Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ramos-Horta savages Timor leaders

Sydney Morning Herald

Philip Dorling

September 22, 2011

EAST Timor’s parliament is ”corrupt and ineffective”, Prime
Minister Xanana Gusmao has an alcohol problem and former prime
minister Mari Alkatiri is ”arrogant and abusive”, according to
President Jose Ramos-Horta.

Mr Ramos-Horta’s caustic observations have been revealed in leaked US
embassy cables published by WikiLeaks.

But the President doesn’t emerge unscathed. The Catholic Church is
recorded as sharply criticising the East Timorese leader. A senior
Vatican official is reported by US diplomats as observing
”Ramos-Horta started with good intentions but had let his Nobel
prize go to his head”.

All the US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks were published two
weeks ago, but 390 reports from the American embassy in Dili have not
attracted media attention until now.

Mr Ramos-Horta, described as a ”legendary international
negotiator”, brands Mr Gusmao as ”arrogant, but he likes to pretend
to be humble, unlike Alkatiri, who doesn’t even pretend to be
anything but arrogant”.

In May 2008, the US embassy reported East Timorese parliamentary
contacts as suggesting that Mr Gusmao ”may have an alcohol problem,
which is impairing his relations with others”.

The embassy said that during a May 5 meeting with [US embassy
officers], James Dunn, an author and long-time observer of East
Timor, reported the Prime Minister angered Mr Ramos-Horta by turning
up ”visibly drunk” at a reception in honour of Prince Albert of
Monaco on April 6.

Mr Ramos-Horta has also been sharply critical of Mr Alkatiri, whom he
replaced as prime minister in June 2006, describing him as ”arrogant
and abusive”.

The cables provide a detailed account of events leading to Mr
Alkatiri’s June 2006 resignation under threat of dismissal by then
president Gusmao, as mob violence and looting flared in Dili. Mr
Gusmao was ”particularly insistent” that Mr Alkatiri resign or else
be dismissed immediately.

The WikiLeaks disclosures provide new insight into Mr Ramos-Horta’s
attempts to negotiate with rebel East Timorese military leader
Alfredo Reinado, including the involvement of US diplomats as
intermediaries, while Australian troops tried to hunt down and kill Reinado.

In June 2007, the embassy reported that Mr Ramos-Horta had asked the
Australian commander of the International Stabilisation Force to
suspend its pursuit of Reinado so that he could call for the rebel to
turn himself in.

But on February 11, 2008, Mr Ramos-Horta was critically wounded in an
assassination attempt by Reinado, who was killed in the attack.

The President told the US ambassador that he was ”unable to explain
his attacker’s motivation”, and described how he lay bleeding for
”20 or 30” minutes after he was shot before ”a battered ambulance
with a driver but no medic arrived”.

James Dunn, a confidant of Mr Ramos-Horta, told The Age yesterday
that much of the US embassy’s reporting was ”quite perceptive”.

Read more:

Cinema Lorosa’e

As you no doubt know by now, Cinema Lorosa’e is screening movies free
of charge to the public every Friday at the Sunset Fair and
Saturday/Sunday at Government House (Palacio do Governo).
This week, the movies will be Happy Feet – dubbed into TETUM with
English subtitles (Sunset Fair on Friday, Government House on Sunday).
On Saturday night at Gov. House, we will be showing Green Hornet
(English with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles.

There will also be screenings in the districts across the country on
the following dates. We will announce the actual movie titles closer
to the time. For further information see our website at

20th September – Viqueque.
21st September – Venilale Orphanage.
22nd September – Baucau.
27th September – Maliana.
28th September – Balibo.
11th October – Ainaro.
12th October – Same.
13th October – Aileu.
18th October – Oecussi.
25th October – Ermera.
26th October – Maubara.
27th October – Liquica.
8th November – Lospalos.
9th November – Foiluru.
10th November – Baucau.
14th November – Tutuala.
TBA – Laga Orphanage.

Please use your networks to let our friends in the districts know!

Best regards
Ann Turne

Ann Turner
Your Timor Leste Connection
Pantai Kelapa, Dili
Tel: +670-7393879
Alternative email:

Testing Times for East Timor as Polls Loom

Jakarta Globe – September 12, 2011

Dili. East Timor’s fragile stability will be tested in coming months as the country’s political and business elite maneuver ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012.

Some foreign businessmen are already talking quietly about quitting the country during the election build–up, amid widely held fears of turmoil and possible violence.

Festering anger over unpunished crimes committed during the Indonesian occupation, land disputes, corruption and rivalries in the security forces are simmering beneath the otherwise sleepy surface of East Timor’s seaside capital.

Underlying everything is the potential for instability that stalks almost all energy–rich developing countries with billions of dollars in oil revenues accumulating in government coffers.

The IMF calls East Timor the “most oil–dependent economy in the world”, with petroleum income accounting for around 95 percent of total government revenue in 2009.

“The reality is we are a post–conflict country, we’ve got a large chunk of young people who are unemployed… and a lot of conflict as a result of our history,” opposition Fretilin party spokesman Jose Teixeira said.

“I think we’ve taken some steps forward but we haven’t done that well.”

The United Nations handed policing responsibilities to local police in March, more than a decade after UN–backed troops entered the country following East Timor’s historic 1999 vote to split from Indonesia.

There are still around 1,200 UN police in East Timor, or Timor–Leste as it is formally known, in addition to about 500 Australian–led troops under a separate security mandate.

The UN mission is due to wind up after presidential polls slated for April and a parliamentary vote in June, with Libya looming as the world body’s next likely nation–building project.

But analysts say East Timor’s police are still incapable of dealing with even minor unrest, and accuse them of having links to shadowy martial arts gangs responsible for frequent outbreaks of violence.

Observers saw echoes of 2006 — when rioting and factional fighting brought the country to the brink of civil war — in gang–related violence last month in Zumalai, on the southern coast.

Mobs of martial arts gang members set fire to dozens of homes as they rampaged through the town after one of their number, a police officer and former independence guerrilla, was murdered.

Gang leaders in Dili denied involvement in organised violence, but security analyst Nelson Belo said there was ample evidence that political factions were using martial arts groups as muscle.

“In your country if something happens you immediately call the police. In East Timor you call ‘big brother’, which means the gang,” Belo told AFP.

“There are a lot of ‘big brothers’ in the community. The police will come after everything has happened to pick up the dead bodies or evacuate the victims.”

He said a culture of impunity had developed in the country of around a million people under the leadership of President Jose Ramos–Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who have put reconciliation before justice.

As a result, East Timorese who joined pro–Indonesian militias during the bloodshed surrounding the independence referendum have started returning from exile in the knowledge they will not be prosecuted for their crimes.

Belo describes the returnee issue as a “time bomb” and fears the election could act as a detonator.

“We should be preparing for the domestic violence that we face every day, but we haven’t,” he said, criticizing the police for “acting as a paramilitary with big machine guns” instead of engaging with the community.

Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres — a possible presidential candidate — acknowledged the country faced many problems, but said fears of a repeat of the 2006 crisis were overblown.

“Even Darwin has a crime rate higher than Timor, and Dili is more safe than many capitals around the world,” he said, referring to the northern Australian city nearest to Dili.

The government has introduced pensions for veterans of the independence struggle so that no former fighters feel marginalised or aggrieved.

“You have to have stability in a holistic way, you can’t just look at policing,” he said.

Gutteres and Teixeira come from different sides of politics but both agreed the main parties had little to gain from stirring up trouble ahead of the polls.

“Everybody understands that … if you love this country and you love our people, we can’t afford another crisis,” Teixeira said.

“If we have another … crisis, that’s it, it’s the end. It’s failed state status. But we didn’t fall off that brink in 2006 and I don’t think we will now.”


Four Corners accused over story that hastened the fall of Alkatiri

Sydney Morning Herald

September 9, 2011

A filmmaker says an ABC program on East Timor
took the word of an unreliable witness, writes Wendy Frew.

A NEW documentary about East Timor has raised
questions about a Gold Walkley-winning ABC TV
program that led to the resignation of Mari Alkatiri as prime minister in 2006.

Breaking the News, directed by Nicholas Hansen,
examines the relationship between local and
foreign journalists in East Timor and examines
the Four Corners program ”Stoking the Fires”.
Hansen, who spent four years researching and
filming the documentary, says Four Corners
painted a potentially misleading picture of the
government’s alleged involvement in arming
civilian militia – an issue that remained clouded
in uncertainty. He told the Herald the
willingness of Four Cornersto accept the
testimony of unreliable characters and its
failure to investigate possible links between the
militia and the then president Xanana Gusmao put
its report ”on a very shaky trajectory”.

Four Corners investigated claims that in May
2006, when East Timor was apparently on the brink
of civil war, Alkatiri ordered his minister of
the interior, Rogerio Lobato, to arm a secret
civilian security team. The report produced what
it said was evidence Alkatiri at least knew his minister was arming civilians.
Advertisement: Story continues below

It spoke to the leader of one militia, Commander
Railos, who said Alkatiri told him to
”eliminate” about 600 disgruntled soldiers
(known as petitioners), opposition leaders, some
military leaders and any Fretilin members who opposed Alkatiri.

Lobato was later found guilty of manslaughter and
sentenced to seven years’ jail. Alkatiri denied
the allegations and prosecutors said there was no
evidence to substantiate them.

Four Corners filmed a ”sting” that involved
Railos staging a mock gun battle against the
petitioners, then phoning Lobato to get his
approval to shoot them. No petitioners were at the scene.

Hansen’s documentary – which was first shown at
the Dungog Film Festival in May and will screen
in Sydney next month – quotes East Timor
journalists who say Four Corners did not tell the
full story. A Timor Post reporter, Rosa Garcia,
who worked with Four Corners, said she did not
know who asked Railos to stage the mock gun
battle and she didn’t think Four Cornersknew
either. She says when she brought the story about
the militia to the ABC she said Railos and his
men were sheltering at Gusmao’s house.

In Hansen’s documentary, Garcia says: ”We cannot
interview Xanana Gusmao. That is why the Four
Corners program is not complete, for me.”

The executive producer of Four Corners, Sue
Spencer, told theHeraldFour Corners stood by the
program. She denied it failed to pursue the link
with Gusmao, but said he had refused to be
interviewed. She said the program ”presented
evidence that Alkatiri was aware the illegal
handover of weapons to civilians had occurred and
had failed to act appropriately. Nowhere in the
[Hansen] documentary are these revelations disputed.”

She said the program made it clear Railos had no
proof Alkatiri wanted the petitioners eliminated
and there was no reason claims by his opponents
should not have been investigated. But Hansen
says knowing who was behind the stunt ”would
have unlocked important information about Railos’s accomplices”.

”To accept that this unreliable character
Railos, while ready to incriminate an interior
minister and prime minister, had not taken up
with other powerful backers, also closed an
avenue of inquiry and robbed this investigation of the balance it required.

”We note that Railos’s attempts to attribute his
lethal use of arms to instructions from Prime
Minister Mari Alkatiri did not result in a
conviction when later tested in court.”

After the Four Corners broadcast, and in light of
months of chaos in the capital, Dili, and
increasing pressure from Gusmao, Alkatiri
resigned. ”This left the way clear for Jose
Ramos-Horta to run for president and for Gusmao
to run for the prime ministership,” Hansen’s film says.

The editor of the Timor Post, Mouzinho Lopes,
says in the film Gusmao was a clever but
”dangerous” politician. ”It can be considered
a game of Xanana Gusmao because Railos is his man
… If you play [Gusmao] once he will play you twice.”

A UN investigation into the violence found Railos
led 31 fighters into ambushes of Timorese
soldiers and had been supplied uniforms and
weapons on Lobato’s order. It did not accept that
Alkatiri gave instructions to Railos to
”eliminate” his political opponents but said
there was ”a reasonable suspicion that the
former prime minister at least had knowledge
about the distribution of [police] weapons to civilians”.

Fretilin, the former ruling party, which lost
power in 2007, has claimed Railos was responsible
for continuing acts of violence while carrying a
travel authorisation letter signed by Gusmao.

Timor Leste military chief resigns

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 09/02/2011 5:58 PM

Taur Matan Ruak, the Timor Leste military chief, resigned on Friday, purportedly in order to run for president next year, a senior official said.

Ruak submitted his letter of resignation to the cabinet in Dili, Timor Leste vice-prime minister Jose Luis Guterres said on Friday as quoted by Antara.

“The government has received the [resignation] letter,” Guterres said.

Ruak, who is a veteran of the Timor Leste independence struggle against Indonesia, has not openly declared that he will run in the presidential election next March, but Guterres said that in the past few months Ruak had shown signs that he would run for the presidency.

If Ruak does run it would probably be against incumbent president Jose Ramos-Horta.