Subject: Age: Timor's Missing Guns Key to Crisis [+Gusmao: Rebel Leader Not to Blame]

also: E Timor President says Reinado not a rebel; and Minister, AFP chief to inspect operation in E Timor

The Age (Melbourne) Sunday, June 18, 2006

Missing Guns Key to Crisis

Some semblance of order is being restored in East Timor, but thousands will continue to huddle in refugee camps while heavy-duty weaponry remains unaccounted for, writes Tom Hyland.

DESPITE a publicised handover of a handful of weapons by rebel soldiers, mystery over the whereabouts of thousands of police guns is delaying efforts to resolve East Timor's security and political crisis.

Australian peacekeepers have yet to do an audit of the 4000 police firearms, many of which are believed to have been given to civilian militants allied to factions in the ruling Fretilin party.

The Sunday Age believes that Australian forces have accounted for most of the weapons held by the army. A rebel force led by Major Alfredo Reinado handed over a further 16 firearms to Australian peacekeepers on Friday.

While that handover was reported as a breakthrough, key issues over the massive police armoury created by controversial former interior minister Rogerio Lobato remain unresolved.

Human rights groups in Dili say thousands of people in makeshift refugee camps are reluctant to go home until they are confident police guns have been taken from militants armed by Mr Lobato, who controlled the police until he resigned last month.

An Australian-supervised audit of the police armoury, which includes automatic weapons normally used by military forces, has yet to begin.

An Australian Defence Force spokesman refused to say how many police weapons had been recovered since Australian troops arrived in East Timor three weeks ago.

He said more than 1000 firearms had been handed in or confiscated, but was unable to say whether these were police or army weapons. Nor was he able to say how many weapons were unaccounted for.

Australian forces have done a stocktake of army weapons. It is being checked against an official inventory. While the ADF spokesman would not say what the stocktake had found, The Sunday Age believes most army weapons are now accounted for.

An audit of the police armoury had not begun, as the ADF had not received a full official inventory, the spokesman said. But The Sunday Age has obtained a detailed breakdown of that inventory. Before last month's crisis in which the police command disintegrated, the 3000-strong force had: 3500 Glock pistols; 88 FNC assault rifles; 180 Steyr assault rifles; 200 Heckler and Koch assault rifles; about 20 F2000 submachine-guns; and about 40 shotguns. The ADF spokesman would not comment on reports that at least half that armoury was missing.

The commander of Australian forces in East Timor, Brigadier Mick Slater, concedes some weapons will never be recovered.

"There are so many weapons in this country," he told reporters on Friday. "I don't think that in my lifetime we will get all of the guns handed in. There will be guns hidden in the hills for many, many years to come."

Tracing army weapons was relatively easy. While army guns were given to civilians at the height of the security crisis, this was done in a controlled manner and most had been returned. The army also had detailed documentation on its armoury.

Tracing police weapons is more difficult. There is no single inventory and firearms had been given to groups of civilians over a longer time by Mr Lobato in a tactic to intimidate opponents and create a counter-force to the army, which remains loyal to President Xanana Gusmao.

"There have been credible reports that a number of (police) weapons have gone missing in recent times and before that," said Bob Lowry, a former Australian army officer and former national security adviser to East Timor's Government. "There's no doubt that Lobato has been behind that. He's the guy that ordered them and they've been imported and allegedly many of them have disappeared."

East Timor's Foreign and Defence Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said police weapons — not the army — remained the real security challengenge. He told the Jakarta Post that army command remained intact, despite divisions in the ranks.

The police, on the other hand, had been "very factionalised with too many weapons", Mr Ramos Horta said.

Despite the gradual restoration of order in Dili, the weapons issue was causing fear among internally displaced people (IDPs), human rights activist Aniceto das Neves said.

"This is the issue in Dili and in the districts. People in government, in the ruling party, were delivering weapons to Fretilin members," he said. "Rumours about civilians getting guns make the people very afraid."

An informed source who asked not to be identified said the security crisis and political impasse would not be resolved until people were given the facts about weapons.

"It's all about the weapons. If you want to know the truth about the so-called death squads (allegedly set up by Mr Lobato), you need to trace the weapons," the source said.

"The IDPs aren't stupid. They're not moving until they know where the guns are. And the impasse between the politicians, it's largely tied up with who did what, with what weapons. My suspicion is we're not being told any facts, because on the police side the facts may be unhappy."

¦ East Timor's two most revered leaders left yesterday for a quick summit on its security crisis with giant neighbour Indonesia. President Gusmao and Foreign Minister Ramos Horta flew to Bali for a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. They are due back today.

sidebar: Finger on trigger

East Timor's police armoury had the following weapons before last month's crisis. Where are they now?

* 3500 Glock 9millimetre pistols

* 88 Belgian FNC 5.56millimetre assault rifles

* 180 Steyr 5.56mm assault rifles

* 200 Heckler and Koch 33 5.56mm assault rifles

* 20 F2000 submachine-guns

* About 40 shotguns


Agence France-Presse June 18, 2006

E Timor President says Reinado not a rebel

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao says that Major Alfredo Reinado, the leader of about 600 renegade soldiers, was not to blame for the crisis in his country.

"I must say he is not a rebel. Major Alfredo did not initiate the problem," President Gusmao told a press conference after meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Bali to discuss the crisis in East Timor.

"Alfredo went to the mountain to avoid a conflict."

Renegade troops led by Major Reinado surrendered their weapons to Australian troops on Friday, obeying an order from President Gusmao.

Major Reinado retreated to a hideout in the hill town of Maubisse, south of Dili, in the wake of street violence that gripped the country last month following the sacking of about 600 soldiers, almost half of the country's armed forces.

Rebels' trust

The highly popular President Gusmao, who led East Timor's guerrilla resistance against occupying Indonesia during most of its 24-year rule, has maintained the trust of the rebels who are demanding Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri step down.

Dr Alkatiri in March sacked the soldiers from the country's west who had complained of discrimination.

This triggered clashes among rival security forces and gang wars on the streets that killed 21 people.

Some 2,200 peace keepers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal were flown in to quell the violence and are now trying to restore order in Dili, where more than 133,000 people have been displaced.

Indonesian aid

Indonesia last week pledged to send more than $940,000 worth of humanitarian aid to East Timor to help it cope with the fallout from the unrest.

President Gusmao thanked Indonesia for the assistance.

"The Government and people of Indonesia ... have shown great spirit and understanding. I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Indonesia," he said.

"I hope this would be the last time our people suffer. You know that we can count on our brothers and sisters in Indonesia."

Dr Yudhoyono says the Government will open its border with East Timor to allow the entry of humanitarian assistance to its former province.

"We have recently tightened the border to avoid things that could create complications. We have agreed that the border can be opened for logistical traffic and selective border-crossing," he told the joint press conference.

Ties improved

East Timor opted for independence from Indonesia in 1999 but the referendum was accompanied by an orgy of violence carried out by Indonesian forces and Jakarta-backed militias.

Around 1,400 people were killed.

Ties have since however subsequently improved.

President Gusmao sought to defuse tensions in this tiny Catholic nation of nearly one million this week, ordering rebel soldiers to turn in their weapons to international peacekeepers.


ABC June 18, 2006

Minister, AFP chief to inspect operation in E Timor

Australia's Justice Minister Senator Chris Ellison and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty arrive in East Timor today, as Australia's police presence slowly builds in Dili.

The AFP are now working alongside Australian troops on the ground.

There are now around 200 federal police in East Timor conducting joint patrols with Australian soldiers, and doing preliminary investigative work into the worst incidents of recent violence.

Senator Ellison and Commissioner Keelty will inspect Australia's police operations and hold a series of briefings with Australian Defence leaders and East Timorese authorities.

The international police presence is eventually expected to swell, when the United Nations sends in a peacekeeping mission, and as Australian troop numbers gradually fall.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

Back to June menu
May menu      
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu