Subject: AKI: Renegade Major should return to barracks, JRH

AST TIMOR: IT'S TIME FOR RENEGADE MAJOR TO RETURN TO BARRACKS, HORTA SAYS

Dili, 23 Nov. (AKI) - East Timor's prime minister Jose Ramos-Horta has asked renegade Major Alfredo Reinado Alves and his group to return to the army barracks, more than seven months after they deserted and joined the rebel soldiers in the hills, taking with them two trucks full of weapons and ammunition. The premier's appeal follows a decision by East Timor Army Chief, Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, to form an internal group within the army, tasked to mediate with the deserters.

"I ask Major Alfredo Reinado and his group to please return to the barracks," Horta told reporter in the capital Dili, on Thursday. "I believe that now is a good time to start talking," the Nobel Prize laureate added.

Major Alfredo Reinado is the highest ranking deserter. He abandoned the military on 4 May 2006 to join approximately 600 former soldiers who had been sacked in March 2006 after complaining of regional discrimination in promotions.

The sacking sparked a national crisis that left 37 people dead, forced 155,000 to flee their homes, brought down the government of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri and led to the deployment of foreign troops in East Timor.

Horta, who also holds the position of Minister of Defense, said that his main task now is to find a way to normalise the relationship among the armed forces, the police and the country's youth.

"Now, I am trying to heal the wounds between the army and the police. After that, President Xanana Gusmao and I, together with representatives of the police and the army, plan to visit every refugee camp and suburb area and tell people that they no longer need to be afraid of the security forces," Horta said.

The split between the police force and the army, which erupted during the crisis, is rooted in the different composition structure of the two corps. The police include a large number of men who had worked for the Indonesian administration during the 24-year long occupation. The army, on the other hand, is made up mostly of former freedom fighters.

The worst incident happened on 25 May, when ten unarmed policemen, who had been assured safe-passage by the United Nations, were killed and 30 more were injured when rogue elements of the military opened fire. The police officers were accused of having attacked the military headquarters a day earlier.

Meanwhile, when contacted by Adnkronos International (Aki), Brigadier Taur confirmed that he would welcome back Major Alfredo Reinado. However, he also stressed that the judicial process for his case should continue.

"I am ready any time to meet Major Alfredo to solve the problem. But that does not mean forgeting justice," Brigadier Taur told AKI.

(Fsc/Ner/Aki)

Nov-23-06 11:58


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