Subject: 4 East Timor Reports: Road Ahead Is Clouded By Uncertainty; Future of Australian Role Questioned [from IHT, Australian, Age]

4 Reports:

- IHT: East Timor's Road Ahead Is Clouded By Uncertainty

- Australian/Greg Sheridan: Our Role In East Timor Is Long Term

- Age: Searching For Australia's Role In Timor

- Australian: East Timor's Courageous Voice Of Independence


International Herald Tribune February 13, 2008

East Timor's road ahead is clouded by uncertainty

By Donald Greenlees

photo: East Timorese residents watch the coffin of renegade soldier Major Alfedo Reinado pass at a hospital in Dili. Reinado was killed during an attack on East Timor's president, Jose Ramos-Horta. Firdia Lisnawati/The Associated Press

DILI, East Timor: Before President José Ramos-Horta was shot outside his home on Monday, the Nobel Peace laureate was not overly concerned about his personal security in a country with a history of sudden and unpredictable eruptions of violence.

He was in the habit of taking dawn walks for his health along the shoreline near his home in the east of this seaside capital. On the morning he was shot, he left his home accompanied by a solitary guard, who was armed with nothing more than a pistol.

Last December, in a sign of his confidence in the capability of local security forces and in his personal safety, Ramos-Horta had requested that foreign police officers and soldiers assigned to the United Nations and international stabilization force no longer participate in his security detail, senior UN officials said Wednesday.

Thereafter, his security was shared by two groups. Within the compound of his home, soldiers of the East Timor Defense Force stood guard.

Whenever he left home, he was accompanied by a squad from the East Timor National Police.

Ramos-Horta's apparent belief that he was not a likely target of violence might nearly have cost his life.

Doctors said he had been lucky to survive the three gunshot wounds he received when he was attacked by a group of men led by a renegade former military police officer, Alfredo Reinado. Ramos-Horta, 58, remained in serious condition Wednesday in a hospital in the northern Australian city of Darwin, doctors said.

The UN and East Timorese police have begun a joint investigation of the shooting, and the ambush an hour later of a motorcade in which Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão was traveling. On Wednesday, they sought arrest warrants from prosecutors for four people after interviewing 11 witnesses to the attack on Ramos-Horta. Reinado and one of his men were shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with security guards at the scene.

But the United Nations, which has a security mandate for East Timor, as well as the international military force and the East Timorese government are facing questions about how the country's two top leaders were exposed to attack, why a renowned rebel leader and his gang were left largely free to roam the countryside for months and what had motivated Monday's shootings.

The commander of East Timor's defense force posed some of these questions on Tuesday when he called for the appointment of a panel of inquiry.

But analysts said Wednesday that the problems might lie as much with the political strategy the government was pursing against the military rebels as with the adequacy of security measures.

Reinado had won status as a folk hero in some quarters in East Timor, particularly among unemployed youth. He had deserted in 2006 during a confrontation between sections of the army and the former government over alleged discrimination against soldiers from the country's western districts.

Mari Alkatiri, the former prime minister, tried to resolve the dispute by dismissing several hundred troops. Violence erupted in which 37 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. Reinado was captured and jailed, but he later escaped.

The 2006 violence helped bring down Alkatiri's government. But the fear of it being repeated has influenced attitudes to security ever since.

Ramos-Horta and Gusmão led attempts for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with Reinado's men. Last year they asked the UN and international military force, largely made up of Australian soldiers, to abandon the hunt for Reinado in the hope that he might surrender of his own accord.

Ramos-Horta was probably the closest thing Reinado had to a friend in the government. The president had gone so far as to issue a letter of free passage to the army mutineer, allowing him to wander the countryside and unite his supporters.

The chief of the UN mission in East Timor, Atul Khare, said in an interview Wednesday that the government's reluctance to capture Reinado by force had resulted in a hiatus in security operations against his small rebel group, numbering about two dozen former soldiers.

Khare said the UN police, who had the authority to arrest Reinado, did not have the capability to confront a heavily armed opponent in the densely forested and mountainous interior of East Timor.

"We have a police force which is there to maintain law and order, not to go after heavily armed militarized rebels," Khare said. "We don't have a military component in the UN. Therefore, it was very clear that going after these people was much beyond the capacities which were provided to us."

The Australian-led international military force, which comprises about 1,000 troops, is not under UN authority. The international stabilization force halted operations against the rebels following a failed night raid last March. That action had led to rioting in Dili by Reinado's sympathizers and prompted the government to ask the international force to end armed pursuit for fear of provoking wider unrest.

Some UN officials say the efforts Ramos-Horta was leading to reach a negotiated settlement make Monday's shootings puzzling. Officials say it was reasonable for Ramos-Horta to feel sanguine about his personal security.

There is growing speculation that the shooting might have been a kidnapping attempt that went horribly wrong rather than a planned assassination or coup plot, as Gusmão initially described it.

"The evidence isn't leading to assassination plots," said one senior UN official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the mission. "All the evidence points to a double kidnapping."

The view is partly based on Gusmão's own assessment of the attack. He has highlighted the fact that no one in his convoy was killed in the ambush near his home and that most of the firing was at the wheels of the vehicles.

Khare said it was too early to draw conclusions.

Regardless, analysts say negotiating with Reinado was difficult.

Alan Dupont, a professor of international studies at the University of Sydney, who has advised the East Timorese government, said Ramos-Horta had been worried about turning Reinado into a martyr.

"I think that his thinking was absolutely right," Dupont said. "I think the fact that Reinado wasn't able to reconcile himself was really a reflection of a flaw in Reinado's character. Most people who knew him recognized that the guy was extremely difficult to talk rationally to."

Still, the death of Reinado in the gunfight at Ramos-Horta's home does not leave East Timor in a more secure state, analysts said. On Wednesday, Parliament approved Gusmão's request to extend the 48-hour state of emergency for another 10 days, under which an 8 p.m. curfew is imposed, unauthorized public gatherings are banned and the police are granted special additional powers.

Australia bolstered its 780-strong military deployment with an additional 140 troops and 70 police officers. East Timor's near neighbors, Australia and Indonesia, have justifiable concerns about the stability of the six-year-old nation. Civil war in East Timor following Portugal's abrupt de-colonization in 1975 caused a flood of refugees across the border into Indonesia and gave Indonesia the pretext to begin an invasion and a brutal 24-year occupation.

Hugh White, a former deputy secretary of the Australian Defense Department and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, said the international military commitment increasingly looks like it has no exit strategy.

"I don't think additional troops will make much difference," he said. "In the end these are not problems that the military can solve, the problems have to be solved by political negotiation, or reconfiguration of East Timor's political structures to reflect the social realities. That process seems to be happening very slowly if at all."

Tim Johnson in Sydney contributed reporting.


The Australian Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Role In East Timor Is Long Term

Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor

Revealed: Australian troops were once authorised to kill rebel leader Alfredo Reinado

IT isn't very often that a meeting of the Australian cabinet's National Security Committee authorises the killing of anybody. But that's what happened in February last year when the NSC, under the Howard government, met to consider the case of Alfredo Reinado, who was killed earlier this week outside the home of East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta.

Reinado was not killed by Australian soldiers. He was killed by Ramos Horta's East Timorese military body guards. But in February last year, the NSC authorised the Australian Defence Force to kill Reinado. Of course, the order was to capture him. There was not a specific order to kill him as such. But the NSC was very specific that the ADF could use lethal force. Members of the NSC discussed the possibility of Reinado being killed by Australian soldiers.

The NSC meeting left a deep impression on everyone who attended, ministers and officials alike. On March 4 last year Australian special forces, the SAS, attacked Reinado's jungle hide-out. It was a huge operation, with Black Hawk helicopters and every form of relevant modern gadgetry.

But as a mission, it failed. Four of Reinado's supporters were killed but Reinado and most of his band escaped. The reason the mission failed is that a member of the Australian military took an East Timorese into his confidence about the mission. That East Timorese tipped off Reinado, who was able to prepare an avenue of escape.

Reinado was on the run for several months, pursued by the ADF, including the SAS. Several times while he was on the run, he was able to talk to the media, yet our forces were not able to get hold of him. A couple of times they knew where he was, but for one reason or another, perhaps the danger of civilian casualties, they did not get hold of him.

Towards the end of April, Ramos Horta convinced the Australians to call off the man-hunt for Reinado. Reinado by then had a significant cult following among a small minority of East Timorese, especially in the west. Ramos Horta feared that eventually the Australian forces would kill Reinado in a firefight and this would be politically and socially polarising in his fragile society.

The tragic irony is that Reinado would later be the cause of Ramos Horta nearly losing his life in a hail of gunfire outside the President's home.

Most of these facts have not been revealed before. Combined with the still very murky events of this week, they teach us two lessons, one tactical, the other strategic.

The tactical lesson is that our performance in East Timor has not been altogether perfect. No one could reasonably admire the SAS and the army more than this writer. Overall in East Timor, as in other theatres, they have performed well. But too often those of us who love the ADF tend to think of it as the military equivalent of the Wallabies when they won the World Cup. But the Wallabies subsequently went off their game and they are nowhere near as good now as they were then. It's very difficult for an outsider to assess the performance of the military in any given case, because it's so hard to have all the relevant information.

But the bottom line is that the operation against Reinado last year failed. For months he was on the run and we couldn't get to him. Just as we rightly praise the ADF when it succeeds, these failures must be registered as failures.

Similarly, this week's attacks on Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao represent an intelligence failure and, to some extent, an operational failure on the part of the ADF.

It is true that the ADF was explicitly asked by the East Timorese Government to withdraw from providing close personal protection for Ramos Horta and Gusmao, so that this job could be undertaken by East Timorese soldiers. But if a band of known military rebels can ride into the capital and shoot up the President and the Prime Minister, this suggests the outside force providing security for the country is not really working.

Similarly, the fact that no one had any word of this, that there were no paid or other informers anywhere in Reinado's camp, is an operational intelligence failure.

It certainly gives me no pleasure to write these words. The courage and professionalism of Australian soldiers is generally second to none. But these are objective measures. The operations failed.

This leads to the strategic question. We are acting long-term in East Timor on a de facto basis but we are constantly thinking short-term.

It is almost a decade since East Timor voted for independence. In that time Australia has been intimately involved, and for most of that time we have had a military presence in East Timor. We have spent $4 billion in aid and military deployments. Yet every deployment we make, we think of as an aberration and a short-term thing, just to get over this or that crisis.

Kevin Rudd in Opposition criticised the Howard government for being too reactive in its policy towards the Melanesian world. Yet here, 10 weeks after coming into office, Rudd has had to react to a new East Timor crisis and he has reacted in exactly the way the Howard government would have reacted: by dispatching more troops and police.

That is not to criticise Rudd, or Howard for that matter, and suggest such a reaction is wrong. But if we are the new metropolitan power in the Melanesian world, guaranteeing security, dispensing vital and ongoing aid, keeping the international order benign, monitoring the spread of infectious disease and everything else, then we need to make a long-term investment in national skills in this area.

How many of our personnel in East Timor -- be they army, police, aid workers, diplomats or others -- speak Tetum? Whatever our military doctrine, the practice of the past 10 years shows us that we need a lot of soldiers who speak Tetum, Arabic and Pashto. The ADF is much better at taking on this sort of self-education than any other institution in society. Generally the only language people in many institutions really want to learn is Chinese, because they hope one day it will make them rich.

But the profound, civilisation-wide crisis throughout the Melanesian world is going to be dealt with by no one but Australia. Yet we hope it won't be so, and we fear being seen as neo-colonialists, and therefore we never quite develop the self-confidence, or the skills base, to make a success of our long-term role.

East Timor will cost us blood and treasure for many, many years to come. Building that assumption into our institutions, their training and outlook, is the first step to keeping the costs bearable.


The Age (Melbourne, Australia) 14 February 2008

Searching For Australia's Role In Timor

Daniel Flitton

The Rudd Government needs a clear plan to deal with a fragile neighbour.

THE words seemed so plain, unadorned by emotion, and, well, kind of dull. But their meaning carries long-lasting consequences. No, I'm not talking about the much-awaited and moving apology made in Parliament to indigenous Australians and the stolen generations - it's another, much briefer, statement Kevin Rudd made earlier in the week, about sending more Australian troops to East Timor.

"Remember, historically we've had a relationship with East Timor where we have a particular set of responsibilities relating to their security," he said. Our particular responsibility for East Timor's security? Think on this for a moment. Has the Australian Government agreed to safeguard the defence and wellbeing of the small, oil-rich country to the north?

Because if this is true, the PM has some crucial questions to answer. How long will this overall troop commitment last? How much will it cost? Most importantly, what is the eventual goal, for Australia, and what do the Timorese authorities need to do in return?

Pragmatic defence chiefs are already betting Australia will be in East Timor for a long time. Last year, the Australian commander there instructed all his troops - who make up the bulk of an international force supporting the UN mission in East Timor - to learn the local language. This would help them on their current deployment and in the future, he said.

Certainly, the attacks this week on East Timor's two most powerful leaders, President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, signal a new low in the young nation's difficult and bloody history. As Gusmao put it, this was not simply an assault on two men, but a strike against the democratic character of the country. Australia is rightly appalled and it is encouraging that Timor has stayed calm - so far.

Canberra was quick to offer help, and the sentiment is hard to fault. But already there are questions about what adding another 100 or so foreign troops can actually achieve, especially when nearly 1000 are already in the country. While Rudd said "an appropriate show of force is necessary", the head of East Timor's military blames the international troops for failing to prevent the attacks in the first place. Maybe, but Australia will argue it was Gusmao's Government that last year asked the international forces to back off in the hunt for Alfredo Reinado, the renegade commander behind the attacks who was killed at Ramos Horta's home.

But in the emotional aftermath of an attack on East Timor's independence heroes, such finer points of detail about the security arrangements in the country could well be lost.

Australia is already caught up as a player in Timor's poisonous political fray. Gusmao is despised by many in the major opposition party, Fretilin, accused by them of robbing them of power. Suspicions also run deep that Australia helped to engineer the downfall of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri in 2006 - a ridiculous proposition, given Alkatiri's failings as a leader. Nor was Ramos Horta content to be a figurehead president. He wanted to keep a close eye on the Gusmao government, and even test the boundaries of his constitutional powers to play a more active role in Timor's politics. He was willing to leverage the support generated by his international profile - especially in Australia.

Also, having hundreds of Australian troops on the ground has an inevitable impact on Timorese society. The military spends about $11,000 each week in the local markets - a lot of money in an economy where most people are lucky to earn a few dollars a day. No amount of careful planning can avoid a culture of dependency growing in response to this expenditure.

So a difficult challenge for Australia, or any nation that sends troops to a fragile country, is finding a way to withdraw and not inadvertently trigger a mini economic collapse. When people lose their livelihood, seething anger can quickly spread.

East Timor is blessed with rich oil reserves, so there is plenty of money flowing in to spend on roads, schools and health care. The paradox is that without adequate security, such development is next to impossible. Just getting a steady and reliable power supply takes time: too long, and public frustration builds, and people invariably look for someone to blame. A rich southern neighbour can become an easy target, especially for those wanting to deflect responsibility from themselves. Alkatiri has already said more Australian troops are not the answer to events this week.

And can Australian forces be impartial if they are seen to be acting at the direction of East Timor's Government? International troops will probably fan out over the next few weeks to round up those behind the attacks. Some Timorese - those supporters of Reinado, however few - will see this as an act of war. If they retaliate against Australian forces, what then?

There are real limits to outside military intervention, even in support of a good cause. Look at the international experience of the past couple of decades - in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia - and it's hard to find much encouragement.

East Timor has been an exception, of sorts, but the challenges are still great. Australia has already spent about $3 billion in East Timor in the decade since the independence ballot. But the urgent task now for the Rudd Government is to clearly outline what Australia hopes to achieve in East Timor in the years ahead.

Daniel Flitton is diplomatic editor.


The Australian Thursday, February 14, 2008


East Timor's Courageous Voice Of Independence

Bob Howarth

AT the same time Alfredo Reinado and his assassins were exchanging fire with President Jose Ramos Horta's bodyguards at dawn on Monday, the Timor Post's press was running.

Ironically, the tiny nation's first and only independent daily newspaper was launching a campaign on page one: ``Hapara Violencia'', or ``Stop the Violence''.

Like too many East Timorese journalists, editor-in-chief Mouzi Lopez, 28, is no stranger to violence. And the tragedy is no one has really told the tales of violence against local media.

Mouzi's father Gilberto, 56, is one of the heroes of the guerilla war against the invading Indonesians. Mouzi's mother was shot dead by Indonesian troops in 1993 for refusing to reveal her husband's jungle hideout.

Two weeks ago I drove seven hours west of Dili with Mouzi and Australian Press Council member Gary Evans to a dirt-poor village to meet Mouzi's father and relatives who hid the schoolboy Mouzi from the vengeful invaders.

Evans and I spent three weeks in Dili providing a range of training for Timor Post staff, and met a government committee drafting new media laws.

Mouzi's village school near Los Palos in far eastern Timor was burned to the ground and remains a shell today. His village sent 30 volunteers to join Falantil, Fretilin's military wing, to fight the Indonesians. Only three returned alive to their families.

My first trip to East Timor was on February 26, 2000, to help launch the Timor Post with equipment donated by Queensland Newspapers and other News Limited publishers.

At the time the paper was edited by Hugo da Costa, now a government MP. Coincidentally, da Costa and three other MPs met Reinado in the mountains on February 6 this year to discuss a possible peace deal.

Da Costa is no stranger to violence against local reporters. He was kidnapped by militia while trying to board a diplomatic evacuation flight in 1999 and escaped from the Dili police cells to the safety of West Timor on the roof-rack of a car carrying nuns, before taking a flight from Kupang to Jakarta.

In late 2001 I moved to Port Moresby to head News Limited's subsidiary Post-Courier newspaper for three years. In 2002 I agreed to sponsor two budding East Timorese reporters, Mouzi Lopez and Maria Raul, while they completed a journalism degree at Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea. Both were very popular students and fitted in perfectly with the Melanesian way of life. Mouzi's an accomplished singer and guitarist with a wide smile and was acclaimed as the hottest guy on campus in PNG.

Then, in 2005, Mouzi and Raul flew home to Dili after successfully completing their studies. Mouzi was appointed political editor of the Timor Post and Raul became a media adviser to then prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Raul left her job before the 2006 riots and political crisis to give birth to her daughter Tilha. Her father, lieutenant-colonel Domingus Raul, another Falantil hero, survived a rebel ambush the day his grand-daughter was born: two bullets passed through his uniform, but he was unscathed. The homes of Maria Raul and her father were burned to the ground, and a cousin was raped and murdered in the violent 2006 rampages during which 150,000 East Timorese fled to refugee camps. Today Raul and her child live in hiding with an aunt while her father travels with heavily armed bodyguards at all times.

Meanwhile, Mouzi became the nation's youngest editor when his boss, da Costa, answered Xanana Gusmao's call and successfully ran for parliament.

Mouzi works six days a week, 16hours a day on a monthly salary smaller than than a day's casual pay for an Australian metro sub-editor.

His team of 10 reporters earn an average of $US125 ($138) a month. They all ride motorbikes and pay for their own mobile phones. Three had their homes burned in the 2006 violence.

The Timor Post, one of three dailies in Dili and the only one not accepting government support to protect its independent reputation, is based in a run-down former Indonesian army office.

Little has changed from when we launched the paper's first edition on February 29, 2000, to mark the arrival of Indonesia's then president Abdurrahman Wahid, who apologised for the savage rampage by his army and its militias as Australian-led UN forces arrived in 1999.

Today the paper, which publishes in English, Portuguese, Bahasa and Tetum, has one PC connected to the internet and reporters often work without light or air-conditioning during Dili's daily blackouts.

Evans and I were staggered to learn the paper's correspondents travelled up to six hours on overcrowded buses from Suai, Same and Bacau to write their stories. The six donated laptops we carried with us will hopefully allow their reporters to email or send floppies to Dili instead.

We heard endless tales of intimidation of local journalists by high-ranking government officials, UN police, and even the Prime Minister's bodyguards.

Unfortunately, East Timor lacks a press council or a local reporters' protection watchdog, but this may change later this year.

Before we left Dili last week, Mouzi and his director cum general manager Jose Ximenes decided to redesign the Timor Post. They went for bigger headlines, modular layout and bigger photos after studying The Australian and Britain's The Guardian. Then they decided Monday, February 11, was the ideal day to launch their ``Stop the Violence'' campaign. The rest is history.

Hopefully, when Kevin Rudd visits Dili this week, he will make the effort to talk to local journalists such as Mouzi and not find time only for the Western parachute media, as his East Timorese counterparts do.

Bob Howarth teaches journalism at Griffith University's Gold Coast campus after a 43-year newspaper career in Australia, London, Hong Kong, PNG and East Timor.

Back to February  menu

December 2007
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu