Critics question investigation into Ramos Horta shooting

Updated August 11, 2008 11:13:54

Exactly six months ago today a group of armed rebels attacked and shot East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta.

But the Timorese who prayed for the President’s recovery are no closer to knowing what happened and there are fears they never will. Six months has now past, a detailed UN report into the shooting is complete but unreleased, and the criminal investigation by the prosecutor general has run overtime and is being seriously questioned.

Presenter: Stephanie March

Speakers: Anna Powles, East Timor analyst from International Crisis Group; Jose Teixeira, opposition MP; Mario Carrascalao, MP and friend of President Jose Ramos Horta

MARCH: Six months ago today East Timorese president Jose Ramos-Horta lay dying on the road in front of his home, after being shot twice by rebels. Inside his compound were the bullet-riddled bodies of rebel fugitives Alfredo Reinado and his comrade, killed by the president’s guards. Shortly after in another part of Dili, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao narrowly survived a hail of bullets as his convoy came under attack by another group of armed rebels.

The two dozen suspected rebels are in custody awaiting charge, but East Timor analyst from the International Crisis Group Anna Powles says most people in Dili believe they are not the only ones involved.

POWELS: the evidence seems to suggest there are broader factors at play and larger forces at play behind those events. And if those issues are not investigated and got to the bottom of and the protagonists are not discovered… those issues will remain and there will continue to remain in the back drop of Timorese politics.

MARCH: The criminal investigation into the attacks was due to be completed in July but reamins unfinished. No explanation has been given for the delay, and there credibility of the man leading the investigation – prosecutor general Longinious Monteiro’s – is in doubt. A UN report into the violence of 2006 said Longinious Monteiro followed blindly the policy of the then-president who appointed him, Xanana Gusmao, and as a result he did not “function independently from the State of East-Timor.

Opposition Fretilin MP Jose Texeira agrees.

TEIXEIRA: Although there are a number of int staff working with the pg and we have no reason to challenge their ind or their professionalism.
I think once again we come down ot the queston that the man in charge, the PG, has already in our eyes proved himself to be anything but politically impartial.

MARCH: A failure to uncover the full truth, in a timely manner, could prove fatal for the fledgling nation’s development, says MP and friend of the president Mario Carrascalao

CARRASCALAO: We cannot afford to have a new coup attempt or a new assassination attempt like what happened.

MARCH: But despite the expertise of dozens of international investigators carrying out the prosecutor general’s orders, the chance of uncovering what really happened may have already be lost. A leaked UN report found the National Investigation Department has encountered “political and military interference” as well as a lack of cooperation. Poor handling of evidence, including the weapons used by the rebels, may have also botched the investigation.

There are also concerns about details of the investigation that have been revealed in public, many by the President himself – including claims of a $1millon dollar bank account held by Reinado and his Australian Timorese lover Angelita Pires, Jose Ramos Horta has subsequently admitted he knows anything about any bank account. He’s also called Angelita Pires a “fake”, a “manipulator” and the mastermind behind the attacks, but to date no charges have been laid against her.

MP Jose Teixeira says the president’s comments have been unhelpful

TEIXEIRA: I think that commenting on suspects is inappropriate and I think it is a matter that we will see in terms of what jud processed do even. I think the one thing we must all remember is that we are all entitle to the presumption of innocence, and I think in that regard, Ms Pires has not had that same benefit given to her.

MARCH: All these concerns prompted parliament to call for an international independent investigation into the events, but the government says they want to wait until the prosecutor generals investigation is finished. But Anna Powles from the International Crisis Group says such an investigation could also lead to further problems.

POWLES: It certainly raises questions If the PGs invest comes out and it is not to everyones liking and you bring in an indep investigation and that essentially undermines Timor’s justice system. And one has to remember that Timor – the institutions are very much in infancy and it takes time to build a strong robust transparent judicial system.


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