Subject: Age: A Strike Against Democracy Could Help Build a Stronger Timor [+SMH Obituary: Alfredo Reinado]

also: IPS: Reinado Buried Amidst Flurry of Questions; SMH Obituary: Alfredo Reinado: Braggart Rebel Died As He Lived

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Strike Against Democracy Could Help Build a Stronger Timor

The attacks on East Timor's two most powerful leaders should focus the nation on the future.

SOMETIMES it takes a shock to focus attention on what is important and what needs to be achieved. The shooting on Monday of Jose Ramos Horta, independence hero, Nobel Laureate and President of East Timor, was a traumatic reminder of the many problems this troubled country still faces in its difficult transition from brutalised colony to fully fledged and sustainable democracy.

While the attack on Mr Ramos Horta has left him bullet-ridden and hospitalised in Darwin and his nation in shock, the killing of the increasingly erratic and renegade soldier Alfredo Reinado as he led the pre-dawn ambush on Mr Ramos Horta's home provides the Timorese Government with an opportunity for progressive change on several fronts, change that could lay the groundwork for a more stable future.

Reinado was a key element in the country's failure to fully recover from the worst crisis in its short history, a crisis borne out of historical ideological disputes and complex regional and political rivalries that exploded into violence on the streets of Dili between April and June 2006. This flare-up, which caused the virtual collapse of the police force, and left more than 30 people dead and 150,000 homeless, followed the dismissal in March of a third of the defence forces, soldiers mostly from the country's western provinces who had legitimate grievances involving broad-ranging discrimination by their eastern colleagues. The disgruntled soldiers became pawns in a power struggle between then president Xanana Gusmao and now deposed prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Reinado, who had initially entwined his own interests with those of the soldiers and indeed was a popular voice on their behalf, ended up being responsible for the killing of five people during the crisis and a fugitive from the law. While regarded by many as a populist hero fighting an unjust Government, he was an obstacle to much needed reform and to resolving the issues surrounding the sacked soldiers known as "the petitioners".

Now that he is dead the Government can separate the petitioners or the deserters involved in the 2006 crisis from those who illegally took up arms, incited unrest or were responsible for criminal acts, and deal with them accordingly. This can only lead to greater stability in the country.

But more crucially, this week's events should focus the Government's attention on national security and kick-start the process of broader reform of the security sector, a necessary component of which should be the formulation of a proper national security policy. The reform of the security sector should go a long way in addressing the prevailing sense that civic law has little meaning. The roles of the police, who suffer from low status, and that of the army, which has yet to settle into a new post-resistance role, need to be clarified. Political control and parliamentary and judicial oversight of both forces needs to be more transparent. The disarming of Reinado's forces, former police and civilians would be a good first step on the road to building a more accountable and safer society.

Democracy takes root and grows in a stable and secure environment. This cannot be achieved in East Timor without a political leadership that is united in its commitment to create it. In turn, stability is predicated on replacing the existing traditional culture where opposition or dissent is expressed through violence - a legacy of the long struggle against Indonesia - with a culture where opposition or dissent is expressed through the democratic process.

This will not be an easy task in a country with a high rate of rural illiteracy where, in many areas, unfounded rumour is taken as God-given fact and any assaults on those with renegade populist appeal such as Reinado are regarded as an attack on dissent rather than the imposition of the law. But, although it will take time, it is critical for the future civil and economic viability of East Timor that it operates under the rule of law.

Such reforms would pave the way for the country to begin to meet many of the post-independence expectations of its citizens, expectations that were understandably high but have largely not been met. The Government needs to be seen to be making progress and the events of this week should encourage the major political forces to tackle the tensions that have existed between them and focus their energies on the future.

And it is a future with great potential: the substantial oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea will guarantee an exuberant flow of funds for many years to come, money that can be used to build roads, schools and hospitals, and improve sanitation and power supply.

The jobs created by such projects, and the services themselves, will help fulfil the hopes of many Timorese and leaven their frustrations. It will also be the Government's best defence against social unrest and will be a catalyst for broader change and stability.

East Timor's Prime Minister, Mr Gusmao, described the attack on himself and Mr Ramos Horta as a strike against the democratic character of the country. It must be hoped that this fledgling democracy will emerge the stronger for it.


Inter Press Service February 14, 2008

East Timor: Reinado Buried Amidst Flurry of Questions

By Setyo Budi

DILI - Hundreds of people gathered Thursday for the funeral of Alfredo Reinado, the rebel soldier who was slain in an alleged coup bid against the government of President Jose Ramos-Horta.

"I could not believe it when I heard about his our view death will not solve the problem. It can only be solved through discussion," said Victor Alves, Reinado's distraught uncle.

Alves called for an end to bloodshed in East Timor, now that his nephew was dead. "Alfredo is already dead and I would like to ask his supporters to remain calm.''

What appeared to sadden Alves most was that Monday's incident, which resulted in serious gunshot injuries to Horta, occurred when "a dialogue had been agreed to happen again this week". Reinado's intentions for visiting the president remain unclear and circumstances suggest that he was invited for talks.

Alves' sense of grief and surprise was also reflected by Mari Alkatiri, former prime minister and secretary-general of the left-wing Fretilin party. Horta was known to have initiated moves to gather the leaders of all political parties for a national reconciliation. "On Monday, the President and Fretilin meant to meet. I still don't know who could be interested in this kind of act in this country,'' Alkatiri said.

There were theories floating around that Fretilin was involved in Reinado's fateful meeting with Horta. But these were dismissed by Fretilin, which formed the first government in East Timor on independence from Indonesia and ruled until 2007.

Fretilin began as a resistance movement, first against Portuguese colonial rule and then against Indonesian occupation, between 1974 and 1998.

Leon de Riedmatten from Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Swiss-based non-government orgnaisation (NGO) that helped facilitate a dialogue between the Dili government and Reinado, said Monday's shootout was even a bigger surprise. He had arrived in Dili on Monday with the intention of helping with the dialogue only to hear that one of the dialogue partners was dead and the President seriously injured.

The dialogue with the rebels had begun at Maubesi on Jan. 13. Although no agreement was reached, Reinado had offered to help solve the problem of some 600 army deserters who had left their barracks in 2006, claiming ethnic and regional discrimination.

Mystery continues to surround the shootout or the motives behind it. After all, Horta, now in a medically-induced coma in an Australian hospital, had shown eagerness in opening a dialogue with Reinado.

Taur Matan Ruak, commander of East Timor's armed forces, said that an "international commission needed to be set up to investigate the incident." This statement has the support and approval of many leaders including Paulo Azis, a parliamentarian.

"A lot of international police and armed forces personnel are present here, but Reinado couldn't be detected when he went to Dili,'' he said questioningly.

Eduardo Soares was among the key witnesses. On Monday morning, he was out on a morning walk when he saw two cars speeding towards Horta's house. Soon afterwards, he heard gunshots from the direction of the President's house and decided to walk back to his home, 200 metres away.

''I heard more gun shots, that was when I thought that the president had been attacked,'' Soares, coordinator of INSIGHT, a local NGO, told IPS.

Reinado's death leaves open the question of how to deal with the rebel soldiers -- the immediate cause of the political crisis that has plagued the country since April 2006.

The President's initiative to build a national consensus on the issue has stalled as a result of Monday's incident. Although Reinado's death may be seen by some as a "sudden solution'', the problem of the rebel 'petitioners' continues.

"We need to stop any violence and strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country,'' Alkatiri said.

This is also what Alves wants out of Reinado's death. ''The burial will bury all of his good deeds and his struggle, so there are no threats against us.''

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao got parliament's approval to extend a state of emergency, declared in the country on Monday, for another ten days. Essentially, this withdraws the right to assemble or demonstrate and enforces a curfew from eight pm to six am.


The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, February 15, 2008

Braggart Rebel Died As He Lived

Jill Jolliffe


ALFREDO REINADO became a hero to East Timor's disenchanted urban youth in May 2006 after the army major refused orders to fight 600 protesting fellow soldiers and fled to the mountains with a small band of armed followers.

His brutal childhood history under the Indonesian occupation of 1975-99 struck a chord with the younger generation, as did his opposition to the Portuguese-speaking Fretilin elite which governed between 2001 and 2006. They had lived in exile during the occupation, yet denigrated the Indonesian-educated youths who had manned the barricades, dubbing them "supermie [noodle] graduates".

Reinado's behaviour was bizarre and unpredictable long before he led the February 11 invasion of President Jose Ramos-Horta's home in which he was shot dead by presidential guards. (Ramos-Horta was wounded by a Reinado accomplice.) The military police commander had been on the run in the western highlands, where he had widespread support, since escaping jail in August 2006 - a month after his arrest by Australian peacekeeping troops for his role in the violence that had earlier wracked Dili.

From a mountain eyrie in the district of Ermera, he entertained journalists who trekked there, but his moods and discourse swung through rapid extremes. As did his appearance, which went beyond the need for disguise. He dyed his hair in the latest styles, grew it long, then shaved it off, and constantly rearranged his facial hair and wardrobe, as though searching for his real self.

He and his young band strutted around with their big guns, seemingly frozen in adolescence. He was strongly affected by the death of five of his men during the Australian Army's botched attack on his then base at Same last March. Seasoned SAS troops swarmed down on the group from Black Hawk helicopters but failed to capture him.

He was accredited with leadership of the 600-strong "petitioner" faction of the national army, which defected in early 2006 over ethnic bias complaints, but that was largely a media invention. They were two separate groups whose interests sometimes converged, as they did in tragic fashion on February 11, when the petitioner leader Gastao Salsinha led an assault on the house and convoy of the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, an hour after Reinado's group stormed Ramos-Horta's residence. Investigations suggest they may have intended to kidnap, not kill, the two leaders.

If Reinado appeared as an obnoxious, superficial braggart to many, to others he was a sweet and considerate person. A fortnight before his death he was training a school basketball team near Ermera.

A few years ago a US Peace Corps trainer, Penny Newbury, employed his wife, Maria, in her Dili office and came to know the young officer well: "He was quiet, and dignified, and always had a small smile, as if he got some unspoken joke. He quietly approved of Peace Corps. As an unofficial emissary of a part of the East Timorese government with which we would not have had much contact otherwise, he demonstrated nothing but kindness and professionalism and that small smile."

Alfredo Reinado Alves, who was 41 at his death, was born of a Portuguese father and Timorese mother in Aileu, 47 kilometres south of Dili. When Indonesia invaded the Portuguese colony in 1975, the family fled to the mountains. Alfredo was snatched from his school, aged 11, to serve as a child soldier in the Indonesian army's Battalion 725. He later testified to East Timor's truth commission that he had served in battle, and regularly witnessed torture and rape of prisoners.

When his commander's tour of Timor duty ended, Reinado was put in a crate and shipped to Sulawesi, where he became his slave. "I saw Dili fade in the distance," he testified. "I felt very sad because I had not seen my mother since I was taken. I was 13 years old."

After several years of captivity and beatings he escaped to Kalimantan, then worked his way back to Dili and found his parents. Aged 18, he embraced the resistance struggle, fighting briefly with the guerillas.

In 1995 he was among 18 Timorese who became the country's first boat people, sailing to Australia in a leaky boat to request political asylum. With his wife and five-month-old baby aboard, he navigated as other passengers bailed water for six days. The response they met was internment at Port Hedland for two months. They were later freed into the community and their asylum application accepted. Reinado returned home after the Indonesian withdrawal to enlist in the new national army.

His dysfunctional odyssey ended this week in Dili in the crazed attack on Ramos-Horta, which the Bishop of Baucau, Dom Basilio Nascimento, suggested had elements of suicide.

Reinado was one of more than 50 people recommended for trial by UN investigators into violence in 2006. In lengthy negotiations with both Ramos-Horta and Gusmao, who displayed exemplary patience with him, he promised constantly to surrender and stand trial, but always reneged.

He was demanding trial by court-martial. East Timor does not yet have a military court, but the President reached agreement with Brazilian authorities that its army would help set one up in Dili.

Early in January, Reinado and the President had met secretly in the mountain town of Maubisse. Apart from being impatient at the pace of negotiations, he was reportedly angered because Ramos-Horta had not met his request to publicise details of their conversations.

Reinado is survived by his wife, Maria Fortunata, and two sons and two daughters, who live in Perth.

Back to February  menu

December 2007
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu