Subject: East Timor merges police, army

also East Timor arrests four in attack on prime minister


East Timor merges police, army

February 18, 2008 - 11:34PM

East Timor authorities have merged the nation's police and army in their attempts to catch those responsible for last week's attacks.

The major opposition party Fretilin and analysts expressed grave concern at the move, just two years after violence between sections of the two forces destabilised East Timor in 2006, killing 37 and forcing 150,000 to flee their homes.

It came as an Australian woman faced a closed Dili court as the first person charged over last week's attacks.

Angelita Pires, who holds dual East Timor-Australia citizenship is alleged to have been with rebel leader Alfredo Reinado in the hours before the attack on the residence of President Jose Ramos-Horta.

Ramos-Horta was shot and seriously wounded in the attacks.

Pires, 38, was released on bail after the judge found there was not enough evidence to detain her.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unharmed after he was ambushed a short time later.

Acting President Fernando La Sama de Araujo set a one month deadline to catch those responsible.

"I did make my appeal to the commanders, ISF (International Stabilisation Force), UN police, PNTL (Timorese Police), FTDL (East Timor army) that as acting president I want them to be in (the) tribunal (within) no more than one month," acting president Fernando La Sama de Araujo said.

He said the time for negotiations with the men was over.

"For this case, ... there is no more dialogue but the state already (has) made an appal for them to (rebel leader Gastao) Salsinha and to his friends to surrender to justice."

Late on Monday, it also emerged the country's Council of Ministers held an emergency meeting on Sunday, deciding to bring the East Timorese army (F-FTDL) and police force (PNTL) under joint command for the security operations.

In a one-page resolution, the decision "mandates the general chief of the armed forces to create a joint command integrating PNTL and F-FDTL for the execution of security operations conducted during the declaration of the state of siege".

"Following the grave incidents of 11th February 2008 in which there were attempted assassinations on the lives of the sovereign office bearers, it is important to guarantee the adequate mobilisation of security and defence forces," the resolution says.

Fretilin vice president Arsenio Bano said the major opposition party had serious concerns about the move.

"We are very critical and very concerned about that decision," Bano said.

"These are the same people who two years ago said the Fretilin government can't use the FTDL to do operations and now they are using it.

"Its very hypocritical.

"We can't understand if the government decides to bring FTDL and PNTL together, why do we need more forces from Australia."

International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Sophia Cason said the move could have significant ramifications for the two forces, which were still trying to rebuild after the 2006 crisis.

"Since 2006, or prior to that, there were a lot of difficulties within the PNTL and within the FTDL and between the two forces, and that was part of the cause of the crisis in 2006," Cason said.

"As the most recent ICG report points out, those differences have still not been resolved.

"I suppose the danger in doing this, is that in a way it is militarising the police at a time when most people involved with the police have been actively trying to demilitarise them."

"It could be interpreted much more broadly and then we may see FTDL doing what we presume are police functions and police doing what we presume are military functions and I think that's the danger of this."

It follows criticism last week by the chief of East Timor's army about how the armed rebels were able to attack the key leaders in a nation swarming with international security forces.

Cason said the move was "very significant" in trying to build a functioning police force and army.

"The issue of clarity of roles and separation of the forces, this just goes against everything in terms of international best practice in regards to those issues," she said.

Earlier Pires, became the first person arrested over last week's violence.

East Timor's Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro has formally issued arrest warrants for 18 suspects, and indicated more are likely.

Pires was one of nine people summonsed to a Dili police station as witnesses. She was arrested after a couple of hours of interrogation on Sunday night.

Monteiro said she was with Reinado in the hours before the attack, adding she will likely face conspiracy charges.

"The preliminary development of the case ... has indicated her involvement at least as (having) a very close link with Alfredo," he said.

Staff at the Australian Embassy in Dili had offered consular assistance, and DFAT was providing assistance to her family in Australia.

Gusmao later addressed the nation to explain the merger, saying stability was important to East Timor's economic future.

He urged the country's at-times troublesome youth to remain calm, and respect the 8pm curfew imposed under the current "state of siege" declaration.


East Timor arrests four in attack on prime minister

The Associated Press

Published: February 18, 2008

DILI, East Timor: Authorities have arrested four people in connection with last week's assassination attempts on East Timor's top two leaders, the country's acting president said Monday.

Suspected rebel soldiers shot President Jose Ramos-Horta twice outside his home on Feb. 11. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt from a separate attack an hour later.

"Information available to me says that four people have been arrested and that number could change," said Acting President Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo. He gave no more details.

Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro said a 38-year-old woman was detained Sunday in the capital, Dili.

Rebel leader Alfred Reinado ­ shot by guards during the attack on Ramos-Horta ­ and his accomplices had spent the night at the woman's house before the attacks, the attorney general said. She has not been charged with a crime.

Monteiro did not say whether the woman was one of the four suspects mentioned by de Araujo.

Meanwhile, Ramos-Horta was making steady progress at a hospital in the northern city of Darwin in nearby Australia, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds to his upper body, a spokesman said.

"The family and staff of the president are very pleased with the way things are going. He is doing very well," Luke Gosling, an official with the president's office, said in a statement.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ramos-Horta was sedated and scheduled for a fifth operation Tuesday, Gosling said.

Ramos-Horta and Gusmao, revered icons of resistance during Indonesia's 24-years occupation of East Timor, became president and prime minister in elections last year. Indonesian troops withdrew in 1999 and the country declared independence in 2002.

The attack last week by rebels was a sudden escalation in a bitter dispute between the government and several hundred ex-soldiers who were fired in 2006 after going on strike to protest alleged discrimination.

Gusmao declared a 12-day state of emergency after the assassination attempts.

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