Table of contentsIII. The security sectorIV. Violence erupts
A. The petitioners' protestV. The political struggleVI. International actorsVII. Conclusion
B. Major Alfredo joins the petitioners
C. Conflict escalates, international forces arrive
A. Resolving the political impasse at the TopAppendixExecutive summary
B. Preparing for the Commission of Inquiry report
C. Dealing with the Petitioners and Major Alfredo
D. Security sector review
E. Getting the police back on the streets
F. Healing the East-West rift and getting the displaced back home
G. Improving oversight of the courts and judicial recruitment
H. Preparing for the 2007 elections
I. Job creation for urban youth
J. Adoption of the CAVR recommendations
The worst crisis in Timor-Leste's short history is far from over. The country is in political limbo, waiting for the report of the UN-appointed Independent Special Commission of Inquiry that is expected to name names and recommend prosecutions for perpetrators of the April-May violence in Dili that killed more than 30 people. Scheduled for release in mid-October, it is critical to moving forward but potentially explosive. Elections scheduled for May 2007 could be another flashpoint. With some creativity, focus, and political will, Timor-Leste can get back on track but the wounds are deep, and it will require enormous political magnanimity on the part of a few key actors.
There is, however, a growing consensus on what is needed for resolution, including security sector reform. A new, expanded UN mission is in place with the mandate of "consolidating stability, enhancing a culture of democratic governance, and facilitating dialogue among Timorese stakeholders".
The crisis is widely portrayed as stemming from the sacking of a third of the country's defence forces in March 2006, after which the disgruntled soldiers became part of a power struggle between President Xanana Gusmao and the now deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri. However, the problem is far more complex.
The roots lie partly in the battles and betrayals that occurred within the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of East Timor (FRETILIN), just before and during the Indonesian occupation. Ideological and political disputes in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly between FRETILIN central committee members and Xanana Gusmao, then commander of the guerrilla army FALINTIL, carried over into the post-conflict government.
They are also to be found in the poorly implemented demobilisation of FALINTIL fighters in 2000 and the creation of a defence force for the new country in 2001 that absorbed some of the veterans but left others unemployed and resentful while donors and the UN devoted most of their attention to creation of a new police force. That many of the police, vetted and retrained, had worked for the Indonesian administration, was more salt in the wounds of the ex-fighters.
The old ideological splits and the frustrations of the ex-FALINTIL were manipulated in particular by Rogerio Lobato, a FRETILIN central committee member who had lived in Angola and Mozambique for the duration of the conflict. As interior minister, he controlled the police, encouraged rivalry with the defence force, most of whom were personally loyal to Xanana Gusmao, and created specialised police units that effectively became a private security force. The police under him were in charge of law and order, border patrol, riot control and immigration. It was never clear what the role of the defence force was.
All these problems had been festering for years. When 159 soldiers in January 2006 petitioned the president as supreme commander, alleging discrimination in the defence force by officers from the eastern part of the country (lorosae) against people from the west (loromonu), many interested parties saw political opportunity. More soldiers from the west joined the petitioners, while personal and institutional tensions between a president commited to pluralism and a ruling party with distinctly authoritarian tendencies, politicisation of the police, lack of any regulatory framework for the security forces more generally and the in-bred nature of a tiny political elite with 30 years' shared history allowed matters to spiral out of control.
To the Timor-Leste Government and the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor jointly:
- Immediately define terms of reference and allocate funds for the "comprehensive review of the future role and needs of the security sector" as specified in Article 4(e) of Security Council Resolution 1704/2006, and quickly appoint the necessary staff to get the review underway.
- Use the review to clarify the roles of the defence force (F-FDTL), police (PNTL), and intelligence agencies; maritime, border, and internal security threats; command and control arrangements, including in emergencies; and civilian oversight mechanisms.
- Create a job corps for urban youth, starting in Dili, simultaneously to reduce the propensity for gang violence and to address an unemployment rate for this group estimated at over 40 per cent.
- Establish a national security council based on the above review, on which the commanders of the police and F-FDTL, the heads of intelligence agencies, and the ministers of defence and interior would sit.
- Resolve as a matter of urgency the issue of the F-FDTL deserters, by prosecutions where appropriate and absorption of the rest either back into the defence force or into civilian jobs.
- Develop a plan for the gradual retirement of resistance veterans within the F-FDTL and a more comprehensive social security package for all veterans.
- Absorb the special police units created by Rogerio Lobato into the regular police as a temporary measure until the security review is complete and any further restructuring can be based on identified needs.
- Review the police re-screening plan after a month or two to see if it can be streamlined in the interests of getting police back to work more quickly.
- Seek agreement from leaders of all political parties on a political code of ethics for the 2007 elections, announce it on radio and television and ensure it is conveyed to all levels of party structures.
- Ensure that the president and all ministers give full backing to the Simu-Malu reconciliation project and explore other avenues of healing the east-west (loromonu-lorosae) rift, with particular attention to the role that women in affected communities can play.
- Adopt the recommendations of the Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Mission's report Chega! [Enough!], giving priority to those related to security of the person, the security sector, protection of the rights of the vulnerable and reconciliation, and disseminate the entire report widely.
- Appoint an activist Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) who will engage members of the political elite but not shy away from conflict, intervening where necessary to overcome fractiousness, adjust programs that are going astray and help clear political hurdles.
- Institute procedures for improving recruitment of international judges, prosecutors and lawyers to serve in Timor-Leste courts.
- Invite a peer review periodically of judicial performance, including in the Court of Appeal, by an independent panel.
- Ensure that there is regular oversight of UN-funded programs in the law and legal development area by a senior UN official with expertise in the area.
The worst political crisis in Timor-Leste's short history is not over. The capital Dili, wracked by violence in April and May 2006, is relatively calm but tense, its streets patrolled by international forces. More than 100,000 people remain displaced, with a de facto curfew in place. Key members of the political elite are still at loggerheads.
A United Nations-appointed commission of inquiry is expected to release its report in mid-October; its findings will be both critical to moving forward and potentially explosive.
Ian Martin, Kofi Annan's special envoy to Timor-Leste, told the Security Council in August that "this is not about Timor-Leste being a failed state. Rather it is about a four-year-old state struggling to stand on its two feet and learn to practice democratic governance".
But it is also about much more: how a guerrilla force makes the transition from war to peace and how security institutions are built from scratch. The crisis underscores the importance of well thought through strategies of post-conflict demobilisation and reintegration and how poor decisions early in the transition can have disastrous consequences later on. It highlights key areas where the UN's peace-building process went wrong, more through passivity than anything else. And it shows how infinitely more difficult crisis resolution becomes when political leaders allow problems to fester.
The immediate crisis started in January 2006, when soldiers submitted a petition to top government leaders alleging discrimination in the armed forces. The allegations were not new but were made in an atmosphere poisoned by political manipulation that caused the police and military to be divided internally and against each other. The interventions of then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao, who had radically different visions of where the country should be headed and mutually antagonistic power bases, often made things worse. The east-west divisions within the security forces were transferred to the Dili street, eventually leading to attacks by westerners (loromonu) on easterners (lorosae), and creation of a new generation of displaced.
This report describes how the crisis emerged and identifies key measures necessary to resolve it, but it is not at all clear that those measures can or will be adopted. Timor-Leste's problems are made more difficult by the country's being so small and the political elite even tinier. The entire crisis, its origins and solutions, revolve around less than ten people, who have a shared history going back 30 years. They include President Gusmao; former prime minister (and FRETILIN secretary-general) Mari Alkatiri; former interior minister and Vice President of FRETILIN Rogerio Lobato; Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta; the defence forces commander, Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak; his chief of staff, Col. Lere Anan Timor; Minister for State Administration Ana Pessoa; and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues. These individuals, Timor-Leste's founders, may have produced a dysfunctional government but each has a role to play in making it work again – in a few cases by stepping down.
In this environment a new, expanded UN effort, the Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), plays a pivotal role. It is tasked with "consolidating stability, enhancing a culture of democratic governance, and facilitating dialogue among Timorese stakeholders". Much depends on the skill, experience and personality of its head. Passivity of the kind that marked the leadership of the last two UN missions will not help the country through this crisis. Some creative intervention, however, particularly between now and the elections scheduled for May 2007, could help put the country back on track.
Timor-Leste's problems cannot be understood without reference to the battles and betrayals within the resistance just before and during the Indonesian occupation. The divisions are not just between those who stayed behind to fight and those who spent the occupation abroad. Within the Timor-based resistance, bitter fault lines emerged, most notably in 1983-1984 between the ideological puritans and those who wanted to create a more inclusive national front. The so-called "Maputo group", the Timorese who spent much of the war in Angola and Mozambique, was also riven by personality differences and power struggles. Fractiousness within a guerrilla movement is common but when it is carried over into a post-conflict government, the impact can be devastating – especially in a country as small as Timor-Leste.
Virtually all the key actors in the current crisis are or were once members of the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of East Timor (FRETILIN). Pro-independence and socialist, it was one of several parties that emerged in the Portuguese colony in the immediate aftermath of Lisbon's April 1974 "Carnation Revolution".
In a colony that had no tradition of open political activity, the sudden emergence of parties led to fierce competition and physical fights, particularly between FRETILIN and the more conservative, pro-autonomy (under Portugal) Uniao Democratic Timorense (UDT):
Each party presented [its] views as the national interest but didn't take into consideration that we are all people of Timor..Sometimes we noticed that the parties were quite happy when their supporters would come and say: "We beat up this person" or "We killed that person"; it was regarded as a small victory. If a party had the most people in a sub-district, they didn't let other parties campaign in that area. And so when other parties would go to those places, people would attack, block their way, boycott, throw rocks, and beat each other.
Indonesia, in the meantime, grew increasingly alarmed by the prospect of a communist outpost on its border and began a program of infiltration, propaganda and destabilisation, in which some of the new Timorese political organisations became witting or unwitting pawns. On 11 August 1975, the UDT launched a military action, "variously named a coup, an 'attempted coup', a movement and an uprising" against FRETILIN. After about a week of solid UDT gains, FRETILIN forces, calling themselves FALINTIL (Forcas Armados de Libertacao Nacional de Timor-Leste) struck back, under the command of Rogerio Lobato, then the highest ranking Timorese in the Portuguese army, who was able to persuade many of his fellow soldiers to join FRETILIN ranks. FALINTIL was thus born not out of the struggle against Indonesia but as a party to a civil war. A general free-for-all ensued, not just UDT against FRETILIN but also different constellations of groups fighting each other in different parts of the country.
The highest death toll was in the rural areas where tensions based on long-standing clan feuds and personal grudges, intensified by more recent militant party ideological positions, exploded into violence.
The Commission on Truth, Reception and Reconciliation (CAVR), established after independence, estimates that between 1,500 and 3,000 died at this time, with FRETILIN committing most, but not all, of the killings. Ermera, a UDT stronghold then and the base of the "petitioners" now, was the site of some of the worst excesses. Because FRETILIN had most of the East Timorese troops in the colonial army on its side, it was able to defeat UDT in short order; by September 1975, tens of thousands of UDT members were fleeing across the border into West Timor. There, under duress, the leadership signed a petition requesting integration of East Timor into Indonesia.
FRETILIN's brief control of the territory was hampered from the outset by lack of personnel and increasingly serious Indonesian incursions. On 28 November 1975, two days after the Indonesian military occupied Atabae, a town some 40 km from the West Timor border, FRETILIN declared independence and established the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, with Xavier do Amaral as president and Nicolau Lobato as Prime Minister. On 4 December, three cabinet ministers – Mari Alkatiri, economic and political affairs minister; Jose Ramos Horta, foreign minister; and Rogerio Lobato, minister for defence – went abroad to seek diplomatic support and buy arms. It was more than twenty years before they returned.
Indonesia launched a full-scale invasion on 7 December 1975, and while the Timorese had some reasonably well-trained troops and were able to hold their ground remarkably well for three years, they were ultimately no match for its much larger and better-equipped army.
As the Indonesian advance continued, accompanied by widespread atrocities, divisions intensified within FRETILIN about how to respond. Splits erupted over the principle of subordinating the military to political leaders, even when the latter were young and inexperienced; over strategies to adopt in confronting the enemy; and over how far the civilian population should be incorporated in the resistance. In 1977, Xavier do Amaral argued for allowing civilians to surrender; he was accused of being a defeatist traitor and was deposed as president, replaced by Nicolau Lobato. The party took a more radical Marxist line and purged more dissidents.
Losses were heavy. If FALINTIL was able to field at least 15,000 fighters in the first year of the war, by 1980, only some 700 remained. Nicolau Lobato was killed in late 1978, and Indonesian resettlement policies resulted in a huge famine in which thousands died. By 1979, only three central committee members were left fighting in the hills, one of them Xanana Gusmao.
In March 1981, surviving members of the military and political leadership of FRETILIN met to regroup. Among those approved for membership in the central committee was Lere Anan Timor, later the defence forces chief of staff in independent Timor-Leste. Reconfirmed as members abroad were Mari Alkatiri, Rogerio Lobato, Jose Ramos Horta, Roque Rodrigues, and Abilio Araujo. Xanana was named national political commissar as well as FALINTIL commander. The meeting produced another notable development: the first attempt at a national front, the Revolutionary Council of National Resistance (CRRN), as a way of encouraging non-party members to join the struggle.
Until this point, the FRETILIN central committee had been the resistance's most important body. From 1981, armed struggle superseded politics, and it was the military command in the field that prevailed – meaning Xanana necessarily took a larger role in decision-making. Over the next two years, he and other leaders opted to initiate negotiations with the Indonesians and reach out to the Catholic Church, which had kept FRETILIN at arm's length. They also made overtures to other parties, and in the interests of a united front, abandoned Marxism.
These policies were not popular with FRETILIN hardliners, and in 1984, a split took place, so bitter that in September 2006, it came up in almost every conversation about the current crisis. Senior FALINTIL officers, who were also members of the FRETILIN central committee, attempted a coup against Xanana. Led by Chief of Staff Kilik Wae Gae; Mauk Moruk (Paulo Gama), a brigade commander; and the latter's deputy, Oligari Asswain, it failed.
The fallout was heavy. Mauk Moruk surrendered to the Indonesians. His brother, Cornelio Gama, better known as L-7 (Elle Sette), was purged, and although later taken back, developed a separate power base in the Baucau area through a cult-like organisation, Sagrada Familia. Oligari was removed from FALINTIL and resurfaced in independent Timor-Leste as a leader of a dissident group, CPD-RDTL, that for the first years after the Indonesian departure was a major security headache for the transition government. Kilik died under disputed circumstances; his wife became a FRETILIN central committee member and eventually deputy minister for state administration in the Alkatiri government. Almost twenty years later, Rogerio Lobato was able to manipulate anger left over from 1984 to build up his own constituency.
Xanana's next major step, even more controversial than his national unity strategy but a natural consequence of it, was to pull FALINTIL out of FRETILIN, making it a non-partisan army. He had proposed this in 1984 but finally acted on 7 December 1987 and resigned from FRETILIN at the same time. The following year he founded the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM) as the highest political body of the resistance; in 1989, he appointed Jose Ramos Horta as its representative abroad, a move that did not win plaudits from the Maputo group, led by Alkatiri, which had been in charge of external affairs.
The FRETILIN-FALINTIL divorce had profound implications for the political dynamics of post-conflict Timor-Leste. It meant that the party's political leadership was concentrated in the diaspora, particularly with key central committee members based in Angola and Mozambique, and that those who stayed in FALINTIL until the end were virtually all Xanana's men. And it created a built-in divide between the party and the military, and the party and Xanana, after independence.
FRETILIN for the time being, however, remained the most important component of the national front, first the CNRM, and then its successor, the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), created in 1998 months after Indonesian President Soeharto fell from power. CNRT for the first time included UDT leaders and even Timorese associated with the pro-integration party, APODETI. Xanana Gusmao, by this time in prison in Jakarta for five years but a figure of growing international stature, was elected leader. Rifts between him and the FRETILIN leadership were papered over in the interests of national unity, but after Alkatiri and many others returned to Timor in 1999, they gradually came out into the open, to the point that in 2000, FRETILIN left CNRT. According to Xanana, the precipitating cause was Alkatiri's accusation that he was trying to ruin the image of FRETILIN by insisting that it take responsibility for killing ideological opponents in 1975. In fact, differences between the two had been accumulating for more than a decade.
When Timor-Leste's first general election was held under UN auspices in August 2001, before formal independence, it was clear that FRETILIN had name recognition and a party infrastructure that no opponent could match. It won 57 per cent of the vote. Alkatiri became chief minister, then, after independence, prime minister. Xanana Gusmao was elected president in April 2002 with 82 per cent of the vote but had relatively little power. Despite initial nods toward a government of national unity that would include other parties, the FRETILIN central committee gave itself a stranglehold on the state by assigning most key cabinet positions to party members. Speaker of Parliament Lu 'Olo (Francisco Guterres) was also president of FRETILIN.
From the outset, relations between the president and the prime minister, parliament, and several ministers were strained, in part because the president's role under the constitution was so limited and Xanana's prestige was so huge. Alkatiri had most of the power and made enemies more easily than friends. In 2005, the Catholic Church organised a nineteen-day demonstration against him for the government's stance over religious education – meaning that when the current crisis broke out, it was not seen as a neutral arbiter. Several leaders of opposition parties who were also former FRETILIN members found in democratic competition new ways to raise longstanding grievances.
The man who was a problem for FRETILIN, as he was for everyone else, was central committee member Rogerio Lobato. While he has been portrayed in many media accounts of the current crisis as Alkatiri's right-hand man, theirs was more a forced marriage than a natural alliance. Rogerio returned to Timor-Leste in October 2000, after the elections, and immediately started making trouble.
He took advantage of widespread unhappiness in ex-FALINTIL ranks after the creation of the East Timorese Defence Forces in early 2001 to align himself with the malcontents in the hope of creating an independent power base. In August 2001, during the election campaign and playing up his role as the first FALINTIL commander, he promised, without details, that since many fighters had not been absorbed into the new army, FRETILIN would create a "new concept" to accommodate them. He was not initially included in the government and took umbrage that though he had been defence minister in 1975, he was not given that role in 2001. In early 2002 he organised a FRETILIN-linked veterans' group, the Ex-Combatants Association (Associação dos Antigos Combatentes das Falintil), that competed with two other associations, one of them linked to Xanana and CNRT.
In May 2002, Rogerio organised several thousand ex-FALINTIL to march on Dili, ostensibly to celebrate independence but almost certainly to show that he was a force to be reckoned with. On 20 May, he was taken into the council of ministers as minister for interior administration, overseeing local government and the police. He had gambled and won on Alkatiri's deciding that he was a lesser threat inside the government than outside. He then proceeded to try to turn the police into his own instrument, in a way that hurt the government, deepened old cleavages, and had disastrous consequences for internal security.
Many of the police Rogerio inherited were Timorese who had worked for the Indonesians but had been vetted and rehired. The head of the police service, Paulo Martins, was a former Indonesian officer. Throughout the latter half of 2002, Lobato used his support in the dissident community to fan anger against this group, resulting in violent street protests, while arranging to open recruitment and bring in his own men. The result was that a significant element of the police was more loyal to Rogerio personally than to the institution or the state. In his independence day speech on 28 November 2002, Xanana Gusmao called for Rogerio's resignation, "on the grounds of incompetence and neglect". In December 2002, Dili erupted into riots after police mishandled the arrest of a student. The rioters burned down Mari Alkatiri's house, and many asked: "Was Rogerio Lobato behind this, too?"
The military had its own problems. In 1999, as the UN-supervised referendum on separation from Indonesia loomed, FALINTIL fighters were cantoned in Aileu, south of Dili. Under the leadership of Taur Matan Ruak, commander since 1998, they had held back from counterattacking when the Indonesian army and its militias burned much of the country, knowing that to do so would jeopardise international intervention. But then the world seemed to forget them. The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) that arrived in October 1999 to prepare the country for independence gave more attention to vetting former Indonesian police and getting them back on the streets than to finding a role for the men in the hills. Conditions in Aileu deteriorated, and the fighters grew bored and resentful. "We were treated like dogs", Taur Matan Ruak said in September 2006.
And when the new Timor-Leste Defence Forces (FDTL), were finally created in February 2001, only 650 of the 1,500 members were drawn from ex-fighters; the rest were new recruits. From the outset, there were rumbles about discrimination, and it was this well of resentment that Rogerio Lobato tapped. The dissolution of FALINTIL as the FDTL came into being created even more unhappiness in the ranks of ex-fighters, especially since with stratospheric unemployment there was no place for them to go.
The FDTL, which after independence in May 2002 was renamed FALINTIL-FDTL (F-FDTL), was divided into two battalions. Battalion I was headquartered in the eastern town of Los Palos, from July 2002 to 2006 when it moved to Baucau. Battalion II, created in late 2002 with mostly new recruits, was based at the army training center in Metinaro, just east of Dili. Management problems surfaced everywhere but were particularly acute in Battalion I, where east-west differences and other fissures began to emerge.
In November 2002, an internal UN paper noted that:
There was widespread public dissatisfaction in the central and western areas over the ethnic composition of the First Battalion, which was dominated by former combatants from the three eastern districts (where most of the fighting had occurred and where Falintil was strongest). 
Taur Matan Ruak made adjustments in recruitment and promotion policies accordingly but there were logistical problems as well. With a poor transportation infrastructure, troops from the west going on leave had difficulties getting back to their families and returning on time. A disproportionate number of westerners faced disciplinary actions as a result, accused among other things of absenteeism.
In December 2003, some 42 soldiers (mostly westerners and including Vicente da Conceicao alias Railos, who was to play a role in the 2006 crisis) were discharged. They raised complaints about unfair dismissals, long travel distances, and poor communications, some of which were addressed in the August 2004 report of a presidential commission tasked with assessing problems within the F-FDTL. The report identified difficulties in living conditions across the board, returning on time from leave, and perceived bias in promotions but the government does not appear to have acted on any of its recommendations, and discontent continued to fester.
On 26 February 2005, another group of disgruntled soldiers complaining of discrimination in promotions met with the president. In September 2005, a U.S. contract for logistic support to the F-FDTL was cut, leaving the army on its own for such basics as barracks maintenance and rations. In October, soldiers sent a complaint to headquarters about leaky roofs and insufficient food, and while the immediate grievances were addressed, the grumbling continued.
In the meantime, Rogerio Lobato, with Alkatiri's tacit support, was creating several special police units that were better paid and equipped than the army. Deliberately building on perceptions of easterners dominating the F-FDTL officer corps, he favoured westerners.
In January, a group of 159 soldiers petitioned Xanana Gusmao as supreme commander complaining of discrimination against westerners in recruitment, promotions and disciplinary measures. They listed 28 points, mostly reported snubs and insults from commanders to the effect that loromonu were untrustworthy and had not fought as hard in the resistance as the lorosae. A major target of their complaints was the commander of Battalion I, Lt. Col. Falur Rate Laek. The grievances were petty enough and could probably have been addressed if they were indeed the crux of the problem. But there were other factors at play.
The head of the petitioners, Gascao Salsinha, had been caught red-handed in April 2005 smuggling sandalwood. In response Taur Matan Ruak cancelled his promotion and an upcoming training assignment in Portugal. The police wrote an incident report but suddenly the case evaporated. Because Rogerio Lobato is reputed to control the sandalwood business, some Timorese interpreted this as evidence that Salsinha was in his camp, against the F-FDTL and Xananna – as were the police. Whether or not that is true, the cancellation of the promotion gave Salsinha a personal grudge against Taur Matan Ruak and may account in part for his subsequent actions.
The international media has reported the sacking of nearly 600 soldiers in March 2006 as precipitating the political crisis, with Taur Matan Ruak and Prime Minister Alkatiri as the villains who let it happen. But it is not that simple.
Salsinha and 158 of his followers signed their petition to President Gusmao on 9 January, and sent copies to Matan Ruak, various government officials, the two bishops, the heads of all political parties and the ambassadors of Australia, Portugal and the U.S. They said they were prepared to go on a hunger strike in front of the president's office if their demands were not met, and if after a month the strike produced no result, they would leave the army.
On 16 January, President Gusmao called Matan Ruak and asked him to deal with the problem. But the defence forces were in the process of changing Battalion I headquarters from Los Palos to the more central town of Baucau, a long-planned move that would in part address the complaint about the former being too far away for soldiers from the west to take normal leave.
It is improbable that Matan Ruak was simply too busy to meet with Salsinha for two weeks after the petition was received. His past history with Salsinha and the steady stream of complaints from the rank-and-file are more likely explanations; there was no reason to believe that this protest was significantly more important than earlier ones but it escalated rapidly from complaints about discrimination to a demand that that Alkatiri step down.
On 1 February, the inauguration of new barracks for Battalion I took place in Baucau, and on 2 February, Matan Ruak met Salsinha. Discussions that day and the next produced no result, and over the next two days, hundreds of soldiers left their bases without permission. On 7 February, after meeting with a small group of petitioners, and without consulting Matan Ruak, President Gusmao agreed to see the entire group the following day. Matan Ruak believed the president was ill-advised because the meeting would further politicise the problem, moving it beyond a disciplinary issue in the armed forces and bringing more petitioners into the group. Thus, when asked to attend, he refused.
Nevertheless, Xanana met with some 400 petitioners – already more than double the number of signatories – at his office, together with Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues and the defence forces chief of staff, Colonel Lere Anan Timor. Two members of parliament were also present. According to Xanana, Lere refused to recognise that there was a real discrimination problem, instead blaming opposition political parties for trying to fan dissent. The president urged the protestors to return to their barracks, said there would be no reprisals if they were back by the next morning and promised their grievances would be investigated. Initially they refused, saying they had already been warned by their commanders that they would be considered "enemies" if they took part in the protest, but eventually, they dispersed.
On 12 February, a five-member commission under Col. Lere was scheduled to begin looking into the soldiers' complaints but some petitioners refused to meet on the grounds that the investigators included three of the officers they had complained about. Others objected that they were being treated like prisoners, under constant surveillance. By 17 February, Lere gave the petitioners an ultimatum: take part in the investigation or face dismissal. He suggested again that some political parties were egging them on. He then gave weekend leave, from which the petitioners did not return, and desertions continued. Normally soldiers absent without leave for 24 hours have their salaries cut but the F-FDTL continued to pay salaries as negotiations proceeded.
By the end of February, the number of protestors had risen to 593, and on 16 March, when they still refused to return to post, Matan Ruak ordered them dismissed. When asked about it later, he said impatiently, "we had given them every chance. What else could I do?"
Alkatiri supported the decision; Xanana Gusmao, who was out of the country at the time, did not. On 23 March, he addressed the nation in an emotional televised broadcast that all agree sharply worsened the situation – "27 minutes of incendiary words", was how one local journalist phrased it. The president called the dismissals incorrect and unjust and warned commanders that failure to address the complaints would lead to more divisions. He said if 400 soldiers left their barracks, it suggested there was a serious problem within the instititution. Discrimination had long existed within the F-FDTL; it was not just a question of lack of discipline. He said if this issue was not properly resolved, it would leave the impression that the F-FDTL was just for easterners who believed that only they had fought the war, and all the others, "from Manatuto to Oecusse", were "militias' children". The fact that he quoted directly from the petition seemed to give additional legitimacy to the complaints.
The speech had an immediate impact in two ways. By so clearly and publicly undermining Matan Ruak's decision, it soured the relationship between two men whose alliance had been a mainstay of the resistance for more than twenty years, thus opening the way for further efforts by FRETILIN to make its influence felt within F-FDTL. And by legitimating western grievances, it seems to have led directly to attacks on easterners in Dili by a few petitioners and others rumoured (without evidence) to have Rogerio's backing. By 27 March, seventeen homes had been burned to the ground, and easterners were crowding on to buses to flee the city. The violence led Alkatiri to state that only FRETILIN could ensure stability, in turn heightening suspicions in the anti-Alkatiri camp that the rioting had been provoked for political ends.
For a few weeks an uneasy calm returned, just in time for a visit by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who told the press: "The bustling markets, the rebuilt schools, the functioning Government – and above all the peace and stability – attest to sensible leadership and sound decisions".
By mid-April 2006, the petitioners seemed to have the sympathy not only of the president but also of much of the Dili street. Taur Matan Ruak and the top F-FDTL leadership, blindsided by the 23 March speech, were angry with Xanana but not to the point of being pushed into the arms of Alkatiri. Col. Lere was rumoured to be close to Alkatiri but largely because he was a long-time FRETILIN member. Any FRETILIN alliance with senior F-FDTL officers seemed unlikely in any case, in part because of the defence force's hostility to Rogerio Lobato. President Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta were locked in mortal political combat with Alkatiri, and at some stage, Gusmao's supporters, if not Gusmao himself, appear to have decided to use the petitioners in that struggle.
In late April, the sacked petitioners sought and received permission from the police to hold a demonstration in front of the main government building in Dili. Salsinha promised it would be peaceful, and Rogerio Lobato warned that if it was not, the police would shoot. Police commander Paulo Martins repeatedly assured the public the police had everything under control. On the day the protest was to start, Taur Matan Ruak and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues left the country to attend a military equipment exhibition in Malaysia.
The demonstration began on 24 April in front of the main government complex, the Palacio do Governo, and quickly turned into a protest against the Alkatiri government, with hundreds of local youths joining in, many of them known troublemakers and gang members. Some who took part were western stalwarts of the pro-Xanana Gusmao, anti-FRETILIN CNRT, heightening suspicions this was less and less about discrimination in the army and more about political control of the country. Rumours began to circulate among demonstrators that guns were being distributed to break up the protest, and Salsinha announced that since the police had promised security, any disruption would be proof the rumours were true. Rogerio Lobato told the press he had proof foreign diplomats were behind the demonstrations.
Isolated violence took place around Dili on 26 April, with market stalls destroyed in one area and some houses vandalised in another. Some witnesses said the perpetrators wore military uniforms. The next day, as more violence loomed, Xanana, Ramos Horta, and Alkatiri met and announced that a commission of notables would be set up to look into problems within the army. Taur Matan Ruak was still out of the country and did not take part. But by that time, internal problems within the defence force were no longer the real issue: it was the government's survival.
The last day of the demonstration, 28 April, was critical for everything that happened subsequently. Violence, started by some youths, erupted in front of the palace, killing two. One of Rogerio's special police units, the UIR, specialising in riot control, should have been in place – it had been created for precisely this kind of situation – but only one squad was deployed. The police seemed to melt away; the petitioners reportedly tried unsuccessfully to control the youths, then marched back toward their base at Tacitolu. As they moved through the Comoro area of Dili, fighting broke out.
With Taur Matan Ruak away, Alkatiri summoned Col. Lere, and asked the army's help in restoring order. This was one of the most controversial decisions of the crisis. Depending on whom one talks to, it was either a desperate effort to bring the city under control or a signal that Alkatiri had usurped control, deliberately waiting until Taur Matan Ruak was unavailable to make his move. In either case, it was done without consulting the president or declaring an emergency, so it was probably unconstitutional. The results were disastrous.
F-FDTL troops with no experience in crowd control were deployed to quell unrest that whatever the other factors had a strong east versus west component, much of it attacks by loromonu youth against lorosae neighbourhoods. Because they were under Col. Lere, a target of the petitioners' discrimination allegation, the soldiers were assumed to be pro-lorosae and thus parties to the conflict. Whether or not they were, their apparently indiscriminate use of force exacerbated the east-west rift, emboldened loromonu attackers, and fuelled conspiracy theories. Soon there were rumours – almost certainly unfounded – of an F-FDTL massacre in Dili's Comoro neighbourhood, and thousands of lorosae sought refuge in churches and embassy compounds.
The official death toll was five, with more than 100 houses destroyed, but others, including several opposition politicians alleged that more than 60 had been killed. The government ombudsman, sent with the permission of Xanana Gusmao, Alkatiri, Rogerio Lobato, and Taur Matan Ruak, said his team could not verify reports because the F-FDTL prevented it from reaching the shooting site.
The next morning, 29 April, a mob attacked the house of Battalion I commander Falur. Xanana Gusmao tried to visit a group of refugees, but in an extraordinary rejection of the authority that he had wielded since independence, he was heckled and forced to withdraw. "First the [Indonesian] TNI killed us, now the F-FDTL and police want to kill us again. When will they stop shooting?" he was asked.
On 3 May, in protest over what he called the army's deliberate shooting of civilians, a new character appeared on the scene: Major Alfredo Alves Reinado, head of military police. Together with seventeen of his men and four members of the UIR, he deserted, the second major defection of the conflict. A few days later two more F-FDTL officers from the west, Major Tilman and Major Tara, followed suit. Alfredo went to Gleno, Ermera to see some of the petitioners, then set up camp in Aileu. He left the F-FDTL, he said, "because, on the day, on the 28th, it was easterners who shot westerners. I am witness to that. I do not want to be a part of the (army) that shot westerners". In fact, he did not witness anything.
Alfredo is one of the more complex characters in the story. In 1977, at age eleven, he was forced to work for the Indonesian army as a porter despite his mother's protests, and saw another porter executed for refusing to carry more weight. He was witness to other horrific incidents, including Indonesian abduction of children after their parents had been shot. When he was thirteen, an army sergeant forced him onto a ship for Indonesia, where he spent five years. He returned in 1985 and two years later joined the resistance. In 1995, he escaped to Darwin on a boat with seventeen others and worked in Australia until 1999, when he returned to Timor. Two years later, he joined the defence force and was made commander of the two-boat navy, one of the few loromonu with a senior rank.
In July 2004, Alfredo was removed as commander for getting into a fight with the police, and the following year was sent to a three-month naval training course at the Australian Joint Command and Staff College. He reportedly became involved with a junior female Timorese soldier there and was disciplined on return by being removed from the navy and given command of the military police, a distinct downgrading. The already bad blood between Alfredo and his commanding officers worsened, so that there may well have been personal factors that drove him to desert in early May 2006, in addition to outrage over F-FDTL actions. The cocky and charismatic Alfredo added another potentially explosive ingredient to the mix – particularly because his men were armed, unlike Salsinha's, who had left their weapons behind when they deserted.
On 6 May, Alkatiri swore in the commission of notables to examine the allegations of the petitioners and problems within the F-FDTL. Ana Pessoa, a member of the Maputo diaspora and minister for state administration, headed it, with members of the government, parliament, church and civil society as members. More than any of the earlier commissions, this one had clout and the capacity to demand and obtain documents from some of the key players. But Salsinha rejected any investigation led by Pessoa, an Alkatiri loyalist, and said internationals had to be involved for the work to be credible.
Gleno, capital of Ermera district, which had become the petitioners' base after 28-29 April, was the site of the next major outbreak of violence. Several dissident soldiers, including Salsinha, were originally from Ermera, and many loromonu residents of Dili had fled there after the violence. On 8 May, about 1,000 people organised as part of the so-called Ten District Movement, led by Major Tara, gathered in Gleno. They brought with them a petition that claimed the east-west issue was being fanned for political purposes, criticised the government for failing to detain those responsible for deaths on 28 April and urged the president use his constitutional powers to disarm those carrying guns. It demanded justice and humanitarian assistance for the displaced (overwhelmingly loromonu) and ended with a call for a boycott of local government. Egidio de Jesus Amaral, the state secretary coordinator for the region that includes Ermera, drove in from Dili to try to prevent the boycott.
The crowd became violent after the arrival of the secretary, together with twelve guards from the UIR police (six easterners, six westerners). The visitors were forced to take shelter in a government office. The Ermera police commander eventually sought reinforcements from Dili but by the time they arrived, the crowd was calling for the deaths of the UIR men, accusing them of responsibility for the 28 April shootings. Ismail Babo, deputy general commander (operations) at police headquarters, who was commanding the reinforcements, arranged at the crowd's insistence for the UIR men to be disarmed, then led them to the door of the building. (He said later that had their guns not been taken, the crowd might have stormed the building and killed them there.) The police emerged from the building to a waiting car to return to Dili, but the crowd began stoning the vehicle. Two officers were pulled or fell from the car and stabbed. One later died.
Within days over 90 people were detained in Gleno, but the incident raised temperatures further: police wanted to know why their colleagues had been disarmed; westerners said the incident would never have happened if the government had responded quickly to the original petition; and easterners wanted to know how they were going to be protected. It also destroyed the police command. Ismail Babo did not return to Dili until June, and Paulo Martins, the overall commander, never fully regained control of his rank-and-file. The Gleno incident also demonstrated that Xanana Gusmao had the support of the petitioners and the much broader political alliance behind them; the question was how much he was actively encouraging growth of a popular movement against FRETILIN.
In Dili, the stand-off continued with the rebels. Ramos Horta and Xanana had talks with Major Alfredo in mid-May, much to the annoyance of Taur Matan Ruak, who said it was bad enough for Alfredo to have deserted, worse that he remained armed.
On 17 May, the second FRETILIN national congress opened in a crisis atmosphere. From the leadership's standpoint, the issue of the petitioners had evolved into a full-scale political assault against FRETILIN, the Maputo group and Alkatiri personally; it was determined that challenge should fail. Alkatiri might not have countenanced an internal challenge to his re-election under any circumstances but certainly not now. Therefore, when a small group of "reformists" led by Jose Luis Guterres, ambassador to the U.S. and UN, made a bid for leadership, Alkatiri changed the rules. Instead of a secret vote as the political party law required, he asked for a show of hands – and was overwhelmingly reelected. The reformers said many who voted for Alkatiri were afraid of retribution; on a secret ballot support for the challengers would have been much stronger. Alkatiri sealed his victory with a speech saying FRETILIN was the country's most important institution; if it were divided, Timor-Leste would explode.
Major Alfredo, in the meantime, continued to give interviews on national radio and television from his base in Aileu, calling for justice for those killed in April and strengthening his position as a spokesman for the loromonu. The more he proclaimed his allegiance to Xanana, the more the rift widened between Xanana and Taur Matan Ruak, who was angered by the kid-glove treatment accorded someone who had violated every military regulation in the book. On 22 May, Alfredo and some 25 men moved to the hills just outside Dili. The shoot-out that took place the next day between F-FDTL units and Alfredo's men may not have been inevitable but the move did not help.
The official government version is that on 23 May Alfredo's group ambushed F-FDTL soldiers in Fatuahi, on the outskirts of Dili, killing one and wounding seven. Two Alfredo loyalists were killed, including a man named Kablaki, a petitioner involved in the attack on the government palace on 28 April. Alkatiri maintains that Alfredo planned the ambush as part of a political campaign, directed by others, to oust him. More violence would serve that end.
An international military adviser in Dili who analysed the location where the clash took place said he believed it was probably not a planned ambush but rather a case of both groups being surprised the other was there. Film shot by an Australian television crew on the scene at the time shows that Alfredo's men fired first, but that is not necessarily inconsistent with an accidental encounter.
An NGO coalition has a much more complicated explanation. According to its analysis, two gangs had been operating in the area since 2000, led respectively by Alito "Rambo" and Jacinto "Kulao". After April 2006, their rivalry was transformed along political lines, Rambo siding with the lorosae and Kulao with the loromonu. On 22 May, a day before the alleged ambush, conflict erupted between the two gangs, killing four. Locals told the NGOs that F-FDTL personnel were supporting Rambo, so the village head had asked Alfredo to protect Kulao's group. They also said police from the reserve unit had set up a base near Kulao's territory.
Whatever the cause, and this is one of the incidents the international commission of inquiry is investigating, the result was F-FDTL operations against Alfredo's group, most of whom managed to return safely to Aileu.
The shootout started a new round of violence. That evening, amid reports of large-scale police defections to the petitioners, armed police and civilians began gathering in Tibar, just west of Dili. Early on 24 May, this group, together with rebel soldiers, attacked from the hills above the armed forces headquarters in Tacitolu, killing an F-FDTL officer, Captain Domingos de Oliveira (Kaikeri), the logistics commander of the army training centre in Metinaro.
A critical question is how the attackers obtained sufficient arms and ammunition to sustain the assault for more than four hours of heavy fighting. One of those involved, the sacked soldier Railos, told the Australian television program "Four Corners" that Rogerio Lobato, with Alkatiri's knowledge, had set up a secret security team, armed with eighteen HK-33 guns, to target FRETILIN political opponents. Railos, whose credibility is open to question, said he met Alkatiri on 8 May and was instructed to "terminate all petitioners". Alkatiri acknowledges meeting Railos and two others several times during the FRETILIN party congress but said he asked them to provide security, not to kill anyone.
Later the same day, Taur Matan Ruak's home was attacked by a group of loromonu, pro-Rogerio Lobato police under the control of the deputy police commander for Dili, Abilio Mesquita alias "Mausoko". In August, Mesquita, from a prison cell in Dili, charged that Xanana Gusmao had given him the order to attack. He also claimed to have been present at a meeting at Xanana's house at an unspecified time "before the crisis" when plans to oust Alkatiri were discussed. Crisis Group is not aware of evidence to support the claim.
"There was a feeling the country was going under", an international military adviser said. There are differing versions of what happened next. One source said Taur Matan Ruak went to Alkatiri that afternoon and gave him an ultimatum – either we arm a reserve unit, or you call in international troops. Alkatiri, according to this account, agreed that Matan Ruak could distribute arms to a group of ex-Falintil fighters including some followers of Elle Sette (L-7) – an extraordinary move given Elle Sette's history of rebellion against FALINTIL authority. Taur Matan Ruak and Alkatiri both deny that Alkatiri was ever involved in the decision. But with or without his approval, the army distributed 200 of some 1,000 weapons that had been transferred from Metinaro to Baucau to the "reserves". In contrast to the secret, illegal transfer of police weapons to civilians, this was relatively orderly and well-documented, making it easier to retrieve the arms after international troops arrived.
The government decided to request assistance anyway, and a formal appeal – that Alkatiri reluctantly signed – was sent to Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and New Zealand.
The immediate impact of the attack on the F-FDTL headquarters was to increase hostility between the defence force and the police, leading to disaster on 25 May. That morning, a group of F-FDTL soldiers, together with some police from a unit based in Baucau (eastern Timor-Leste) disarmed three policemen in Comoro, a particularly tense area of Dili. F-FDTL personnel exchanged shots with a police patrol car. Later that morning, youths joined several F-FDTL soldiers to torch a house belonging to a relative of Rogerio Lobato's. The house burned down with a mother and four children inside; all died. Then the house of Ismail Babo, the police commander involved in the Gleno incident, who, some suggest, was involved in the attack on armed forces headquarters, went up in flames.
Shortly thereafter, around 11:00, F-FDTL soldiers assaulted police headquarters. UN military advisers went to the scene and through Taur Matan Ruak, negotiated what they thought was a peaceful resolution of the problem: the F-FDTL soldiers would allow the police inside to leave, without arms, and they would be escorted back to the UNOTIL office by UN police. But no one had disarmed the F-FDTL personnel outside the headquarters, and when some 85 police began leaving the building and walking toward UNOTIL, soldiers opened fire. Nine policemen were killed immediately, one died later, and some 30 were injured. The commission of inquiry is to determine who was responsible.
As fighting spread around the city and police were nowhere to be seen, the first 100 of some 1,300 Australian soldiers landed in Dili. Xanana announced he was assuming control of security – on unclear constitutional grounds: Alkatiri questioned the legality of Xanana's actions but said he would cooperate. Later Xanana ordered Alkatiri to sack Rogerio Lobato and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues. Malaysia, Portugal and New Zealand also dispatched troops that combined would eventually total 2,250. The UN and diplomatic missions struggled to evacuate non-essential staff as gunfights erupted between police and military, and gangs of mostly loromonu, armed with machetes and "Ambonese arrows" (panah Ambon), a lethal form of slingshot, attacked lorosae neighbourhoods. In New York, Kofi Annan announced that Ian Martin, who oversaw the independence referendum in 1999 as head of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), was returning as his special envoy.
A visitor to Alkatiri and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues that evening said they, like everyone else, seemed paralysed: "They were like autistic children, sitting in the dark, hunched forward, hands clasped between their knees, rocking back and forth". The whole city, he said, was in a state of extreme paranoia.
Fighting continued in the streets, and Dili residents sought shelter in church compounds, NGO offices and with friends and relatives outside the city. The UN estimated that more than 120,000 had fled their homes since April, and the numbers continued to rise. On 30 May, thugs raided the prosecutor-general's office, strewing files around and making off with equipment and papers. Press reports focused on the fact that among the missing data were files from the Serious Crimes Unit on some of those indicted for the 1999 violence, including former Indonesian military commander Wiranto. There is no reason to believe, however, that the thugs made any distinction in what they wrecked or looted, and dark hints of Indonesian involvement have no basis.
With international troops on the ground, attention shifted to the political struggle: would Alkatiri stay or go?
June saw a drawn-out battle of political wills between Xanana Gusmao and Mari Alkatiri, and while it ended with Alkatiri's resignation on 27 June, in a sense, both men lost.
On 3 June, Jose Ramos Horta and Alcino Baris were sworn in as ministers for defence and interior respectively (Ramos Horta temporarily retaining the foreign ministry). The next day, however, in a defiant move, the FRETILIN central committee elected Rogerio Lobato, newly sacked, as the party's new vice president. It issued a statement praising "the leadership of FRETILIN for the determined and courageous manner in which it has defended democratic values and the Constitution of the Republic", affirming its "total support for the government headed by Comrade Secretary General Mari Alkatiri" and congratulating itself for "the mature way in which the overwhelming majority of the.people, particularly the militants of FRETILIN, reacted to the total situation".
On 6 June, in a demonstration organised by Major Tara, about 1,500 people marched into town past the Palacio do Governo and called for Alkatiri to step down. They continued to Xanana's office, where Major Tara met the president, and he in turn addressed the crowd. The prime minister charged that all the moves against him were being fanned by the same parties which fomented riots in December 2002 that ended in his house being burned down. He strongly supported an international inquiry to investigate the events of April and May, as did the rest of the government, and on 8 June, Timor-Leste formally requested the UN to set up a commission.
Major Alfredo, from his base in Maubisse, continued to call piously for dialogue, indicated willingness to work with the international troops and urged support for Xanana Gusmao – but said he would not surrender his weapons until Alkatiri resigned. After negotiations with the international troops, however, groups linked to him and Major Tara began turning in some guns.
On 19 June, Ramos Horta delivered a message from the president to Railos and his men that they should turn over their weapons. The group made a public statement, reiterating what Railos had said on the "Four Corners" report, that they were given weapons on the orders of Alkatiri and Lobato and would turn them in if Alkatiri was arrested. Timor-Leste's prosecutor-general issued an arrest warrant for Rogerio the next day, citing the distribution of arms to Railos' group as an effort to "alter the public order and the democratic rule of law". Xanana followed this with a letter to Alkatiri demanding that he either resign or face dismissal because of his alleged involvement in the arms issue.
Then, on 22 June, with international forces patrolling Dili streets and much discussion in the international press about whether the UN had left the new country on its own too quickly, Xanana made another extraordinary speech. In a televised address to FRETILIN members that seemed to draw on wells of bitterness and feelings of personal betrayal, he accused their leadership of destroying the country. The speech is worth quoting at length, because it demonstrates why, more than three months later, it is almost impossible to get members of the political elite in the same room, let alone work out a common strategy for resolving the crisis.
He started with a broadside against the party, referring to delegates to the recent congress as people "who only know how to raise their hands because they're afraid of losing their jobs and it's their way of providing food for their wives and children, and because they received money under the table".
He said the congress violated the country's political party law and the constitution but it did not matter because the people who drew up the laws were the ones who violated them. "They're the ones who know better than anyone else in the world, and everyone else is like cheap noodles".
He then recounted the history of FRETILIN from its origins in 1974. He noted that as a member of the central committee in 1977, he took part in the decision to adopt Marxism-Leninism, and that if many of those present were alive today, they would realise that the old ideology was no longer relevant in the post-Cold War era of globalisation.
Now a small group, coming from outside, wants to repeat what we went through from 1975 to 1978. In August 1975 UDT launched a coup to expel communists out of the country in a move that sparked a civil war among Timorese. In 2006 FRETILIN wants to launch a coup to kill democracy that they themselves enshrined in the constitution.
In 1978, he said, after support bases in the east of the country were destroyed, he began organising the resistance in the west – that is, in the areas now home to the petitioners. In 1981, the struggle moved from resistance to guerrilla war, and in 1983, during a six-month ceasefire with the Indonesian army, "we began to speak of democracy". A year later, he and others formed a national unity pact (Convergência Nacionalista) that included "all corners of Timor, the Church and political parties".
But Rogerio Lobato, he said, had other ideas:
Stories were reaching our Timorese friends abroad about how Gardapaksi [a pro-integration youth group set up by the Indonesian military] was beating our people black and blue..In Mozambique, Lobato tried to do the same by sowing discord, and eventually Ramos Horta became a prisoner. President Chissano, who was then the Mozambique foreign minister, was the one who got Ramos Horta released. If you think I'm lying, ask them because they're the ones who were living quietly in Mozambique for twenty years.
After the Convergência Nacionalista was formed in Lisbon, I was very happy because it was another step forward. On 4 December 1986, I set up CNRM [a national front] and left FRETILIN because as the top commander of FALINTIL, I wanted to take it away from political party influence. In this way FALINTIL became the liberation army for the whole country, for all parties, for all people, for loromonu and lorosae, from the north coast to the southern sea.
Lu Olo says that for 24 years, he has always carried the FRETILIN flag in his bag. Maybe, but I've never seen it. When I was on the FRETILIN central committee going around in the middle of Timor-Leste to reorganise the resistance, he was hiding in Builo. Maybe he was sewing the bag that he used to hide the flag..
Xanana noted that about this time, Amnesty International and others were reporting that FRETILIN had been involved in killing its ideological opponents. He sent a message from the jungle acknowledging this and expressing regret. The admission created a firestorm among FRETILIN members abroad, some of whom publicly accused him of lying.
He then returned to his history of the party, laced with bitter comments about his opponents:
In 1989 I was in Ainaro when I received a letter from Rogerio Lobato accusing everyone abroad of not doing anything and also saying that when the war was over, everyone should be brought before a people's court. Rogerio Lobato told me in that letter that Mari Alkatiri was busy in Maputo keeping rabbits and chickens..
In May 2000 I was invited to speak at the FRETILIN congress [and I] asked three things: they should take back Xavier do Amaral [a former leader, now opposition politician] because he wasn't a traitor; he simply didn't accept the ideology; that the good name be restored of all those whom FRETILIN killed because they didn't accept Marxism-Leninism, and FRETILIN must apologise to the people, especially to the families of its victims..
In August 2000 at a CNRT congress, FRETILIN pulled out..Mari explained that they had left CNRT because they were angry with me because I had let a number of [families of victims] speak at the congress and because I had wrecked the image of FRETILIN.
I said, "You don't have any reason to fear, because you can say to the people, 'I, Mari, had nothing to do with wrongdoing in our country. I, Mari, was in Maputo, suffering for twenty years, but I washed my hands every day with soap. So I, Mari, have clean hands. Go and ask Xanana: he's the one with dirty hands, with blood on his hands."
Xanana then launched into a catalogue of the FRETILIN leadership's efforts to expand its control after the 2001 elections:
Everyone has to join, whether they are police, army, civil servants, business people, villages, neighbourhoods, water buffalo, ants, trees or grass.. The people are suffering in Dili but they don't go to visit, they don't even talk to them. They're too busy mobilising the people from the districts to show how all FRETILIN members are obedient to them and kiss their hands and feet. They're brought to Dili in vehicles for free so they can shout "Viva this" and "Viva that", and they're fed and sent back to their fields, and they still don't have money to send their children to school, and in their homes, they're still hungry..
Rogerio was sacked as minister but Mari chose him as deputy chair of FRETILIN. This kind of dirty politics makes us ashamed. Rogerio went to the police office, asked for fuel for the official car he still uses. The person on duty at the logistics department of the PNTL said: "Your Excellency is no longer interior minister, so you can't get fuel any longer from the PNTL". Rogerio swore at him, "Stupid monkey, don't you know I'm bigger now than I was as minister?"
Many people are afraid, Xanana said, that if Alkatiri resigns, there will be war and bloodshed, that government will come to a halt, that they won't get money any longer. People were asking him, as president, to guarantee stability, to restore democratic institutions. If he resigned, the head of the parliament, FRETILIN President Lu Olo, would replace him, and the parliament would continue to function as members raised their hands, thinking of their families' welfare.
Everything is up to FRETILIN, he said, not the illegal FRETILIN leadership, but ordinary members:
Ask Comrade Mari Alkatiri to take responsibility for this crisis and for the continuation of a democratic state, or tomorrow I will send a letter to the parliament that I am resigning as president because of the iniquities perpetrated by this government on its people. I can no longer face the public.
The speech sparked a flood of appeals to Xanana to stay, including from Kofi Annan, and increased the pressure on Alkatiri to resign. That pressure intensified when Rogerio Lobato, during a preliminary investigation session in Dili District Court over the arms distribution, said Alkatiri had been aware of the project. As several cabinet ministers, including Jose Ramos Horta, threatened to resign, on 26 June Alkatiri finally announced he was stepping down for the good of the country and to avoid the resignation of the president, while maintaining that he was in effect the victim of a prolonged coup attempt. This produced celebrations in the streets.
Alkatiri's resignation and his replacement as prime minister two weeks later by Jose Ramos Horta, may have been necessary to resolve the crisis but it was not sufficient, and not that much changed. The new cabinet looked very similar to the old, FRETILIN retained control of parliament, and Alkatiri continued to take part as an active member. Without a political base of his own, Ramos Horta seemed to become more and more dependent on his predecessor, until the more rabid anti-FRETILIN camp began to accuse him of being Alkatiri's puppet.
Dili remained highly polarised and physically segregated, with makeshift camps for the displaced, most of them lorosae, dotted around the city. One of the main markets divided into two, one for loromonu, one for lorosae. More groups handed in weapons, but hundreds remained in circulation, most of them police issue. On Ramos Horta's first day in office, Railos turned a token eleven weapons over to him in the town of Liquica; by 25 July, the deadline set by international forces for weapons turnover, some 1,000 had been collected.
Meanwhile, Major Alfredo continued to hold court in Maubisse; on 24 July Xanana ordered him to come to Dili. The next day, responding to the summons, he met the president there and renewed his call for dialogue. On 26 July, he was arrested by international forces in a house in the Bairopite area of the capital. He reportedly had been given use of a house for himself and his men by Xanana directly, and subsequently commandeered two others. When Alfredo and his armed men arrived, someone summoned the Portuguese police element of the international force, the GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana). When they arrived, they found weapons and ammunition that should have been turned in the day before. Australian forces soon arrived on the scene as well, and after a day-long stand-off, Alfredo and twenty of his men were led away to prison (seven were later released).
Many in Dili saw this as violating a tacit understanding that all arrests and prosecutions would be put on hold until the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, appointed on 29 June, finished "establishing the facts and circumstances relevant to the violent incidents that took place in the country on 28 and 29 April, and on 23, 24 and 25 May". The commission is to determine responsibility and recommend measures "to ensure accountability for crimes and serious violations of human rights allegedly committed during the period". The formal indictment against Alfredo, two days after his arrest, included attempted murder for the "ambush" of F-FDTL troops on 23 May, an incident covered by the commission's mandate.
For many loromonu in Dili, the real issue was more basic: Alkatiri and Lobato were not in prison, so why should Alfredo be? The arrest also affected public perceptions of the international forces. The Portuguese were seen by some loromonu as having displayed a pro-Alkatiri bias. An Alfredo supporter told the press: "We ask Australian and Malaysian police to stay in their barracks and let GNR patrol Dili, so we can confront them". Sporadic protests against the GNR took place for the rest of the week. On 30 August, when Alfredo calmly walked out of prison with fourteen of his followers and more than 40 convicted criminals, without anyone trying to stop him, Prime Minister Ramos Horta blamed the international forces for not providing sufficient security. The pro-Alkatiri camp saw the escape as another example of Australia helping its opponents.
Throughout August and September sporadic violence, mostly minor, continued to take place in Dili. The UN Security Council voted to establish a new mission, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and a 1,600-strong international police force began to replace the Australian-led military force. The Timor-Leste government and various international advisers agreed on a program to rebuild the local police, who had collapsed in Dili but still functioned more or less normally in the rest of the country. But top political leaders remained at loggerheads, and everyone seemed to be waiting for the international commission to finish its work and pronounce judgment – even though it stressed it was not a prosecuting body.
As if to underscore the problems the commission will face in recommending that individuals be held accountable, the Dili Court of Appeal on 11 August ruled that FRETILIN's use of a show of hands vote at its May congress was not in violation of the political party law – despite the fact that the text clearly stipulates a secret ballot. The competence and independence of the Timorese-Portuguese head of that court, Claudio Ximenes, who chaired a three-judge panel that ruled on the case, were already in question after a series of extraordinary decisions in 2004 and 2005, and the husbands of the two Timorese judges held positions in FRETILIN, one of them on the central committee. While the two judges themselves are held in high regard, the feeling was that they should have recused themselves.
The problems in the Timor-Leste court system run deep, and securing justice for crimes in 2006 may prove as difficult as for the violence that wracked the country in 1999.
Everyone wants Timor-Leste to move beyond this crisis and succeed as an independent state but several international actors have a particular interest in seeing that it does so. They include the UN, Australia, Indonesia and Portugal. All bear some responsibility for the current predicament, even if on the surface it is largely self-inflicted, but all have an even greater stake in a stable, prosperous country.
For a few years, Timor-Leste was seen as the success story of an institution eager for evidence that it could succeed at nation-building. It was arguably the child of the UN, its status as a non-decolonised territory, rather than an Indonesian province, protected for two decades, and its slow march to independence shepherded at every step of the way by the international body. After Indonesian President Habibie impulsively declared in January 1999 that he would allow a referendum for East Timor, the UN was quick to work out the modalities.
UNAMET supervised the vote that enabled 78.5 per cent of the population to opt to separate from Indonesia, only to see unimagined violence follow in its wake. It gave way to UNTAET in October 1999, which was tasked to oversee the transition to independence and in turn ceded place to the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste (UNMISET) and then to the UN Office in Timor Leste (UNOTIL) in May 2005, each smaller and less intrusive than the one before. UNOTIL, unlike its predecessors, was not a peacekeeping mission, but rather a political mission funded from the regular budget – although still managed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). As late as April 2006, the assumption was that it would give way to an office of up to 65 members, tasked largely with overseeing the 2007 elections and providing advisers in critical areas, particularly police training, which would evolve into a "sustainable development assistance framework" for the new country.
In hindsight, the UN has been accused of drawing down too quickly, a charge better leveled against member states than the institution per se. The UN's fault was rather passivity on the ground, particularly in the failure of UNTAET to deal more quickly with the cantoned FALINTIL fighters and of UNMISET to question or even understand the implications of Rogerio Lobato's politicisation of the police or FRETILIN's accumulation of power. It was not for lack of information: excellent reporting was coming out of the political affairs office. Sukehiro Hasegawa, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) under UNMISET, was widely seen as a well-meaning man, eager to avoid conflict, but put in a position beyond his depth and an uncomprehending bystander as the forces that erupted in 2006 gathered strength. Both UNTAET and UNMISET were responsible for lapses that led to a court system that became politicised and staggeringly inept.
As the political situation deteriorated sharply in late May 2006, Secretary-General Kofi Annan returned Ian Martin to assess the situation. In his report to the Security Council in July, Martin said the most serious underlying cause of the current crisis was "political cleavages" in the security sector, not only between the defence force and the police, but within each service. He stressed that the priority had to be determining the future of soldiers and ex-soldiers (including the petitioners and others who deserted) and re-establishing the police. He said critics saw FRETILIN moving toward a one-party state, while FRETILIN faulted the opposition for challenging it by undemocratic means.
Martin stressed the need for an independent investigatory commission, saying this was what the Timorese most wanted from the UN, and "evidence of criminal responsibility should be conveyed to, further investigated by and prosecuted in the Timorese justice system" with international lawyers, judges and prosecutors provided by the UN. The UN was also needed to help organise the 2007 elections, which should resolve the political competition democratically. But its main mission would be in the areas of security, administration of justice, and the functioning of democratic institutions.
Based on Martin's reports, the Security Council on 25 August 2006 created a new, expanded mission, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, to field some 1,600 international police and up to 34 military liaison officers for an initial, extendable period of six months. On 13 September, a UN official assumed command of national policing.
The real challenge for the UN will be to recruit politically savvy senior staff with the interest, authority, and expertise to help Timorese leaders resolve their differences and move forward. Particularly critical will be selection of the SRSG and the deputy responsible for justice and security sector reform issues. Recruitment of international judges also needs particular attention; the UN Development Programme (UNDP) practice of recruiting jurists largely by language capability rather than international judicial experience and human rights expertise needs to stop.
The issue for the UN police is not just to have sufficient international forces on the ground to provide a modicum of security in Dili as the capital's police are reconstituted. The deputy SRSG for justice and security, working with the UN police commissioner, ideally also should be able to coordinate all the technical advisers and consultants provided by donor governments to the Timor-Leste government on policing issues in a way that trumps parochial donor interests, generates maximally efficient solutions and maintains good relations with Timorese counterparts. A project underway to vet the Timor-Leste police so that those not responsible for criminal activity can return to work is an example of what may be a maximally inefficient solution, in part because so many different fingers are in the pie.
Timor-Leste's southern neighbour is one of its largest donors and both co-owner and joint owner of the oil resources of the Timor Sea. It was first to answer the government's request for help in May 2006 and now has 940 soldiers and 140 police in Dili. Contrary to the belief of some in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia itself, it has no conceivable interest in another unstable country to its north to add to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – the so-called "arc of instability".
The current crisis has produced a very different relationship between Australian and key actors in Timor-Leste than in 1999, when Australian soldiers arrived in ravaged East Timor as saviours. While Australians were again first in line to assist in 2006, three factors have made their reception very different: a fraught relationship with Alkatiri; the oil issue; and their inability in Timor to prevent new violence.
Prime Minister John Howard in late May made no secret of his belief that Timor-Leste had not been well governed. This was seen widely as a direct criticism of Mari Alkatiri. Alkatiri told anyone who would listen that Australia and its media were leading a campaign against him because he had refused to bow to Canberra's demands in the Timor Sea negotiations – a conspiracy theory in wide circulation in Dili. That Australia had been so quick to respond to the government's request for help reinforced baseless suspicions that it was looking to intervene.
Differences over oil in the Timor Sea have made for sometimes difficult relations over the last two years, but they do not drive relations with Timor-Leste from state, the revenue will mean Canberra's perspective. For Australia, an already wealthy added income; for Timor-Leste it may be the key to escaping the appellation of "one of the poorest countries in the world". Whatever the difference in perception, the dispute seemed to be resolved in January 2006 when a treaty was signed equally dividing the oil and gas revenue of the Greater Sunrise Field, but the question of whether the gas will be processed in Darwin or eastern East Timor remains unanswered.
A third reason for changed attitudes towards Australia has been the inability of Australian troops to be everywhere at once. In 1999 when they entered East Timor, Indonesian forces were gone, and most of the Indonesian-backed militias had fled or were fleeing. It was not a situation of widespread civil unrest. Many in Dili in 2006 faulted the international forces in their first few months on the ground for being too slow to respond to calls for help and too lacking in good intelligence to prevent attacks or identify perpetrators. The perceived slowness to respond, when most of the attacks in the capital were led by loromonu youth, reinforced perceptions that the Australians were partial toward the latter, in line with an anti-Alkatiri stance. These perceptions were mitigated somewhat by images of Australian troops providing personal security for Alkatiri during the FRETILIN central committee meeting in June.
All this has made Australia a less than beloved protector this time around. Its reluctance to see its troops placed under a unified UN command, despite the wishes of the Timor-Leste government, is not making things easier.
Indonesia's record of misrule and brutality in East Timor through 1999 has been extensively documented but both countries have bent over backwards since to put relations on a normal, even warm footing. There is no evidence whatsoever that Indonesia sought to take advantage of its neighbour's difficulties as the crisis unfolded, and while it was prepared for the arrival of refugees in West Timor, only a handful of Timorese crossed over. Most who fled were Indonesian citizens. Over the last two years, the border has been mostly quiet, but a few incidents, most notably in January 2006, underscore the need for a well-trained, professional patrol that can prevent incursions and manage local tensions if they arise. The militias that wreaked such havoc in 1999 are no longer a serious security threat.
The one issue that has arisen was the reported appearance in Dili of weapons from the Indonesian army munitions factory, PT Pindad. Even if confirmed – and no evidence has surfaced – it would more likely be due to mafia-like gun running in the region than any Indonesian policy.
Portugal, the ruler of East Timor for 450 years before the 1975 Indonesian invasion, proudly claims that it is Timor-Leste's largest donor. Its interest is overwhelmingly cultural, focused in particular on schools, for Portuguese language instruction, and the courts, where its influence is steadily eroding the Indonesian legacy. If Australia was seen as anti-Alkatiri, Portugal was seen as his defender, in part because of the Maputo group's enthusiastic support for making Portuguese the national language and other steps toward the "lusafication" of Timor-Leste.
In response to the crisis, 120 GNR gendarmes arrived in Dili in June. The Portuguese-Australian relationship is somewhat cool, since Portugal, unlike Malaysia and New Zealand, refused to accept Australian command. In the Security Council, the Portuguese pointedly stress the need for UN command of any future forces, a barb directed at the Australians.
The crisis in Timor-Leste stems from the legacy of resistance to the Indonesian occupation; post-independence institutional failures, particularly in the security sector; and divisive policies on the part of the ruling party, FRETILIN. The UN Secretary-General's August 2006 report to the Security Council notes:
Critics accuse FRETILIN of having used its dominant position in Parliament and its superior political machinery to narrow the space available for political debate or challenge, including within the party itself. The party's use of its overwhelming parliamentary majority and the weakness of the small and fragmented opposition mean that Parliament is often not seen as an effective check on the executive. The executive is also accused of politicising or attempting to politicise the machinery of government, most notably the institutions at the core of the crisis, F-FDTL and PNTL.
One of the most important steps to ending the crisis is thus one that outside actors have least influence over: reform within FRETILIN. Several other measures – some already underway – are also important:
Xanana Gusmao, Mari Alkatiri and to a lesser extent Taur Matan Ruak, hold the keys to resolving the impasse at the top. Unless the first two are willing to get past mutual distrust and discuss how to overcome the security forces' polarisation and heal the east-west split, it is unlikely foreign technical aid can do much. The new SRSG could be critical in building bridges. Rogerio Lobato's prosecution might be a lightning rod that could enable much blame to be put on a third party but Xanana and Alkatiri may need to think the unthinkable – foregoing any role in the 2007 elections so new leaders can emerge. Alkatiri's defiant stance, before and after he resigned, and Xanana's polarising speeches, however accurate their content, have made a bad situation worse. Discussing solutions, a Timorese leader said sadly: "We may have to sacrifice some of our heroes".
The report, scheduled for release in mid-October 2006, will be explosive no matter what its contents. It will cover all the most sensitive cases: the F-FDTL shooting on 28 April; the shootout between Alfredo and F-FDTL on 23 May; the attacks on Taur Matan Ruak's home and police headquarters; the killing of the unarmed police on 25 May; and the distribution of weapons. How far up will responsibility go? Who will be named, who exonerated? If it finds senior leaders responsible, will they step down pending investigation and prosecution? How will fair prosecutions be guaranteed given the state of the courts? The UN, the government, security forces and community leaders all need to have responses ready, including proposals for prosecutions that will ensure fair and reasonably speedy trials; information dissemination strategies so that commission findings are not distorted; and security preparations to deal with possible protests and demonstrations.
The army petitioners' case must be resolved. Everything is on hold until the commission of notables under Ana Pessoa completes its examination of the original grievances. That first step will not necessarily satisfy the petitioners, and solutions, if identified, may not be implemented; nor will they necessarily resolve the larger political problem of how to deal with rebels whose desertion has decimated the army. Taur Matan Ruak has said their return would give the defence force a bad image and might create a precedent for a coup.
However, leaving close to 600 soldiers outside the system is a time bomb, even if they are mostly disarmed. Salsinha and Alfredo and a few other leaders will clearly not be able to return. But jobs will need to be found for the others, on condition they were not involved in violence or criminal activity, either back in the F-FDTL or as civilians. The commission's findings may to some degree vindicate the original complaints of discrimination; those issues can be best addressed by putting in place clear regulations on recruitment, dismissal and promotions; improving management; and instituting a civilian oversight mechanism.
As a matter of urgency and as required by Security Council Resolution 1704 establishing UNMIT, the government needs to undertake a national security review that will clarify the roles of the defence force, police and intelligence agencies; command and control arrangements, including in emergencies; and civilian oversight mechanisms. It should also identify and begin drafting legislation to improve management of the security sector, including a law on military assistance to the civil authorities. The government should establish a national security council on which the commanders of the defence force and police sit together with their respective ministers. In addition to a better definition of its role, the F-FDTL needs a plan for gracefully retiring many of the veterans whom it absorbed in 2001. The phased exit of that generation would also help address some of the regional imbalance in the officer corps.
The Dili police, rotting from within thanks to the policies of Rogerio Lobato, disintegrated in late April. A major vetting process is now underway, in effect requiring police to reapply for their jobs, be screened and then be mentored process before or as they return to work. As of late September, 25 of the 900 who wish to do so are back on duty. There may be no alternative to the slow and cumbersome screening process but at this rate, Dili will be fortunate if a full complement is back by the May 2007 elections. Screening is also to be undertaken in the rest of the country, even though for the most part, police operations outside Dili and Ermera have not been seriously affected. It would be worth reviewing the process after a month to see if it can be streamlined. Just as important as screening the old police is reviewing recruitment procedures for newcomers, among other things to ensure geographic balance. The role of the three special units of the police so politicised by Rogerio Lobato should also be re-examined, with a view toward absorbing them back into the regular police until the security review is completed and a restructuring based on identified needs can take place.
Healing the social divide the petitioners' demands and subsequent violence opened requires reconciliation of political leaders but will also not happen if the displaced, 140,000 as of September, half in Dili, have no homes to return to and fear leaving the camps. A program of the ministry of labour and community reinsertion, Simu-Malu (mutual acceptance), involves a plan based on the three pillars of security, reconciliation and housing. It is predicated on the assumption the displaced will trust their leaders but if anything is lacking in Dili it is trust. To move forward, the displaced must be convinced their concerns are being heard at the highest level, the government can guarantee their safety, and amelioration of their plight is imminent. One step that can be taken is to publicise the number of weapons collected and the number still in circulation, because the latter is far lower than rumoured. Once immediate needs are addressed, reconciliation through community projects and other initiatives can start.
If the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry recommends prosecutions, as it surely will, they will be as politically-charged as any in Timor-Leste's short history. Fair trials cannot be guaranteed in the court system as currently constituted, and the UN's track record of recruiting high-quality judges for Timor is poor. Due process will be important as never before; the judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers need to be world-class. If justice is mishandled as it has been until now, the work of the commission could end up being more destructive than constructive.
The UN handles the technical aspects of elections well but the preparations for May 2007 are as much political as technical. The government and UNIMIT must ensure that the social and political fissures the crisis has exposed do not widen as politicians campaign. Getting agreement on a code of ethics would be one step; focus group discussions to understand and respond to local security concerns before and during the campaign would be another. But the most important guarantor against violence might be for the more controversial figures in the capital to sit this election out voluntarily.
Timor-Leste has a shockingly high unemployment rate, verging on 44 per cent for urban youth. Jobs and economic opportunities will not end street violence but they would help prevent the rent-a-mob phenomenon which adds to the precariousness of civil order. Some of the oil revenues now coming on line should be immediately plowed back into quick impact, labor-intensive programs; reconstruction of burned and damaged homes might be a place to start. Another idea circulating in Dili is for a national conservation corps that could simultaneously employ large numbers of youths and help protect the environment.
Last but not least, the government should adopt and begin implementing the recommendations of Chega! the report of the Comissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliaciao, CAVR. At 44 pages, they are detailed and practical and provide useful guidelines for policy changes. Particularly pertinent are:
- Section 3.4: right to security of the person, a national commitment to non-violence;
- Section 4: promoting and protecting the rights of the vulnerable;
- Section 5: promoting and protecting human rights by effective institutions, especially parliament, courts, the public service, the provedor (ombudsman) and the Church;
- Section 6: developing security services that protect and promote human rights. The recommendations on the police, defence force and other security agencies are particularly relevant; and
- Section 9: reconciliation in the political community.
None of these steps are easy. The crisis escalated because of individuals: individuals with personal interests and power bases, individuals making decisions without consultation, individuals trying to determine policy unilaterally. The way out is through institution-building, particularly in the security services, precisely so that the actions of individuals will not carry so much weight.
Jakarta/Brussels, 10 October 2006
- Abilio Mesquita alias Mausoko: deputy police commander for Dili who led attack on Taur Matan Ruak's house in May 2006.
- Alcino Baris: interior minister, replaced Rogerio Lobato in June 2006.
- Alfredo Alves Reinado (Major): head of military police, deserted 3 May 2006; involved in shootout with F-FDTL 23 May; arrested 26 July, escaped 30 August 2006.
- Alito "Rambo": gang member reputed to be involved in 23 May shootout.
- Ana Pessoa: minister for state administration in Alkatiri government, member of Maputo group; heads Commission of Notables tasked with investigating petitioners' grievances.
- APODETI - Associacao Popular Democratica de Timor (Popular Democratic Association of Timor) formed in 1974, only Timorese party to favour integration with Indonesia.
- Associação dos Antigos Combatentes das Falintil - the Ex-Combatants Assocation, a veterans association established by Rogerio Lobato.
- CAVR - Comissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliaciao, Commission on Truth, Reception and Reconciliation.
- Claudio Ximenes: president of the court of appeal in Timor-Leste.
- CNRM - Conselho Nacional de Resistancia Maubere (National Council of Maubere Resistance), founded by Xanana in 1988 as the highest political body of the resistance.
- CNRT - Conselho Nacional da Resistancia Timorense (National Council of Timorese Resistance), formed under the name CNRM in 1989 by Xanana Gusmao; it represents the entire East Timorese resistance movement, including FRETILIN.
- Cornelio Gama: also known as Elle Sette (l-7), dissident FALINTIL commander, brother of Paulo Gama (Mauk Moruk).
- Convergência Nacionalista - pact between UDT and FRETILIN to work together for the resistance, signed March 1986.
- CPD-RDTL - Conselho Popular pela Defesa de Republica Democratica de Timor Leste (Popular Council for the Defence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor), dissident group that was a major source of internal security problems in the first years after independence.
- CRRN - Revolutionary Council of National Resistance, first national front of the Timorese resistance, formed 1981.
- Domingos de Oliveira: see Kaikeri.
- FALINTIL - Forcas Armados de Libertacao Nacional de Timor-Leste (National Liberation Forces of East Timor), formed on 20 August 1975, originally FRETILIN's military wing, became non-partisan under Xanana Gusmao's leadership 1987; dissolved on the creation of the East Timorese Defence Force, February 2001.
- FALINTIL-FDTL or F-FDTL - the formal name of the Timor-Leste Defence Force after independence in May 2002.
- Falur Rate Laek: commander of Battalion I, F-FDTL, had been FALINTIL fighter, worked as auxiliary in Indonesian army early 1980s, switched back to resistance 1983.
- FDTL - Forcas Defensa Timor Lorosae (Timor-Leste Defence Force), created in February 2001.
- FRETILIN - Frente Revolutionaria do Timor-Leste Independente (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor), started as ASDT (the pro-independence Association of Timorese Social Democrats, formed in 1974); changed name in September 1974; after civil war with UDT, it declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor on November 28, 1975 on the verge of Indonesian invasion.
- Gardapaksi - pro-integration group of Timorese youth created by Indonesian military, responsible for attacks on pro-independence supporters.
- Gascao Salsinha: Leader of 159 soldiers who signed petition to President Gusmao on 9 January 2006 alleging discrimination in F-FDTL, sacked in March 2006; based in Gleno, Ermera.
- GNR - Guarda Nacional Republicana, Portuguese paramilitary police unit.
- Isabel Pereira: wife of Taur Matan Ruak, representative of Timor-Leste on TL-Indonesia Truth and Friendship Commission.
- Ismail Babo: deputy commander of PNTL for operations, involved in Gleno incident, 8 May 2006, never returned to police command.
- Jose Ramos-Horta: born 1949 in Dili, co-founder of ASDT (the Timorese Social Democratic Association), which became FRETILIN; won the Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Belo in 1996; foreign minister in first Timor-Leste government, became prime minister in July 2006.
- Kablaki: Alfredo loyalist, one of the petitioners involved in the attack on the government palace on 28 April 2006, killed in shootout with F-FDTL on 23 May.
- Kaikeri, real name, Domingos de Oliveira: logistics commander of the F-FDTL training centre in Metinaro, killed in assault on F-FDTL headquarters on 24 May 2006.
- Kilik Wae Gae: FALINTIL chief of staff, died in 1984 under disputed circumstances; wife became a FRETILIN central committee member and eventually deputy minister for state administration in the Alkatiri government.
- L-7 (Elle Sette): see Cornelio Gama.
- Lere Anan Timor: F-FDTL Chief of Staff, FRETILIN central committee member, target of complaints by Westerners dismissed from defence force in March 2006.
- Loromonu - western part of Timor-Leste.
- Lorosae - eastern part of Timor-Leste, roughly from Baucau eastward.
- Lu'Olo (Francisco Guterres): speaker of parliament, president of FRETILIN; born in Ossu, Viqueque.
- Mari Alkatiri: prime minister of Timor-Leste until July 2006; secretary-general and co-founder of FRETILIN; spent all of Indonesian occupation in exile, mostly in Mozambique; Lawyer by training, chief negotiator on oil with Australia.
- Maubere - Timorese word used derisively by the Portuguese to refer to Timorese, adopted by FRETILIN as national identity.
- Mauk Moruk: FALINTIL brigade commander involved in 1984 coup attempt against Xanana Gusmao, brother of Elle Sette (Cornelio Gama).
- Mausoko: see Abilio Mesquita.
- Nicolau Lobato: prime minister of East Timor from 28 November 1975, named president in 1977, killed by Indonesian troops 1978; older brother of Rogerio Lobato.
- Oligari Asswain: FALINTIL deputy brigade commander involved in coup attempt against Xanana Gusmao 1984.
- Paulo Gama: see Mauk Moruk.
- Paulo Martins: head of the Timor-Leste police service, had been secretary to police chief under Indonesians.
- Provador - ombudsman.
- Railos: see Vicente da Conceicao.
- Rogerio Lobato: former interior minister and vice president of FRETILIN; defence minister of short-lived FRETILIN government in 1975; spent Indonesian occupation in Angola and Mozambique; returned to Timor Leste in October 2000; named minister in May 2002, sacked in June 2006.
- Roque Rodrigues: defence minister of Timor-Leste.
- Sagrada Familia - a cult-like organisation through which Elle Sette developed a separate power base in the Baucau area.
- Simu-Malu - mutual acceptance, a community reconciliation program, also involving assistance to displaced persons.
- Tara (Major): F-FDTL officer who deserted with Major Alfredo, leader of Ten District movement.
- Taur Matan Ruak: F-FDTL commander.
- Tilman (Major): F-FDTL officer who deserted with Major Alfredo.
- UIR - special riot control unit of Timor-Leste police.
- UNAMET - United Nations Mission to East Timor, 11 June to 30 September 1999.
- UNMISET - United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor, 20 May 2002 to 20 May 2005.
- UNMIT - United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, August 2006 with six-month mandate.
- UNOTIL - United Nations Office in Timor-Leste, 20 May 2005 to August 2006.
- UNTAET - United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, 25 October 1999 to 20 May 2002.
- UDT - Uniao Democratica Timorense (Timorese Democratic Union), group formed on 11 May 1974 that initially favored continued ties with Portugal but came to support independence.
- Vicente da Conceicao (Railos): former F-FDTL soldier sacked in December 2003, claims to have received guns from Rogerio Lobato on Alkatiri's orders to kill political opposition; originally from Liquica, had been a FALINTIL fighter during the resistance; after independence worked in the training academy of the new armed forces in Metinaro.
- Xanana Gusmao (Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao): president of Timor-Leste; born 20 June 1946 near Manatuto, joined FRETILIN in May 1975; became commander in chief of FALINTIL in 1981 and created national front movement, moving resistance beyond its FRETILIN base.
- Xavier do Amaral: born in 1937, became first president of Timor-Leste in November 1975, founder of FRETILIN; in April 2002, soundly defeated by Xanana Gusmão in the presidential elections; now head of opposition party.