|Subject: AU: Timor PM link to arms contract
Timor PM link to arms contract Mark Dodd July 07, 2005
THE East Timorese Prime Minister's brother has been granted a lucrative monopoly to sell weapons to the country's Government, with a licence to broker sophisticated military equipment including tanks, patrol boats and attack helicopters.
Bader Bin Hamut Alkatiri, the younger brother of Dr Mari Alkatiri, has already secured a deal to purchase 257,000 rounds of 5.56mm assault rifle ammunition for the impoverished country's police force - a deal worth $US108,000 ($145,000), documents obtained by The Australian reveal.
The contract with Mr Alkatiri's Dili-registered company Caval Bravo Pty Ltd has raised serious concerns about government transparency and the role of paramilitary police units in East Timor.
The ammunition is designed for use in high-powered military assault weapons more commonly used by the Special Air Service and would be considered highly unusual for normal policing.
Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato confirmed the order last night, telling The Australian the massive ammunition purchase was to ensure special police units were able to train with the latest weapons.
"We are not buying the ammunition to make another war," he said.
"We (police) don't have cannons, we don't have grenade launchers. In Timor Leste the police have to be trained to fire their rifles with skill."
Western security analysts contacted by The Australian were concerned at the proliferation of paramilitary-style police units in a country facing no present external threat.
"The Government has a sovereign right to purchase arms to provide for external defence and police operations; however, there are so few public indicators as to what these weapons are really for, and that is confusing at best, sinister at worst," said one analyst.
East Timor's opposition parties say they are frustrated at the Government's lack of transparency on weapons purchases and security issues.
"I can't get any information from the central Government on how much they spend to obtain weapons for the police," the Democratic Party's Fernando Araujo said.
"This should be an open tender process but it is is not.
"We should be able to debate this in parliament but when the opposition raises questions about this we're told it's an internal security matter. I think that is ridiculous."
Since the final handover from the UN to the East Timor Government of responsibility for external defence and internal security in May last year, the Interior Ministry has obtained a large arsenal of modern assault weapons ranging from Steyr rifles to Heckler and Koch sub-machineguns.
Mr Lobato said the weapons were needed for units such as the bodyguard unit that protects senior ministers and officials; border police; a counter-insurgency response force; and riot police -- a battalion-sized force of more than 600 men.
Attempts to contact Bader Bin Hamut Alkatiri were unsuccessful. However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister described him as a businessman and not a civil servant.
Mr Lobato defended the size of the ammunition order, saying it would be used for training and as a reserve in case of renewed border tensions -- a reference to possible incursions by diehard pro-Jakarta militia who, along with their Indonesian army backers, were responsible for the conflict in East Timor in 1999 that claimed more than 1500 lives.
He said the money for the ammunition would be paid out of the national police budget.
"We are still waiting for it to arrive," he said.
"Mr Alkatiri's company was the only one authorised by the Government to provide weaponry to the security services."
The Australian Thursday, July 7, 2005
Questions raised as guns pour in
By Mark Dodd
EAST Timor is Asia's poorest country. Its President, former guerilla fighter and national resistance hero Xanana Gusmao, says money is urgently needed to build hospitals, schools and stamp out endemic poverty.
It raises questions about why the need for so many guns and who is paying for them.
Since its founding in 2000, the national police force (PNTL) has obtained a wide variety of weaponry, including 2700 Glock 9mm pistols, for its ordinary police officers.
Under Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, no friend of President Gusmao, who enjoys close relations with the army (F-FDTL), the police service has been expanded to include several special units.
They include a 250-strong border police force, a 200-strong counter-insurgency police reserve force and 180 riot police, in addition to a special bodyguard unit.
The Australian has learnt that in 2002, the PNTL obtained an undisclosed number of sophisticated and expensive MP5 A3 sub-machineguns.
This was followed by an additional order in May last year for seven state-of-the-art F2000 machineguns for close-protection officers and 66 FNC assault rifles for riot police, the latter bought from Belgium.
In the same month, Mr Lobato ordered 180 Heckler and Koch 33 assault rifles for an elite police counter-insurgency force, supplied free of charge by the Malaysian Government.
And finally, in September last year another order was made for 200 Steyr assault rifles in a deal with Austria worth more than $200,000. In addition, Mr Lobato said the US had supplied an unspecified number of tactical shotguns to the police.
The PNTL has acquired more than 450 modern assault weapons for its paramilitary forces. "In the absence of (militia) border incursions, will the UPR (counter-insurgency police) have an internal security or policing role armed with military weapons?" asked one Western security analyst.
Based in Dili, the analyst said there had been no debate in parliament about the role of special police units and little public scrutiny so far.
Meanwhile, a special presidential report into East Timor's 3000-strong army has warned of rising tensions between police and soldiers aggravated by much better pay and conditions enjoyed by the police.
Dated August 2004, the report signed by President Gusmao warns: "Relations between the F-FDTL, the police and civil population are marked by feelings of marginalisation and abandonment experienced by military personnel. Members of the police notoriously enjoy the best conditions in terms of equipment, uniform and salary.
"At the top of the hierarchy there is a ministry (Mr Lobato's Interior Ministry) that formulates, co-ordinates and implements the internal security policy."
Australia has a major assistance program with the F-FDTL focusing on English language training, NCO training and radio communications.