|Subject: Emergency powers, Anti-Australian
- East Timor's president invokes emergency powers to quell unrest in capital
- update Reuters: Protests in East Timor after raid on army rebel
- SMH: Editorial: The pursuit of Alfredo Reinado
East Timor's president invokes emergency powers to quell unrest in capital
By GUIDO GOULART Associated Press Writer
DILI, East Timor, March 5 (AP) - East Timor's president invoked emergency powers on Monday to quell unrest after hundreds of young men blockaded roads with burning tires and concrete blocks, demanding that foreign troops pull out. Australia said it would evacuate nonessential government workers and the U.S. issued a travel warning.
Security in the tiny Asian nation deteriorated after international forces backed by helicopters launched a pre-dawn raid Sunday on the mountain hide-out of fugitive rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, killing four of his followers and sending others fleeing into the jungle.
Reinado, heavily armed and wanted on murder charges, was among those who escaped.
"The state will use all legal means, including force, to stop violence and prevent destruction of property and killing, and to restore law and order," President Xanana Gusmao said in a national address, giving peacekeepers and police the right to carry out arrests and searches without warrants.
He also granted them special powers to break up public gatherings.
East Timor, which broke from Indonesia in 1999 after 24 years of occupation, was plunged into crisis a year ago when factional fighting broke out between police and army forces. The clashes spilled into the streets, where looting, arson and gang warfare left at least 37 dead and sent 155,000 people fleeing their homes.
Relative calm was restored with the arrival of more than 2,700 foreign peacekeepers and the installation of a new government headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, but dozens of people have been killed in recent months primarily in fighting between rival gangs.
There also has been an increase in looting, robbery, arson, assault and attacks on vehicles, raising concerns that a presidential election scheduled for next month could turn violent.
Much of the recent anger has been directed at Australian troops, who killed two Timorese men in a clash last month and led the deadly raid against Reinado. Rock-hurling protesters demanded Monday that international forces go home.
Hundreds blocked roads across the capital in support of the rebel leader, one holding a banner that said, "We, the young people, are prepared to die alongside Alfredo."
"The situation in Dili is tense," said U.N. police spokeswoman Monica Rodrigues. "There are many groups, the majority of them youths, demonstrating in support of Alfredo."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said nonessential government staff would be evacuated and that Australians were at a greater risk of being attacked after last month's shooting.
"The security situation is volatile and there is a high risk of violent civil unrest," he said in a statement.
Downer renewed calls for Reinado to surrender, saying that Australian forces would otherwise capture him.
The United States has advised its citizens to avoid the town of Same, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Dili, where the raid was conducted.
Reinado, who deserted the army with around 600 other soldiers early last year, escaped from jail in August. He threatened to launch a campaign against the government after Sunday's raid, according to one of his aides, Gastao Salsinha.
"This attack shows that the government has no capacity to solve our problem," said Salsinha, who is also on the run after surviving the assault. "Now it's ordering international troops to attack and kill our members."
Associated Press reporter Anthony Deutsch in Jakarta contributed to this article.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Gangs on anti-Australian rampage in Dili
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili and agencies
GANGS of youths armed with sticks and rocks were roaming Dili last night chanting "Down with Australians".
About 20 youths attacked the Dili Club, a restaurant-bar owned by an Australian and popular with foreigners, roughing up patrons before United Nations police arrived. No one was seriously injured.
Security alerts sent to foreigners in the East Timorese capital yesterday warned that gangs were roaming the streets looking for Australians. Embassies last night issued warnings that foreigners were likely to be targeted and that their citizens should not leave their homes after nightfall.
UN police arrested 15 people in 24 hours for violent offences. They also dispersed 500 people trying to protest outside the fortified Australian embassy.
In an attempt to stop the sharply escalating violence, the East Timorese President, Xanana Gusmao, last night increased the powers of security forces.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Gusmao announced that Australian and New Zealand soldiers and UN police now had sweeping additional powers, including stopping and searching anyone and entering homes.
The sudden increase in security powers came after the former prime minister Mari Alkatiri blamed Australian soldiers for failing to capture the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado because they did not ask local people for help.
Mr Alkatiri said he had advised the Australians when they surrounded Reinado and up to 150 heavily armed men in the mountain town of Same last week that they would need the support of locals to capture him.
"Timorese know the terrain much better than the Australians," Mr Alkatiri said.
"But they did not ask for co-operation from the locals."
The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, said in Jakarta yesterday that the Government was planning to evacuate Australian embassy staff and their families who wanted to leave. Mr Downer said he had authorised the voluntary departure for non-emergency staff from the embassy.
"The deteriorating security situation in East Timor is a matter of serious concern to the Australian Government," Mr Downer said. "The security situation is volatile and there is a high risk of violent civil unrest. There is an increasing likelihood that Australians could be specifically targeted."
After the failed attack by Australian soldiers on Sunday, Reinado fled further into the central mountains.
In a 90-minute gun battle, Australian troops killed four of his men. The Australian troops used night vision equipment and were backed by helicopters and armoured carriers.
Since leading a mass escape last August from Dili's main jail, where he was being held on murder and rebellion charges, Reinado, a former major in the Timorese army, has used the media to taunt and mock the Australian and other security forces trying to capture him. But he has not contacted any journalists since the attack.
The commander of Australia's 800-strong contingent in Timor, Mal Rerden, declined to comment yesterday on what he referred to on Sunday as an "ongoing operation" to capture Reinado.
Mr Downer said he did not want East Timor's most wanted man killed - just caught.
"That is the challenge for us, not to kill him," he said.
update: Protests in East Timor after raid on army rebel
By Nelyo Sarmento
(Updates with Canberra evacuating some embassy staff, families)
DILI, March 5 (Reuters) - Thousands of angry supporters of East Timor rebel leader Alfredo Reinado burnt tyres and threw stones in the capital on Monday to protest against a raid by international troops on the fugitive's hideout.
Reinado, who led a revolt that plunged the fledgling nation into chaos last year, escaped Saturday's raid on his Same base by Australian-led international peacekeeping forces in which four people were killed.
Supporters gathered in the heart of Dili, shouting "Long Live Alfredo", and denounced President Xanana Gusmao, who had ordered security forces to arrest Reinado following accusations the former army major led a raid on a police post last month and made off with 25 automatic weapons and ammunition.
Armed peacekeepers patrolled the streets to disperse the crowds, with Reinado's supporters replying with threats to continue protesting until Gusmao withdrew his arrest order.
"You better go back to your country instead of making people suffer," said one of Reinado's angry supporters, pointing to Australian peacekeeping troops.
The Australian government later announced it would evacuate non-emergency staff and families from its Dili embassy.
"The security situation is volatile and there is a high risk of violent civil unrest," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement. "There is an increasing likelihood that Australians could be specifically targeted."
Streets emptied on Monday as international police moved to secure the capital and protesters blocked roads with wrecked cars, preventing government officials from going to work, a Reuters witness said.
The protest broke up in the afternoon and Gusmao called on the people of East Timor not to do anything that could destroy the nation's unity.
"We have seen many demonstrations lately that are not conveying positive messages in solving the myriad problems this country faces and on the contrary have contributed in provoking divisions among the society when this country needs unity," he said in a speech broadcast on television and radio.
He added that the presence of international forces in East Timor was necessary ahead of next month's presidential election.
Troops are still searching for Reinado, who has been on the run since he escaped from jail in Dili in August along with 50 other inmates.
After Saturday's raid, Gusmao urged Reinado to surrender, saying the government would treat him with respect. But Reinado has said he will not surrender to international troops.
Australia, which has 800 troops in East Timor, said Reinado was a threat to East Timor's security and should surrender.
"It is preferable that that threat be neutralised. But the objective obviously is to take him into custody," Prime Minister John Howard told Australian television.
Reinado has made several public appearances since the escape, including a meeting with the country's military chief. Security forces made no attempt to arrest him.
The standoff between Reinado and the troops has raised fears of violence ahead of the April election.
East Timor voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which had annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975. The country became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.
But an east-west divide in the nation erupted into chaos and gang violence last May following the sacking of 600 soldiers. (Additional reporting by Rob Taylor in Canberra)
Deutsche Presse-Agentur March 5, 2007
Australia warns of East Timor violence
Sydney -- Australia on Monday warned its citizens in East Timor they were risking their lives as security in the world's newest nation deteriorated in the wake of a failed attempt to capture rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he had authorized the departure for staff from the embassy in Dili amid fears of reprisals against Australians for the failed attempt to capture East Timor's most wanted man.
"The deteriorating security situation in East Timor is a matter of serious concern to the Australian government," Downer said in a statement issued in Canberra. "The security situation is volatile and there is a high risk of violent civil unrest."
Supporters of Reinado filled Dili's streets demanding that Australian troops be sent home and the international peacekeeping force disbanded.
The upsurge in violence comes after Australian troops killed four East Timorese in a raid on Same, Reinado's stronghold 50 kilometres from Dili. His escape was a blow for international peacekeepers trying to shore up security in time for next month's presidential elections.
Reinado broke out of prison in August while awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and rebellion. He led an insurrection in May that left dozens dead and sent 100,000 people to makeshift refugee camps.
President Xanana Gusmao ordered that negotiations with Reinado be broken off and the former military police chief taken into custody.
East Timor achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002 and most foreign peacekeepers left the country. They returned when the current round of trouble began in March when soldiers went on strike complaining of ethnic discrimination within the ranks. In the power vacuum, ethnic gangs took over the streets.
Reinado is accused of leading an attack on loyalist soldiers that left five dead and 10 injured. The half-island was a Portuguese colony for 400 years before Jakarta invaded in 1975.
BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific March 5, 2007
Indonesian border patrols prepared to seize Timor rebel leader - military
Source: Antara news agency, Jakarta, in English 0000 gmt 4 Mar 07
Text of report in English by Indonesian news agency Antara website
[Unattributed Article: "RI border guards ready to seize fugitive Timor Leste rebel"]
Mota Ain, ANTARA News -Indonesian security forces at the East Timor border are ready to arrest Alfredo Reinado, who is wanted by East Timorese authorities for stealing weapons, if he crosses over into Indonesian territory, said Lieutenant Colonel Hotman Hutahaen, the commander of the Indonesia-East Timor Border Security Task Force.
"If he dares to enter Indonesian territory we will seize him. There is no tolerance in this case and we will hand him over to the authorities concerned," Hutahaen told ANTARA News.
Reinado and his group are wanted by the East Timorese government after they raided a security post and escaped with 19 rifles and 16 light weapons in Salele, Covalima last week.
The group was reported to have been encircled by UN forces from Australia in Tenubibi, Bobonaro district.
It was first feared the group would attempt to escape into Indonesia but this has not occurred. Foreign media recently reported that Reinado had set up a base in central East Timor.
Reinado denied he had stolen the weapons, claiming they were given to him by border officers.
The Indonesian government had earlier closed all the checkpoints at the border with East Timor following a request from the East Timorese government.
"There has not yet been any order to re-open the border checkpoints," Hutahaen said.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, March 6, 2007
The pursuit of Alfredo Reinado
THERE will be mocking laughter in Indonesia's army messes at news of Australian troops shooting dead rebels and rioters in East Timor. Clearly the new nation is undergoing a severe test, maybe even a make-or-break one, for its hopes of peaceful progress and constitutional democratic government. A serious armed uprising, just before its first presidential and parliamentary elections since the United Nations tutelage, is the last thing it needs.
But the challenge by the rebel army major Alfredo Reinado could no longer be quarantined. Since deserting the armed forces last April in opposition to its commanders and later being detained, Reinado had broken out again, prevaricated on a deal for him to surrender, and seized high-powered arms to declare a direct armed challenge to the legitimate government. Such is the level of economic hopelessness five years after independence, and the rawness of inter-regional and ethnic rivalries, Reinado has been able to draw hundreds of others to his inchoate cause. Among them, most worryingly, are some of the so-called petitioners, the 500 or so young army recruits from Western regions who walked out of their barracks early last year because of perceived discrimination.
In a nation as small and fragile as East Timor, these aggrieved men present a real threat of a nagging civil conflict, especially if they tap popular support in the villages of the rugged inland. Reinado's life story is an emblematic one: orphan of the Indonesian occupation, taken home by his captors, finding his way back to Timor, and then making the only known boat escape to Darwin by a Timorese refugee. It would be a pity for it to end in a burst of gunfire in the hills, and it is to be hoped that somehow Reinado can yet be persuaded to surrender.
Australia's soldiers have the unenviable task of enforcing the Dili Government's authority. Again the political risk on insisting on Australian control of the international military peacekeepers, rather than putting them under UN command, is being demonstrated. Now it is down to the professionalism and humanity of our young soldiers and their officers to see that Reinado's rebellion does not become a popular one.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service
Back to March 2007 menu