Subject: AU: Meeting with fugitive Reinado; prison fugitives; refugees
- The Australian: Exclusive: First meeting with fugitive Alfredo Reinado
- The Australian: UN draws a blank on Dili prison fugitives
- Supporters of East Timorese rebel leaders hold prayer service
- East Timor seeks Norway's help to get refugees home
The Australian September 12, 2006
Exclusive: First meeting with fugitive Alfredo Reinado
AUSTRALIAN and UN police have conceded they lack the numbers to track down East Timorese rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who has been on the run after breaking out of a Dili prison almost two weeks ago.
The fugitive army major, interviewed by The Australian in a secret location, looked fit, healthy and not harassed by the law as he launched a scathing attack on a "corrupt" justice system.
He also took a swipe at the new Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, whom he accused of spending too much time overseas and making promises he was unable to keep.
In his first face-to-face interview with a foreign journalist since escaping from Becora prison, Major Reinado called for the Catholic Church and President Xanana Gusmao to lead a national debate on ways to solve the political crisis.
Thumbing his nose at the attempts to recapture him, he said he was willing to negotiate with the Government about handing himself in, but not if it meant a return to prison. "I'm ready to face the tribunal, but when everything is fixed," he said.
The Australian found Major Reinado in the country's southern mountains after a week of protracted negotiations. These involved a series of calls to changing mobile numbers, text messages and the exchange of a secret password with one of Major Reinado's supporters at a rendezvous four hours' drive over East Timor's main mountain range.
Major Reinado, 39, admitted he escaped in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and boasted that he waved to New Zealand soldiers as he left. But he said the UN and international security forces in East Timor should concentrate on catching other criminals who were worse than him.
He reserved the right of self-defence, saying he had done nothing wrong and was entitled to protect himself.
Police are now waiting on reinforcements to help round up the rogue elements that remain a threat in the half-island state.
Steve Lancaster, the commander of the Australian police contingent in Dili, said the East Timorese Government was considering posting a reward to help recapture Major Reinado.
The UN's police commander in East Timor, Antero Lopes, , said that extra numbers, which should start arriving next week, were needed to defeat a wall of silence created by family and friends of the rebels.
Australian Federal Police spokesman Tim Dodds conceded yesterday there were not enough police to comb wide areas of the country to track down the Australian-trained rebel leader, who escaped from the prison with 56 other inmates on August 30.
"I don't know anyone who knows exactly where he (Major Reinado) is. It would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack," Mr Dodds said.
With about 120 AFP officers, Australia has one of the largest police deployments in East Timor but, like the 1000-strong military force, they are currently under national and not UN command.
Unlike the defence forces, the AFP will join the UN but negotiations are continuing between Canberra and UN headquarters in New York about their terms of engagement.
Major Reinado said recent claims that he was prepared to fight Australian troops made him angry. "I did not say that. I've had good relations with the Australian military.
"I'm not angry with the ADF but the GNR (Portuguese riot police). They know what I stand for. The Portuguese want to silence me," he said.
Major Reinado trained in Australia and his wife lives in Perth, where she is expecting the couple's fourth child. "I miss them very much," he said. "My oldest kid, I hear, is sick. That worries me and they are alone, but I'd like to thank the Australians for looking after them."
He blamed his plight on a corrupt legal system and self-serving politicians but said he would not wage a guerilla war or take up arms against his country.
Major Reinado remained fiercely loyal to Mr Gusmao, saying he was "like a father".
"Gusmao is the only East Timorese leader to be trusted and the only one with a capacity to heal the broken nation," he said.
And he said his arrest in Dili for illegal weapons possession was concocted by pro-Portuguese political interests designed to thwart reconciliation talks planned by the President. However, he was cagey about the issue of weapons in his possession.
He said he was willing to negotiate with the Government about handing himself in but not if it meant a return to prison. "I'm ready to face the tribunal but when everything is fixed," he said, repeating a long list of complaints about East Timor's dysfunctional justice system.
Arrested initially on illegal weapons charges, he was later charged with attempted murder in connection with a May 23 gun battle involving defence force soldiers in which two people were killed.
"You don't solve this crisis with weapons. That time is past, my friend. Now is the time to talk. We'll have a few coffees, that's what I'd like to do, like the dialogue I've suggested," Major Reinado said.
Although Mari Alkatiri had resigned as prime minister in June, he said, "Maputo socialists like Alkatiri" remained in the ministries ,and the influence of the former prime minister was still evident.
Major Reinado said his escape from Becora Prison on August 30 was planned with two hours' notice because he had been told an application for house arrest was likely to fail.
He admitted to having threatened a prison officer to open one of two steel padlocked gates, which allowed him and 56 other inmates to walk to freedom.
"Look, I could have escaped from day one," he said. "Have you seen that jail? I waited until visiting hours. It did not involve a lot of planning.
"Remember, I'm a well-trained military man and I was worried for my men. They did not deserve this," he said, referring to his friends arrested with him on July 25.
The awkward structure of the command of the international force in East Timor is making it more difficult to track down the fugitives.
While the UN has the mandate to uphold policing, it cannot order the AFP to track down Major Reinado. That has to come from Canberra.
Commissioner Antero Lopes, in charge of the UN police force, admits he needs more men wearing blue berets and needs them quickly, including Australians.
He told The Australian he expected within eight weeks to have a large enough force of blue berets to be confident about upholding law and order in the capital.
The UN police force is projected to be 1600 strong, but given demands by other UN missions for policing resources, it is increasingly doubtful the target will be met by countries that have expressed an interest.
Commissioner Lopes also wants former East Timorese police back on the beat sooner than the AFP, which is demanding tighter screening measures to ensure any rogue elements are not readmitted into the service.
The Australian Wednesday, September 13, 2006
UN draws a blank on Dili prison fugitives
THE UN has admitted it failed to capture any of the 56 prisoners who escaped in Dili two weeks ago with Australian-trained army rebel Alfredo Reinado.
The UN Commissioner of Police in East Timor, Antero Lopes, said friends and families were believed to be helping the escapees, who include nine serious criminals.
"It's a mixture of individuals, some of whom committed serious crimes, although most did not," Mr Lopes said.
"So far, there has been no news that any have perpetrated acts of violence against the population."
Mr Lopes said no escapees had been recaptured since the breakout on August 30 and it was feared they had fled Dili, with many thought to be hiding in remote jungle.
A list of the escapees, obtained by The Australian, shows at least nine convicted murderers were among the fugitives, who also include arsonists and two rapists.
Mr Lopes said the arrival of additional UN police would allow a broader, more intensive search in rural areas.
Police claim they lack the resources to hunt for Major Reinado, despite The Australian's interview with the rebel in a hideaway last weekend.
Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said if The Australian could track down East Timor's most wanted man, then "the buck stops with John Howard to give the men and women on the ground in East Timor more resources to do the job that they were sent in there to do".
Mr Rudd urged Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to reconsider the plan to reduce Australia's military presence before the next East Timorese election, due in May.
"The escape and evasion from security forces of Major Reinado in East Timor emphasises the fact that security is still not under control," Mr Rudd said.
Mr Downer and Justice Minister Chris Ellison said it was important to be realistic about the the search.
"East Timor's mountainous terrain hampered operations," the ministers said in a joint statement.
"While significant progress has been made on reducing the availability of weapons in the community, a number have not been surrendered.
"And tensions between some groups within East Timor society remained high.
"Australian authorities were intent on managing the operation to minimise the risk of violent confrontation."
Supporters of East Timorese rebel leaders hold prayer service
GLENO, East Timor, September 12 (AFP) -- About 300 supporters of two East Timorese rebel leaders held a Roman Catholic prayer service Tuesday to ask God to bless the pair blamed for stirring up instability in the tiny nation.
The service was held for Alfredo Reinado, a leader of 600 deserting East Timorese soldiers who escaped from jail last month and who remains on the run, and Vicente "Railos" da Conceicao, who claims he was asked to set up a hit squad by the former prime minister.
"It is to ask God to give a blessing and strength to Major Alfredo and Railos and whoever struggles for truth and opposes injustice," organiser Vital dos Santos told AFP.
"Also this mass is to tell the world that for people such as Alfredo and Railos, it is not proper to accuse them of criminality, because the people, community and the church, see Reinado and Railos as people that struggle to obtain justice," he said.
The service was held in Gleno, a town some 50 kilometres (32 miles) south of Dili near barracks holding Australian troops, who were among 3,200 peacekeepers deployed to restore order after violence in May.
Two helicopters manned by peacekeepers surveyed the area while five Australian troops stood guard at the service.
Organisers had earlier reportedly said they expected thousands of supporters to attend.
Reinado led a faction of deserting soldiers in May and was accused by former prime minister Mari Alkatiri of being among those sparking civil unrest that left 21 people dead and forced thousands to flee their homes.
He was arrested in July on charges of weapons possession but escaped from jail late last month.
Reinado told an Australian newspaper in a report Tuesday that he was willing to negotiate with the government about handing himself in, but not if it meant a return to prison.
The rebel also claimed his arrest was concocted by pro-Portuguese political interests designed to thwart reconciliation talks planned by President Xanana Gusmao, the Australian reported.
Conceicao's revelations partly forced Alkatiri to resign in June but he was earlier seen as a destabilising figure for heading a militia with unknown intentions.
Dili is currently awaiting the arrival of some 1,600 UN police.
East Timor seeks Norway's help to get refugees home
DILI, September 12 (AFP) -- East Timor has sought aid from Norway to help move tens of thousands of people languishing in camps back to their homes, the prime minister's office said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta has asked for 4.5 million dollars from Oslo to fund a plan designed to get refugees who fled unrest that has plagued East Timor since April back to their homes.
"Norway is committed to helping us fund and implement the Simu Malu program which is designed to prepare the way for people living in the internally displaced persons camps to return to their homes," Ramos-Horta said.
He did not however confirm that the money would be provided by Norway, which he visited for three days earlier this month.
At least 60,000 East Timorese remain in camps in the capital Dili, too afraid to return home, while up to 70,000 are estimated to be sheltering in camps in other districts.
Residents of the camps have endured intimidation and attacks by roaming gangs of youths and have complained that the government has not done enough to ensure their security.
International peacekeepers were sent to restore order in the tiny nation in May but say they cannot patrol all of the camps.
East Timor, one of Asia's poorest nations, descended into chaos after some 600 deserting soldiers were sacked in March.
The United Nations agreed last month to send more than 1,600 international police to fully restore stability.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service