Subject: Dateline Transcript: Shooting Of Horta

apologies for the delay in sending out the transcript 

The Shooting Of Horta

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008


East Timor, tomorrow, that deeply troubled nation will welcome home its President, Jose Ramos-Horta, who has been hospitalised in Darwin after being gunned down near his home three months ago. On that quite extraordinary morning, the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was also attacked and rebel leader Alfredo Reinado shot dead. Dateline's Mark Davis - no stranger to the twists and turns of East Timorese politics - has been in the tiny island nation, piecing together events that led to the attack, including exclusive interviews with the woman accused by Ramos-Horta of influencing the assault, plus Reinado's deputy, who is still hiding in the hills behind the capital, Dili.

REPORTER: Mark Davis

For the past two years this village, sitting at the very top of East Timor, has been a rebel stronghold. Today the East Timorese police and army are back in force on a mission to hunt down the would-be assassins of the nation's President and Prime Minister.

SOLDIER (Translation): We are here at Letefoho. Heís north of here.

In an extended game of cat and mouse the soldiers are circling the remnants of the rebel army of Alfredo Reinado and his Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha.

SOLDIER (Translation): The information we have is that these guys are there, but when we went, they were not there. Dare has just contacted me, move in fast.

This is good country to hide out in. But what is also hidden with the rebels in these mountains is the real story of what happened in Dili in the attack on President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. Two months have past and there is still little more than a swirl of rumours about what happened that day. Monday morning, February 11, and Dili awakes to a chaotic scene. President Ramos-Horta shot and struggling for his life. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao showered with gunfire but managing to escape. And Alfredo Reinado, a folk hero to many, shot dead. Buried with him was the mystery of what his plan was in coming to Dili - an assassination, a kidnapping, a coup. All of them possible for a man who dominated events in East Timor for the past two tumultuous years.

Since 2006 Alfredo Reinado ruled the mountains in the west of East Timor like a personal fiefdom Ė as he showed in his own DVD that he released late last year, complete with his favourite classical backing. Together with Salsinha, Alfredo ran an army of aggrieved soldiers from the west of East Timor, known as the petitioners. Hundreds of soldiers that had been dismissed when they alleged they were being discriminated by an eastern faction in the armed forces. From his mountain-top lair Alfredo would hurl abuse at the government below and issue threats about the coming year.

ALFREDO REINADO, REBEL LEADER: There is no guarantee. So you see who is guarantee that, this is after the new year that things will fine. It is nothing. I can tell you that going even worst. And I say all those foreign investors, don't waste your time to invest in the time because nothing is guaranteed there.

Clearly Alfredo Reinado had grand visions of his power and considerable support to fund his army - support, encouragement and funding widely believed to be coming from East Timorese politicians and businesspeople, amongst others.

ALFREDO REINADO: Oh, why they know whoever is supporting us, why they didn't go out and get them, why they just talk? Talk and talk, no reality. It's only talk. Stand there and get some. You will see what will come or what will happen.

Plenty of supporters, apparently, but according to senior figures in East Timor, the main supporter, the real mastermind of his attack on February 11 is a surprising individual - an Australian Timorese woman living in a suburb in Dili. Angelita Pires reads almost daily accounts of accusations against her by Ramos-Horta, the state prosecutor and multiple unnamed sources implying she was the key player in a bloody plot. A femme fatale leading poor Reinado astray, a lady Macbeth ready to seize power with murder and mayhem.

ANGELITA PIRES: I am innocent I know this, so the people are still out there. The real perpetrators or whoever, what ever instigated this is still out there. And justice won't be made.

Angelita worked on Alfredo's legal matters before becoming his lover late last year, around the same time this video was shot.

ANGELITA PIRES: I suppose when you are close to somebody there are always accusations, but as I said I was close, I am not denying our relationship and that we wanted a future together Iím not denying that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I guess, because we were close - people always make stories and in the end, as I said, I don't want to be a scapegoat, I don't want to be made a scapegoat simply because they canít or is too difficult to find solutions and get to the real facts.

Angelita is not under house arrest but is afraid to appear in public, branded as she is of plotting to murder the most revered person in the country. The guys who've been waving all the guns have all been given their presumption of innocence. Since the Horta shooting, hundreds of Reinado's men have surrendered and are being housed under light security in Dili.

SPEAKER (Translation): You have to tell the truth about what you have done. What you have done.. and tell the truth.

Most of these men have already been released after filling in a 2-page confessional questionnaire. Others directly involved in the attack on Horta and Xanana have been granted tea and biscuits with the Prime Minister, an honourable handover of weapons and a 'sorry' go a long way with the PM

REPORTER: Who is responsible for Alfredo, now at the moment all we hear about is his girlfriend, Angelita Pires, why is she the only focus, while clearly so many people were behind this man?

XANANA GUSMAO, PRIME MINISTER: I cannot say, I am chief-executive, not the judicial.

Prosecutor Longuinhos Monterio is maintaining a professional and stony silence on Reinado's many associates and accomplices, with one exception.

LONGUINHOS MONTERIO, PROSECUTOR: It is not proper to talk in advance.

REPORTER: But you have accused her of giving drugs to him, you have accused her of giving money to him.

LONGUINHOS MONTERIO: Not all the information we get is based on information from the witnesses on the ground. The witnesses are the ones together with them, so whoever that wanted to challenge this information, let them challenge it in the court.

REPORTER: Why do you think the attention has been on you?

ANGELITA PIRES: Maybe they are trying to - I don't know, maybe they are rushing, they are not getting the real facts.

There may be claims Angelita Pires was the mastermind of the plan but it seems no-one has the slightest idea what the plan was. The answer is still hidden in the hills being searched by the East Timorese army. Utilising informers and rebels who have surrendered, the police and army are moving village to village and house to house, encouraging friends and relatives of the rebels to give them up.

MAJOR NEVIS (Translation): Maybe youíre encouraging them to run. Thatís why they go. Who feeds them? Maybe you people from the villages.

Major Nevis is in charge of this mountain campaign and he knows that he has more than just family loyalty to overcome. Salsinha's key claim that people in the west are discriminated against runs deep here.

MAJOR NEVIS (Translation): They say we are discriminating, that the people from the west can only be foot soldiers and the people from the east are officers. So we ask them is Lietenant Ė Colonel Meno from the east or from the west? They can't answer. How about Lieutenant Ė Colonel Koliati?

Salsinha won't be given up easily. And with a tightening military cordon it is now virtually impossible for anyone to reach him.

REPORTER: You now know a lot about these guys, what you think the intention was when they went to Dili, on February 11th?

MAJOR NEVIS (Translation): I canít respond, the only people who can answer are Salsinha and Alfredo as to why they went to Dili on February 11.

REPORTER: We would like to ask Salsinha, we want to ask Salsinha, we just can't find him.

Our first attempts to find Salsinha fail but Salsinha finds us and sends this video.

SALSINHA (Translation): We wonít give up.

This is the first account of what happened in Dili on Feb 11.

SALSINHA (Translation): There are many accusations about us, about Major Alfredoís death and the President being wounded and also the attack on the Prime Minister. They all say that we were planning a coup. But they are lying. Whoever says that is trying to sully our reputation.

The rebels split into two when they came to Dili - Alfredo entering the President's house and Salsinha leading the group that shot at Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

SALSINHA (Translation): I was there but had no intention to launch a coup or harm the Prime Minister. If weíd planned to harm the Prime Minister, he would not have made it to Dili.

Salsinha emphatically claims that the mission wasn't an attempted coup, assassination or kidnapping, but what was it? Travelling with Timorese journalist Jose Belo, we can't get into the bush unobserved, but we manage to arrange a phone contact with one of the rebels involved in the attack on the Horta house. His code name is Teboko and his account is a remarkable one Ė he believed Alfredo had an appointment with the President.

TEBOKO: We had an order from Alfredo not to attack the residence of the President. Itís clear. You can imagine that if we were going to attack him.. we could have shot him in Maubisse or Suai when we met him. We did not think of this. It was not in our minds. We had an appointment with the President from Major Alfredo and we were going with two vehicles and we arrived without any weapon discharge. As we know on the FDTL part, they shoot at us first. They killed Major Alfredo and a member Leopoldino.

Teboko acknowledges that he and his men disarmed the guards at Horta's gate but believes they may not have known about the meeting.

TEBOKO: OK, no trouble. We're just here to see the president.

According to Teboko, about 10 minutes after entering the compound with no gun fire and none threatened, Alfredo Reinado was suddenly shot dead. Meeting closed.

REPORTER: Were the other men, the men that are with you now, when you ask them did they also believe it was a meeting or did they believe it was an attack?

TEBOKO: They believed Alfredo was going to a meeting.

Even if the men believed they were attending a meeting with Horta Ė they'd done that before Ė what was Alfredo Reinado thinking? In recent months he had certainly been threatening enough and in his most recent DVD particularly hostile to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

ALFREDO REINADO (Translation): Iím telling you Mr Xanana, me Alfredo, I have no fear. Never, so don't bother to threaten me. If I make an ultimatum, the streets of Dili will be empty. And if he forces me, you will see my ultimatum.

Reinado's DVD has never been broadcast but has been circulated in East Timor. In essence Reinado accuses Xanana of supporting his uprising against the army and the then Fretilin government of Mari Alkatiri.

ALFREDO REINADO (Translation): Now heís against us, he ordered us to make things turn out as they have. He is the one who supported the petitioners.

XANANA GUSMAO: We told him - - if you have something about justice, go to the trial and you tell there. By attacking the President means that he had nothing to say. That is the conclusion that you can have.

In 2006 when Salsinha and the Reinado led their troops out of their bases, claiming discrimination, the national divide between east and west soon escalated. Rival gangs spiralled out of control, leaving dozens dead, thousands of houses destroyed and tens of thousands uprooted as refugees. The ensuing chaos helped bring down the government of Mari Alkatiri in the middle of his term.

MARI ALKATIRI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER: It was used politically. It could have been handed over very easily if it was not used politically. It was used politically by Xanana and others and now as you can see, it got out of control.

XANANA GUSMAO: I don't respond, I donít comment.

There was never any crime in Xanana expressing support for the petitioners, certainly initially. The dispute may be best left between Alkatiri and Xanana, but it does afford an insight into Reinado's state of resentment in the months leading up to February.

REPORTER: If Xanana and Horta to some degree, exerted influence at least over Reinado, when did they loose control over him?

MARI ALKATIRI: I think immediately after the elections they start to loose control over him, because he was waiting to be bought back as a hero? Yes.

REPORTER: And why didnít they do that then?

MARI ALKATIRI: Itís not easy, there are a lot of elements in that you have the commander of the army who does not want them back ..

REPORTER: And sections of their own government who donít want them back and obviously Fretilin, the opposition doesnít want them back.

To Reinado, others came to enjoy power after the fall of Alkatiri and he was left on a mountain top with outstanding murder charges against him. Another insight into his state of mind is given when we finally make contact with his deputy Salsinha.

SALSINHA (Translation): Yes, he was drunk, stressed and angry with the soldiers. At 9:30, Major Alfredo came to our place. He came drunk and told us to prepare the soldiers to go to Dili. He said "I'm going down to Dili to meet the leaders, the Prime Minister and the President." When the leader speaks, we never question, we just follow.

A drunk stresses and angry Reinado mustering his men in the middle of the night doesn't sound like a pre-planned military assault.

REPORTER: What was the order?

SALSINHA (Translation): The order was not clear. He only said that we should go to the Prime Minister's house.

Salsinha claims that all he knew was that he was await further instructions while Reinado met with Horta. He was still waiting when news came that Reinado was shot.

REPORTER: I find that hard to believe sir, if you have been sent to Xananaís house or on the road, I find it hard to believe that you didnít have an order to do something. You weren't going to have a cup of tea?

SALSINHA (Translation): He didn't say we were to have a cup of tea together. Maybe it's better to ask his lawyer about the plan. Ask Angelita Pires to explain clearly what happened, because Major Alfredo is dead. Go back and ask Angelita Pires about the plan.

Angelita denies that Reinado ever discussed any such plan with her and certainly not on the night in question. It doesn't make sense, she claims, because he was looking forward to an amnesty.

ANGELITA PIRES: He discussed at a future where he could live in peace, he could live contained, but in peace, yeah.

Salsinha confirms that a confidential amnesty had been offered by President Ramos-Horta in the middle of January.

REPORTER: Sir did Alfredo and yourself believe you were going to get an amnesty after discussions with the President. Were you offered amnesty in May?

SALSINHA (Translation): From the meeting in Maubisse, the President himself talked about an amnesty. Alfredo is dead but the other main witness is the Development Minister, Joao Goncalves.

Minister Joao Goncalves, who knew Reinado from their time together in Australia, attended the meeting with Horta and Reinado where an amnesty was offered.

MINISTER JOAO GONCALVES: In Maubisse the President told in fact that he intended to announce on 20th May an Amnesty that would cover all the crimes and everything that happened from the 2006 crisis.

Thursday 7 February and Horta has a fateful meeting at his home to discuss the amnesty and related issues. The entire political elite of East Timor arrived, walking up the driveway where Alfredo Reinado will lie dead in four days time.

REPORTER: Did Horta advise that he had offered an amnesty to Reinado? And was he very keen for agreement on amnesty to be reached?


All factions of the coalition government and Mari Alkatiri's Fretilin opposition have been invited as a gesture of national unity, but a consensus can't be reached.

MARI ALKATIRI: Amnesty in this country is not really in the competence of the President.

REPORTER: So it seems that Horta can't deliver on that promise of an amnesty

The meeting is amicable. The amnesty isn't rejected outright but critically, no decision is made.

MARI ALKATIRI: We decided to have another two meetings on 12 and 14 of February.

REPORTER: And on the 11th Reinado attacked.

The meeting concludes that evening and Ramos-Horta gives it the best spin that he can.

RAMOS HORTA: We in the parliament, in the major parties can cooperate in order to resolve some of the pressing issues, like peace ..

But he has a problem. He now has to tell Alfredo Reinado that there has been a hiccup in their plan. An emissary will be dispatched over the weekend. On Sunday the 10th, Angelita Pires heads up the mountain to have lunch with Alfredo Reinado. That's where the day started to go wrong, according to Salsinha.

SALSINHA (Translation): He drank with Angelita Pires on Sunday around 2 o'clock. The wine that they had was bought by Angela. Bought by Angela to the major's place. While they were drinking I didn't come near.

He doesn't know what time Angelita leaves, but believes she still could be there when Alfredo flies into his drunken rage at 9:30 that night.

ANGELITA PIRES: No, no no. First, that's not true. Well, I don't know, that's not true with me and my friends. We left at 3:30, 4:00, no drinks were consumed, zero.

REPORTER: So by 4:00 you'd left?

ANGELITA PIRES: Yes, 4:00, yes.

REPORTER: Others would testify to that?

ANGELITA PIRES: I drove back with my friends. I took a lift there and came back with my friends.

I checked with Angelita's friend, who confirms that they had left certainly before dark, so who was with Reinado in the hours before he forms his drunken decision to amble to Dili. Angelita claims that when she left there were other visitors who remained - one of who she recognised. And he works at the President's office. Ramos-Horta's office in Dili houses a group called MUNJ, the Movement for National Unity and Justice. They were acting as go-betweens for Horta and Reinado. Augusto Junior is it's director and spokesman.

Since the Horta shooting MUNJ have been particularly coy about their presence in Reinado's camp the night before the attack. It's clear that they were delivering a message from Horta, but it is totally unclear what time they left. And oddly, Salsinha is equally vague when asked the same question.

REPORTER: What time did the people from the Presidents office leave?

SALSINHA (Translation): I have not yet confirmed with them what time they left. What time I haven't yet confirmed.

It seems that no one wants to be placed with Alfredo in the early evening hours of Sunday the 10th. It is clear he would be infuriated to hear of the meeting in Dili, where it would seem that every politician in the country had just betrayed him. Whatever conclusions he reached, what ever advice was given seems to have occurred in the hours just before 9:30 Ė when he lurches into his soldiers' camp with an urgent need to meet with Ramos-Horta. The answer to at least part of that mystery Ė those few key hours - may lay inside the walls of the President's Dili office.







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