Subject: Guns, ammo missing from E Timor police

Also: E Timor rebel's Aussie suburban life; Gracious exit for Alkatiri secret to peace

Guns, ammo missing from E Timor police

Mark Dodd, Dili

June 06, 2006

ALMOST all the ammunition and more than half the firearms of East Timor's national police force are missing.

Unaccounted for, according to a security analyst, are more than half the 3000 Glock 9mm pistols issued to the 3400-member police force (PNTL), whose authority has ceased to exist in Dili.

More than half the PNTL's 400 Steyr assault rifles and Heckler & Koch HK-33 sub-machineguns, 160 of 200 FNC assault rifles and all F-2000 machine pistols issued to police bodyguard units are also missing.

The 2200-strong Australian-led taskforce in East Timor has seized more than 1000 weapons, but these include knives, axes and machetes.

Some of the missing firearms and equipment is believed to be in the hands of the capital's ethnic gangs.

Until now, the gangs' battles have been fought with sling shots, knives, clubs and spears, but an East Timorese journalist robbed and bashed in the troubled Cormoro area last week was first doused in the eyes with police-issue pepper spray.

Ethnic violence between eastern Lorosae and western Loromonu people flared in Cormoro yesterday, less than 500m from the Australian embassy.

Australian troops backed by armoured personnel carriers kept the two sides apart. But frustration was evident among troopers over their limited powers to arrest and hold teenage gang members,

East Timor's political stalemate showed little sign of resolution after a meeting on Sunday of the ruling Fretilin party re-endorsed unpopular Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

And in a baffling development, disgraced former interior minister Rogerio Lobato - who resigned last week - was appointed deputy party leader.

Australian diplomatic sources say they will be happy if the ministerial line-up, despite its faults, holds together until the national elections due next May.

Embassy sources said they hoped enough pressure had been released with the resignations of the defence and interior ministers to ensure a return to a semblance of political stability in Dili.

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, on a fact-finding mission to Dili, warned of the dangers of Australian peacekeepers becoming caught up in East Timor's political crisis. "It is very important that Australian men and women in uniform don't end up as meat in the sandwich in any continuing political dispute," Mr Rudd said. "East Timor has its own constitutional and democratic processes for resolving its own internal problems."

Dr Alkatiri confirmed to Mr Rudd that he had no intention of stepping down.

And the World Food Program yesterday began the first of its planned food distributions to tens of thousands of displaced city residents living in refugee camps.


The Australian

Gracious exit for Alkatiri secret to peace

ANALYSIS Bob Lowry June 06, 2006

THE standoff between East Timor President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri over who is in charge of restoring security would be high farce if the consequences were not so serious.

People need to be convinced that the Government is capable of managing security and resolving the conflict before they will risk returning to their homes and begin rebuilding their lives.

Alkatiri, protected by international forces, is giving the impression that he is back in control of executive government as if nothing had happened.

In constitutional terms, he is correct - but he has no moral authority to resolve the problem that his ineptitude created. He was right to ask for the resignation of the two principal ministers responsible, but he must bear the ultimate responsibility.

The question is: how can he be levered out of power without the gunmen being seen to win and with due respect paid to the constitution?

Gusmao has no authority to arbitrarily dismiss Alkatiri. Only parliament can make that recommendation to a president, who then acts after consulting the advisory Council of State.

Calling early elections is not an option, as there is no election law and it would take several months to enact a law and organise voter registration and the elections.

Calling another Fretilin party congress would not necessarily lead to Alkatiri's demise because they might go into siege mode and re-elect him as Fretilin leader to protect themselves - especially as there is no obvious successor.

The last challenger, Jose Luis Guterres, lost credibility when he meekly withdrew from the challenge at the last Fretilin congress three weeks ago and returned to his ambassadorial role in the US.

Recalling parliament and putting a vote of confidence or no confidence would also be a risky business because Fretilin has 55 of 88 seats and might go into siege mode here, too.

And, whatever happens, Fretilin is almost certain to win enough seats to govern in its own right or with minor coalition support at the next elections.

So there must be a compromise that allows Alkatiri a gracious exit, respects the constitution and denies the gunmen victory.

One option would be to convince Alkatiri to announce that he would not stand at the next elections, that he would recall parliament to pass the budget and the election law, and that elections would be held as soon as possible, possibly by December.

Allowing the parliament to run its full term would not convey an appreciation of the prevailing sense of crisis. With an early election, the population would see the Prime Minister taking responsibility and moderate their personal animosity towards him and the Government.

Having new ministers running defence and the police would strengthen the Government's legitimacy and give it the moral authority to resolve the standoff with the military.

Appointing a competent deputy prime minister and taking a judiciously timed extended overseas mission to seek support and investment might also be helpful.

Convincing Alkatiri to adopt such a course would require effective backroom politics and diplomacy to convince him that a more direct attack on his leadership is possible. Of course, some diehards will still demand Alkatiri's immediate removal but they must be isolated and neutralised if respect for constitutionality is to be preserved.

Bob Lowry was an adviser on national security in East Timor for a year from mid-2002


The Australian

E Timor rebel's Aussie suburban life

Paige Taylor


HE is the face of East Timor's rebels but 11 years ago Alfredo Reinado was living in a crowded Dandenong flat with his wife, Maria, and young family plotting his return to their homeland.

Reinado - who had been captured by Indonesian troops to work as a porter - captained a friend's fishing boat to Darwin, arriving on May 29, 1995.

Maria and their baby son Jose were among the 15 other men, women and children to make that journey. Then just 28, Reinado is a hero to those who were on board.

While many of his passengers thought of their arrival in Australia as a happy ending, Reinado saw it as a safe place to begin the struggle proper.

He returned four years later, joining his countrymen on their final march to independence in the lead-up to democratic elections in 2001, sacrificing his family life when his wife and children remained in the relative proximity and safety of Darwin.

Maria Reinado is again in Australia while her husband acts on the principles they both share. This time she is pregnant with the couple's fourth child and staying with relatives in Perth to avoid Dili's violent mobs.

Reinado, meanwhile, is living on his wits in the hills outside Dili after walking off the job as commander of the 33-strong military police unit with 20 other members of the military police and four members of the police riot squad on May 4.

They took two trucks loaded with weapons and ammunition to hilltop retreats.

"She understands, she is from a rebel family," Reinado's aunt Veira Alves told The Australian.

Maria Reinado is receiving occasional phone calls from her husband and is busy trying to find a house to rent in Perth.

But she is deeply worried about her husband's safety and becoming increasingly disheartened by the cost of accommodation driven by the state's commodities boom.

Her husband has been out of work since May 4.

"If you want my story, what do I get?" she said.

Friends say Maria, 28, was in high school in Dili when she met her husband-to-be, who friends say was working as a mechanic. They shared a sense of humour and a strong sense of social justice.

Maria's friend and fellow CNRT member from the 1990s, Angelina, said: "Maria is a very patient woman. She doesn't mind when her husband leaves her ... She is supportive."

Reinado's rise to rebel commander this year has surprised Australian friends who recall a fun-loving father and husband who liked to go fishing and watch the West Coast Eagles play.

Florindo Lemos, 32, who shared the cramped Melbourne flat with Reinado and his young family in their first months in Australia, said Reinado was moderate compared with some in the more radical Fretilin independence movement.

But he was deeply moved by injustice and cried at stories of his countrymen being tortured by Indonesians.

"He is such a good man, I felt so shocked when I saw on TV what he is doing but I know there must be a reason," said Lemos, who now lives in Perth with his Australian wife, Sarah, and their two young children.

"Alfredo stands up for what is right ... he is only doing what is right for everybody."

Reinado and Maria moved to Perth, where they had relatives, from Melbourne in 1995 and he spent the next four years working behind the scenes for East Timor's independence, as a member of the Perth branch of the Conselho Nacional de Resistencia Timorense (CNRT). In Perth in 1997, Reinado stood shoulder-to-shoulder with independence activist Jose Ramos Horta - now foreign minister in a government Reinado is leading a rebellion against - after he and other CNRT members met Ramos Horta in the West Australian capital to discuss fundraising for the East Timorese resistance.

At that meeting was fellow CNRT member Ade, who did not want his last name published - who said Reinado was measured and his views were not the most extreme of the group.

"He is very smart and sensible," he said.

"I am proud of what he is doing but it is mixed because of the effect on people."

Graham Wallis, an Australian who worked with the CNRT in Perth, said Reinado maintained a calm resolve.

"He wanted to do whatever it takes to get Indonesia out of East Timor," he said.

Back to June menu
May menu      
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu