sacked, triggering violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes.

East Timor called in foreign troops to help restore order, but a hard-core of the fugitive troops frequently embarrassed the security forces by melting away even when apparently surrounded.

Gusmao, who is on a visit to Jakarta, praised the cooperation of state institutions, and the work of the army and police in bringing about the surrender.

“We just want to avoid more violence,” he said.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the country later that year, maintaining a huge and sometimes harsh military presence and fighting rebels for more than two decades.

East Timor, which is one of the world’s poorest nations but has rich oil and gas reserves, became fully independent in May 2002 after a U.N. transitional administration.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that East Timor should stop hinting that Indonesia was involved in the attacks as this could hurt relations between the two countries.

East Timor’s parliament agreed last week to lift a state of emergency imposed following the attack on Ramos-Horta, although the state of alert was extended for another month in Ermera.

Reflecting improvements in security, Australia will withdraw 200 troops from East Timor, sent following the February assassination attempt, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

More than 2,500 foreign troops and police remain in the country to help local security forces maintain stability.

(Additional reporting by Ahmad Pathoni in Jakarta, Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Alex Richardson)

East Timor rebels, suspected in ambush on PM, surrender

AP

Tue Apr 29, 12:22 AM ET

DILI, East Timor – A military official says rebels believed to have been involved in an attack on East Timor’s prime minister have surrendered to authorities.

They handed in weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unharmed from an ambush of his motorcade on Feb. 11 by mutinous soldiers. An attack the same day on President Jose Ramos-Horta nearly killed him.

Lt. Fernando Gausege says rebel commander Gastau Salsinha and 12 of his men, believed to have carried out the ambush on the premier, turned themselves in Tuesday with 11 firearms.

Ramos-Horta, who returned to the country last week after recovering from several gunshot wounds in an Australian hospital, was to meet the rebels.

East Timor chases bank details of rebel

By Paul Toohey and Michael McKenna

April 29, 2008 04:30am

The Australian

EAST Timorese authorities have formally requested Australia’s assistance in uncovering details of a Darwin bank account allegedly held in the name of slain rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and his suspected lover Angelita Pires.

The account is rumoured to contain $700,000.

The request from Dili will allow Australian authorities to formally, and rapidly, release the information, if it exists.

President Jose Ramos Horta has alleged the account was created to wreak havoc in his country. He has linked the alleged fund to the shooting attack on himself and the attempted ambush of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11.

Mr Ramos Horta has demanded to know who was allegedly backing Reinado, who led an attack on the presidential compound during which he was killed.

If the money allegations were substantiated, it would likely lead to the immediate arrest and detention of Ms Pires, a joint Australian-Timorese citizen who is in Dili and prevented from leaving the country while investigations continue.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act required confidentiality from the Government and he would not confirm East Timor’s request.

However, it is known that East Timor’s Prosecutor-General, Longuinhos Monteiro, made the formal request last Monday.

Members of Ms Pires’s family in Australia have ridiculed the notion that she was in control of such an amount, saying the investigation will draw a blank.

There has been confusion as to how Mr Ramos Horta could have known the details of the alleged account, given that Australian authorities had not confirmed the fact.

The Australian understands Mr Ramos Horta had earlier been told in a meeting with Australian Federal Police and Mr Monteiro that the account did exist.

This information was allegedly gathered under a police-to-police “co-operation mechanism” between Timor and Australia.

Unlike the formal mutual assistance protocol, any information passed between police could not be used as evidence in court and was only useful as an investigative tool.

Ms Pires, who has not been charged with any offence and denies any wrongdoing, was taken in for questioning last week in Dili but was released after apparently having a mobile phone confiscated.

It is believed Timorese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for an Australian-Timorese businessman who is sought over his alleged connection to Ms Pires and the money.

The man grew up in Darwin but since 1999 has spent most of his time in Dili.

He has been described as having “gone missing” from the East Timorese capital and is thought to be in Darwin. He has not been seen in Dili since just before February 11 and has left his business in the hands of employees.

The man has not been answering his phone and friends in Dili are concerned.

The Australian has communicated with the man several times since February 11, on the basis of his friendship with Mr Pires. He was not forthcoming.

“We’ve been told the Prosecutor-General wants to talk to him about the whole thing,” said a friend.

“He was supposed to be one of the advisers to Alfredo Reinado. He’s one to stay out of trouble, to help in the background but not be in the forefront.”

East Timor rebel leader ‘to surrender’

From correspondents in Dili

April 28, 2008 07:18pm

Article from: AAP

EAST Timor’s fugitive rebel leader is under heavy guard at a house in the country’s mountainous interior and will be trucked to the capital tomorrow to formally surrender. Gastao Salsinha, wanted over February’s attacks on East Timor’s top leaders, and 11 of his rebels will formally hand themselves in in Dili, a top official said.

“Tomorrow he will go to Dili, tomorrow will be the big day,” said Lt Col Filomeno Paixao, who is leading a joint police and military operation to find the rebels.

“He is in our control.”

Lt Col Paixao said Salsinha was under heavy police and military guard at the home of his wife’s parents in the mountain district of Ermera, 75km west of Dili.

Salsinha has spent the past four days there, awaiting the arrival of his rebels, who he has insisted must surrender with him.

Lt Col Paixao said a military convoy would escort the group to Dili, where they would be taken to Government Palace to formally hand themselves in to Vice Prime-Minster Jose Luis Gutteres.

They would later be handed over to the prosecutor general’s office.

If the surrender goes as planned, it will formally draw to a close the hunt for rebels wanted over the attempted assassinations of President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11.

Mr Ramos Horta was critically injured in the attack on his home, during which Salsinha’s predecessor Alfredo Reinado was shot dead.

Authorities believe Salsinha led a coordinated attack on Mr Gusmao. The prime minister escaped unhurt.

Lt Col Paixao said all of the suspects wanted over the attacks were now in the hands of authorities, including four who were recently arrested in Indonesia.

The four are expected to be brought back to Dili next month.

Lt Col Paixao also said Salsinha and his followers had handed over eleven weapons, including some the military did not know they had.

“There are some Russian weapons that were not in our records, they could be from the guerrilla days and they dug them up or something,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Gusmao left for Indonesia today on an official visit.

He may use the trip to discuss with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the possibility of extending the controversial Commission of Truth and Friendship report mandate, a spokesman from Mr Gusmao’s office said.

Human rights groups have raised concerns the report will be a whitewash, and fail to do justice for victims of the violence surrounding East Timor’s historic 1999 independence vote.

Two rebels linked to Dili attacks arrested in Jakarta

The Age

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

April 28, 2008

TWO rebels involved in attacks on East Timor’s top two political leaders have been arrested at the Jakarta home of a notorious Timor-born gangster known as Hercules, Indonesian police say.

Investigators in Dili have established that Hercules, whose real name is Rozario Marcal, was in contact with, and may have met, rebel leader Alfredo Reinado days before he led the February 11 attacks on President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Indonesian National Police chief Sutanto confirmed that two of four rebels arrested in Indonesia last week were at the home of Hercules, who has close ties to several retired Indonesian military generals.

Mr Sutanto was quoted by Indonesia’s official newsagency, Antara, as saying that Hercules was willing to accommodate the rebels “because of humanitarian consideration and was willing to find them a job”.

How the men managed to cross the border into Indonesia and then travel to Jakarta is unclear.

Mr Sutanto confirmed that Hercules had telephone contact with the rebels but, he told Antara, “not in connection with rebellion”.

Reinado’s mobile telephone had a listing for “Hercul”.

Mr Ramos Horta has demanded to know how Reinado managed to travel to Jakarta in May last year and take part in an interview in the studio of the Indonesian television network Metro TV.

Australian soldiers were hunting him in East Timor’s mountains at the time.

Mr Ramos Horta, who was shot and seriously wounded in the attacks, has revealed that “elements” in Indonesia ­ not the Government or military ­ had supported Reinado while he was East Timor’s most wanted man.

The Australian Federal Police is trying to trace the source of $1 million that was deposited at a bank in Darwin in the name of Reinado’s Timorese-born lover, Angelita Pires.

Reinado had access to the money.

Reinado’s deputy, Gastao Salsinha, is expected to surrender today after three days of talks at a house in the coffee-growing mountain town of Gleno.

Salsinha has remained in the house waiting for eight of his men to join him.

Mr Gusmao, who was also attacked but escaped unhurt, sent ex-lieutenant Salsinha a message saying that as leader of the Government he cannot forgive him but as a human being he could.

Salsinha replied that he appreciated the message.

Investigators in Dili want to question Salsinha about why he led the attack on Mr Gusmao.

Meanwhile, Australia has announced it will withdraw 200 troops from East Timor within days, leaving 750 deployed there.

“This draw-down in Australian troops reflects the improved security situation in Timor-Leste (East Timor),” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement.

More than 2500 foreign troops and police remain in the country to help local security forces maintain stability.

New boats under fire

The Australian

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mark Dodd

EAST Timor’s opposition Fretilin party has demanded the Xanana Gusmao-led Government explain the unbudgeted purchase of two Chinese-made patrol boats for $28million — almost twice the impoverished country’s annual defence allocation.

It is understood there was no consultation between East Timorese defence officials and Australian defence advisers in Dili regarding the purchase.

Senior Australian defence officials say the decision caught them by surprise and they have questioned the suitability of the vessels.

Senior Fretilin official Jose Teixeria told The Australian the purchase was unbudgeted and raised fears the nation’s petroleum fund would be used to cover the cost.

“From a legal point of view, as well as from a transparency point of view, it is necessary to have these (boats) budgeted first; then you go out and seek to purchase,” he said.

The country is dealing well with some pressing issues, but problems are being allowed to fester, wri

The Age

John Virgoe

April 23, 2008

PRESIDENT Jose Ramos Horta made a warmly greeted return to East Timor last week, two months after he was shot in an early morning encounter with rebels. By all accounts, he has made a remarkable recovery, but his country’s wounds are slower to heal.

There are some positive signs. The Government did well in its initial response to the crisis. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and other senior figures came across as statesmanlike and decisive, and explained their actions to the population. The Government followed correct procedures convening an early meeting of the Council of Ministers and getting parliament to confirm the state of siege and avoided playing party politics.

In short, in sharp contrast with 2006, the Government looked like a government and gained credibility. The events also brought reconfirmation of international solidarity. In particular, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit to Dili was widely interpreted as a sign of support, not only for Timor’s democracy, but for Gusmao and Ramos Horta personally.

The Government is using this enhanced credibility to press ahead with some important policies, including tackling the problem of the 100,000 people forced from their homes by communal violence in 2006. It is eliminating one of the main factors keeping people from returning home the distribution of free food in the camps and has not backed down despite protests from camp dwellers. The Government plan is a good one, but it needs to be accompanied by other crucial elements, most significantly the creation of a fair property regime and the prosecution of those responsible for burning houses and driving out neighbours.

Two other key issues require serious attention: security sector reform and accountability.

Timor’s dysfunctional and politicised security forces were responsible for the security meltdown in 2006. That crisis in turn led directly to the February 11 shootings. Those problems have not been tackled.

The UN Security Council has called for a comprehensive review of East Timor’s security sector. The review is needed to clarify who is in charge of security sector policy, to set out the tasks of the police and military, and to promote non-partisanship and professionalism.

It is essential for Timor’s democratic development that the army is under civilian control. The army has expressed interest in Fiji’s military as a model, but the Fijian army’s record of conducting coups and interfering in national politics is not one to be emulated.

The joint police-military command structure put in place after February 11 risks blurring police-military responsibilities. As a temporary measure, it is understandable: the army should arguably be involved in the hunt for a well-armed group of former soldiers who have just shot the head of state. The joint command was set up through constitutional means, and clear responsibilities assigned. The police and army are working surprisingly well together.

But the joint command is likely to prove unworkable as old differences re-emerge between the police and army. Reports are starting to emerge of abuses. The joint command and the “state of siege” must be temporary emergency measures, to be ended as soon as possible and not as precedents for a continuing internal security role for the military. The present arrangements also put a remarkable concentration of power in the hands of one man the Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Defence, Xanana Gusmao.

It is important not to lose sight of the importance of community policing locally based and focused as much on crime prevention as response in fostering a sense of security, especially in a country with a history of a heavy military presence.

The question of accountability is also unresolved. In the weeks before he was

shot, Ramos Horta was working on a package to solve Timor’s political crisis. In return for opposition support on key issues, the Government would have agreed to fresh elections in two years. Meanwhile, rebel leader Alfredo Reinado would surrender, only to be freed in a general amnesty for all involved in the 2006 crisis.

That would have been a bad deal for East Timor, reaffirming the culture of impunity and the widespread view that there is “one law for the powerful, another for the rest”. Timor has had too many amnesties and too many people have evaded responsibility for their actions. Few of those involved in violence in 2006 have even been prosecuted; not one is actually in detention. At the political level, those identified by a UN inquiry as responsible for the crisis are unashamed,

with some retaining senior positions. It is particularly egregious that the army is still commanded by a man who was recommended for prosecution by the UN inquiry for illegal weapons transfer in 2006, and that the army is refusing to hand over four soldiers convicted and sentenced to prison for crimes. Such behaviour suggests the army has learnt the wrong lessons from the Indonesian armed forces.

Timor is not doomed to endless repetitions of violence. But a return to social health will require the Government to tackle seriously the causes of conflict, including reform of the police and army, and insistence on accountability for those responsible for acts of violence. Politicians of all parties and all elements of civil society must work together to overcome the differences that have divided the nation since independence.

John Virgoe is South-East Asia project director at the International Crisis Group.