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East Timor News Digest 11 – November 1-30, 2006

News & issues

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 News & issues

East Timor soldiers, police parade in gesture of reconciliation

Agence France Presse - November 15, 2006

Dili – Nearly 1,000 soldiers and police paraded on the streets of East Timor's capital Dili Wednesday in an apparent gesture of reconciliation after their differences contributed to unrest earlier this year.

Some 600 members of the Fretilin National Armed Forces (F-DTL) arrived at the government office in downtown Dili on board scores of vehicles while about 300 members of the national police (PNTL) marched from their headquarters.

Hundreds of onlookers crowded the area to watch the parade and cheer them.

Both contingents and the area around the government office were tightly guarded by armed members of the UN police. While many of the soldiers were carrying rifles, the police came unarmed.

"The wounds of recent events are healing and our forces are showing us the way towards a lasting peace," President Xanana Gusmao said according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

"I am moved by the unity and friendship shown by our soldiers and police, and particularly by their leaders. They have faced a most severe ordeal and emerged even stronger," Gusmao added.

The rally followed a series of meetings between the country's leaders, the heads of the police and military, the church and top politicians.

Soldiers and police were involved in violence that rocked Dili and surrounding towns in April and May, following the dismissal of almost a third of the armed forces by then prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Some 600 soldiers deserted the forces, citing discrimination within the ranks. Their protest quickly degenerated into street violence, including between gangs of youth and between ethnic groups, that left 37 people dead.

Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, but bolstered by the presence of some 1,000 UN police whose forces will eventually be increased to 1,600.

Hugs, tears in Dili lift peace hopes

Sydney Morning Herald - November 15, 2006

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin – After months of violence, hundreds of youths from rival gangs have gathered on the streets of Dili to embrace each other, shed tears and celebrate a fragile peace.

"It seems that peace, not war, is breaking out in East Timor," the country's Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said yesterday.

Despite more than 60,000 people still living in squalid refugee camps too afraid to return to their homes, and armed rebels remaining at large in East Timor's mountains, Mr Ramos Horta said recent meetings involving himself, President Xanana Gusmao and leaders of the country's army and police may mark the end of months of violence that left more than 30 dead and 2000 homes and buildings destroyed.

The Prime Minister said he had heard "honest and humble words" from the army and police leaders and they had pledged to work together for reconciliation, stability and peace.

"To consolidate peace, much more needs to be done in the coming days and weeks, but no matter what obstacles are placed in front of us we will not give up on seeking peace, harmony and democracy," he said in a statement released in Dili.

Mr Ramos Horta said that over the past few days more than 1000 youths had shed tears and embraced each other in peace rallies on the main road between Dili and the airport, the scene of some of the worst recent violence. A formal meeting of all of East Timor's political actors would be held in Dili on November 21.

Mr Ramos Horta, who took office in June at the height of political upheaval, said that as Defence Minister it was his responsibility to ensure East Timor's 800-strong military was armed, but he said he would not buy more weapons for the police or army.

"There are too many weapons in our country as it is," he said. "All of us have seen too much killing, too much violence and too much mourning. "I see my role as looking after the minds and souls of our military and police. Enough of guns!"

East Timor's youth unite for peace rally

Agence France Presse - November 13, 2006

Hundreds of East Timorese youths, including members of rival gangs who fought each other in the streets of the capital earlier this year, have held a rally to promote unity and peace.

After gathering in front of the seaside government office in downtown Dili, they drove through the streets in a convoy of scores of motorcycles and other vehicles calling for unity. The convoy was heavily escorted by United Nations security forces from Australia and Malaysia.

Pedro Perreira, who took part in the rally, says it was a spontaneous rally and not organised by political parties or other organisations. "This action is aimed at showing our leaders that it is time for the youths of Timor Leste (East Timor) to be united again," Mr Perreira said.

The youths waved national flags and some carried a large banner saying: "Let us enter peace. Long live a single East Timor." Many taking part also shouted insults at the country's leadership in the local Tetum language, calling them "stupid." "Only the leaders disunited the youth," was one of the shouts frequently heard from the convoy.

The participants included students, members of rival gangs divided by origin from the east or west of the country and youths from camps for those displaced by the violence earlier this year. Dili remained quiet with most shops closed.

The tiny nation of 1 million was rocked in April and May by violence in between security force factions, as well as street gangs, which left 37 people dead.

The bloodshed forced the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led peacekeepers to restore calm. Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.

 Political/social crisis

East Timor president says 'the worst is over'

Agence France Presse - November 28, 2006

Dili – East Timor President Xanana Gusmao on Tuesday said the worst was now over and his country was recovering from the outbreak of violence earlier this year which prompted the deployment of international peacekeepers.

"We can all be satisfied that the worst times, the saddest times, are behind us. There are still scattered problems here and there but Dili is slowly returning to normal," Gusmao said in a speech at a ceremony to mark the fledgling nation's declaration of independence day.

The capital and several surrounding areas have been rocked by violence since April and May following the dismissal of some 600 protesting soldiers by the then government of prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

The protest by the soldiers quickly degenerated into street violence involving youth gangs and members of the armed forces and the police. At least 37 people lost their lives in May, prompting the deployment of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force to help reestablish law and order.

Gusmao cited pledges by youth gangs that they would work to put an end to the violence as evidence that peace was returning. He said this year's celebration was tinged with "sadness" because "we are also facing a serious crisis in our country, one that makes our entire people live in fear and despair."

The president said the violence had tarnished the country's reputation. "In just a few months, we all lost control; we all lost the sense of what is good and what is not good, showing that doing only the wrong things seems to be more important.... We have lost respect for the lives of others," he said.

Gusmao also said it appeared that the rule of law had vanished from East Timor. "We cannot go on like this! We have to stop this right now!" he said, calling on the people to work together for peace to return to the country.

November 28 marks the day East Timor unilaterally declared independence from colonial power Portugal in 1975. Indonesia annexed it days later and the country only finally won formal independence in 2002 following a UN-sponsored referendum.

One killed, two injured in fresh Timor violence

Agence France Presse - November 22, 2006

One man has been killed and two others, including a policeman, injured during street violence in East Timor, Home Affairs Minister Alcino Barris says.

Mr Barris said that gang members and residents clashed in Maubisse, a town some 80 kilometres south of Dili, on Monday, leading to the death of one civilian.

"In Maubisse, several groups were suspected to trying to force residents to join the Colimau (2000) group, but residents rejected that and a brawl ensued, causing one dead and one injured," Mr Barris said.

"When police wanted to arrest them, they beat up a policeman and he is now in a critical condition at a hospital," the minister told journalists here.

Colimau 2000 was set up by former members of clandestine youth groups that were active during the Indonesian occupation, but many have accused it of engaging in criminal activity and violence.

Mr Barris said that the police knew the identities of the attackers but that they were waiting to coordinate with Australian forces before taking any action.

Australian soldiers have been deployed in East Timor, along with those from several other nations, to help the East Timorese government restore peace following unrest in April and May that left 37 people killed.

Mr Barris also said that security personnel have been deployed in Estado village, northwest of Maubisse, where armed members of Colimau 2000 attacked a local martial art school on November 15, leaving at least four people dead.

He said that security authorities have arrested eight people suspected of involvement in the attack.

"After deploying reserve police units there, the district police in coordination with the Australian force yesterday (Tuesday) arrested eight people and they are now under questioning," Mr Barris said.

"There are indications that they were involved in the acts of arson and manslaughter during the confrontation," he added.

Members of Colimau 2000 were accused of involvement in attacks in Atsabe in 2003, which left seven dead. Mass arrests followed but the courts later freed those detained.

Some 3,200 Australian peacekeepers were deployed in East Timor in May, but their number have since been reduced to 1,100 bolstered by about 1,000 UN police.

Four believed dead in more Timor violence

Agence France Presse - November 16, 2006

Dili – Four people are believed to have died in the latest East Timor violence which also saw 10 homes torched, Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta said today.

"There is as yet no confirmation on the number killed, but initial information said four (were killed) and 10 houses were set on fire," Mr Ramos Horta said.

Mr Ramos Horta, who travelled by helicopter to the scene of the latest unrest, said the incident happened "a couple of days ago" and involved two groups of youths who clashed in Estado village, near Ermera.

He said a group of youths belonging to Colimau 2000 – an organisation set up by former underground youth activists during Indonesia's occupation – from Ermera and several other outlying areas attacked a local chapter of a martial arts club.

"This incident has spread fear among the people and I have talked with the home minister so that a permanent security post can be set up there," Mr Ramos Horta said. Members of the police rapid reaction unit and another special police unit would be sent to the area, he said.

As recently as Monday, hundreds of East Timorese youths, including members of rival gangs who fought each other in the streets of the capital earlier this year, held a rally to promote unity and peace.

Carlito de Jesus, 29, who was being treated at Dili's Guido Valadares general hospital for injuries sustained in the latest attack, said the violence occurred early yesterday.

He said some 600 youths from Colimau 2000 armed with samurais, machetes, spears, small arrows and rifles attacked the Ermera chapter of the Perguruan Setia Hati Terate (PSHT) martial arts club. "This (attack) appears to be revenge, after a PSHT member beat up a member of Colimau 2000 on November 2," de Jesus, a PSHT member, said.

Members of Colimau 2000 were accused of involvement in attacks in Atsabe in 2003, which left seven dead. Mass arrests followed but the courts later freed those detained.

The incident came just after Mr Ramos Horta praised Monday's peace rally. The tiny nation was rocked in April and May by violence in between security force factions, as well as street gangs, which left 37 people dead.

Former Timorese PM says there is a plot to assassinate him

Agence France Presse - November 12, 2006

Lisbon – Timor Leste's former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, under investigation for his alleged role in violence that wracked the nation earlier this year, said Saturday that he believes there are plans to assassinate him and other members of his Fretilin party.

"I have no doubts that these plans exist. I'm not saying it will happen, but it could happen. I am one of the targets," he told the Lusa news agency in Portugal where he arrvied earlier in the week to receive medical treatment for an unspecified ailment. "I am not afraid of being a target of an assassination attempt, if I was afraid I still wouldn't be in Timor Leste," he added.

Alkatiri said the people plotting his assassination, who he did not name, were also behind the violence which swept Timor Leste's capital Dili in April and May that eventually led to his resignation.

Some 37 people were left dead in pitched battles between rival security forces during bloody street violence which was sparked by Alkatiri's decision to dismiss a third of the nation's soldiers who had deserted, complaining of discrimination.

Stability has largely returned to the former Portuguese colony following the arrival of foreign peacekeepers at Dili's request and the installation of a new government headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta.

Alkatiri said he planned to return to Timor Leste but was not yet sure when.

"I could return next week, I could return in two weeks or in one month. The likely plan is to return in December. As I am here to receive medical treatment, I don't know how much time I will have to stay," he said.

"I don't run, I will never flee from Timor Leste. If I wanted to flee I would have done it a long time ago. I faced everything in the most difficult moment, it is not now, that things appear to be becoming clarified, that I would run," he added.

Alkatiri was questioned by prosecutors in Timor Leste on Tuesday, one day before he left the country for Portugal, over allegations that he ordered a hit squad to kill political opponents during the unrest earlier in the year. He denies the claims but has vowed to cooperate in the investigation.

Church behind plot: Alkatiri

Melbourne Age - November 10, 2006

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin – Deposed prime minister Mari Alkatiri has accused the Catholic Church's hierarchy in East Timor of being behind a conspiracy to destroy his Fretilin Government.

Mr Alkatiri lashed out at the church's leaders in an interview before leaving East Timor for Portugal for medical treatment on Wednesday, saying the main reason they wanted to depose him was because he is not Catholic. "I don't say it was the whole of the Catholic Church. But it was the hierarchy," Mr Alkatiri said. "And they were joined by other groups... people from the opposition parties and illegal groups within the country."

Mr Alkatiri is a Muslim in a country in which 96 per cent of its 1 million people are Catholics and the Catholic Church is by far the most powerful institution.

Since being forced from office amid violence in June, he has refused to say who he believes was behind what he says was a well-planned conspiracy to topple him. But he told the online Southeast Asian Times the plot started in 2001 and included three weeks of street protests last year during which he refused repeated calls to stand down.

"Since then they were always trying to get support from institutions and individuals within the country... always with the same purpose: to force the Government to step down." He said a "sense of impunity" surrounded army mutineers and prison escapees and called on Australian troops to arrest them.

President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta lacked the courage to defend the constitution when violence flared in Dili in April and May, he said. Mr Alkatiri is being investigated for alleged links with a civilian hit squad set up to kill political opponents, which he denies.

Domingos Soares, Catholic Church spokesman in Dili, said the church would not respond to his claims.

East Timor: A new generation displaced

New Matilda - November 7, 2006

Matthew Libbis – On 17 October, the United Nations's Independent Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste released its report into who was responsible for the violence of April and May this year. Fighting broke out in Dili the night after. It could almost have been an orchestrated exercise for the hundreds of international Joint Task Force (JTF) members who had arrived the day before. However, the escalation of the violence over the ensuing week – with several people killed and scores of houses burnt – proved this was no exercise.

In last week's rampage, a JTF member, firing in self defence killed a local. The death has been incorrectly attributed to Australian forces (in the case of the Timorese press, maliciously; in the case of the Australian media, negligently). Two more murders have been blamed alternately on Australian forces directly, or Australian forces releasing detainees in an enemy area. They were murdered by thugs not in the employ of the ADF. Australian forces have since become targets.

For months now, there has been daily stone throwing and smashing of windscreens in Dili. Gangs swell and then dissipate into the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps or surrounding streets before the police arrive. Violence then erupts at another location – the mood switching from tedium to terror in a flash. "Ambon arrows," vicious darts chiselled from screwdrivers that have to be cut out of a body, are fired from slingshots and improvised crossbows with such force to smash through two car side windows.

The shells of almost 1000 houses, in areas where people from the east and west of East Timor once lived as neighbours, bear the tags of the gangs responsible for the burnings. Graffiti scrawled on walls attacks opposing sides: Bairo nee la simu ema firaku "easterners are not welcome in this suburb;" Loromonu han laho "westerners eat rats;" Loromonu naok hanesan "westerners are thieves." But the talk of conflict between east and west is misleading shorthand. The problem runs far deeper, and ethnic rivalry has never been a concern. The problem is political and economic, underpinned by a culture of taking direct action for perceived grievances.

People seek protection and security in the IDP camps in the same town as the violence they are fleeing occurred. But they then also become very visible, almost captive targets. When a barbed wire fence was proposed at the airport camp to defend against attack, the people complained that they are not prisoners. Next day, they came under the attack that ignited last week's troubles

Tension is rife in the camps where 40,000 people live under the ubiquitous United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) tents and tarpaulins in the Dili district. They seek shelter in church and school grounds, clinics, parks, government and NGO properties, the airport and prison. Their needs in health, education, food, shelter, water and sanitation are being met by more than 30 local and international NGOs, government departments, UN agencies and religious charities. Camp population size ranges from a few hundred to several thousand. A further 80,000 have fled the capital.

Those who remain in the camps in Dili are a mix of easterners with jobs and businesses – some of whom may have lived here for a generation or more – and westerners too afraid of the violence to return to their homes. Gangs set up road blocks and checkpoints, looking for easterners, whom they drag from the vehicle to beat, slash and kill. International aid agencies providing humanitarian relief to the IDPs are also targeted – in this polarising war, they are considered accomplices.

Following the rumours of the Australian military killing East Timorese, some of the more bellicose IDPs prevented drinking water from entering the airport camp – accusing the Australian soldiers protecting the delivery of poisoning the water supply.

The transition from resistance to independence leaves its legacy. Some former resistance groups have transformed into martial arts groups – not accountable to anyone, and susceptible to manipulation. Fighting between them is common. Some martial arts groups have aligned themselves with political Parties, heightening the potential for conflict at next year's election.

Martial arts groups sometimes overlap with police and military, and loyalties may be compromised. One gang leader, Abilio Mesquita, was also Dili's Deputy Commander of Police. He was arrested earlier this year for distributing weapons to his gang members and is currently in prison awaiting trial for an attack on the home of the Defence Force Chief, Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak. (Both Mesquita and Ruak are mentioned in the UN'S report.)

The way in which the police (PNTL) and army (F-FDTL) were formed after independence has helped foment the problem. The F-FDTL was drawn from former guerillas, while the PNTL were often chosen from East Timorese who had served with the Indonesian police who occupied the country for 25 years. This was a pragmatic way to get around recruiting a force with no experience, but perhaps also a little too expedient – creating a mistrust and a perceived animosity between the forces. (Adding to the perception that the east did all the fighting against the Indonesians, the 1st F-FDTL battalion, comprised mainly of former guerillas, is based in the east, while the 2nd, mainly new recruits, is in the west.)

When independence came to East Timor in May 2002, there was hope for the future. However, by the end of that year, people had been killed and buildings burnt in the first wave of post-independence violence. A few years of relative peace followed, with a survey in 2003 showing that a majority of East Timorese thought things were getting better.

Now, amid a sense of helplessness, there is a new generation of the displaced and a culture of dependency has emerged. The international community must act within the constraints of the sovereign government. Short of coercively targeted aid, it cannot force people to leave the camps and return to their (sometimes burnt out) homes. The rains have already begun, and all the international community can do is elevate and reinforce the camps against flooding and conduct health awareness campaigns.

 Social conflicts

Brazilian missionary killed in Timor violence

Reuters - November 20, 2006

Dili – A Brazilian missionary has been killed after being caught up in communal fighting in East Timor's capital, a UN spokeswoman and a government statement said on Monday.

The spokeswoman confirmed the death but could give no more details on the incident, which happened late on Sunday. "The UN police are gathering up the details, the investigation is ongoing at the moment," Donna Cusumano said by telephone from Dili.

A statement from the prime minister's office named the victim as 32-year-old Edgar Goncalves Brito, a protestant missionary from the Assembly of God, although did not elaborate on how he died.

Australian Associated Press reported he died when a large group attacked his car as he was driving near East Timor's main hospital in Dili. The agency said rival groups had been involved in clashes around and inside the hospital grounds since Friday, wounding 15 people, including five with arrows lodged in their bodies and three with bullet wounds. Battles among gangs of youths are common in the impoverished country, which only gained full independence from Indonesia in 2002 and where youth unemployment is widespread.

Last month, authorities were forced to shut Dili's international airport after gang clashes, involving guns and bows and arrows, killed at least two people The former Portuguese colony has been struggling to return to stability after plunging into chaos in April and May when a series of protests developed into widespread violence after 600 members of the 1,400-strong army were sacked. An estimated 100,000 people were displaced in the fighting, which led to deployment of a 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force.

A strengthened police element in the force has so far struggled to contain the sporadic violence.

[Additional reporting by Harry Suhartono.]

Stone-throwing mars otherwise peaceful holiday in East Timor

Agence France Presse - November 2, 2006

Dili – Stone-throwing between two street-roaming youth gangs in the capital of East Timor Thursday marred an otherwise peaceful celebration of a major Catholic holiday in the tiny restive nation.

The early evening incident near Dili's main Santa Cruz cemetery saw dozens of youths hurl rocks at each other but there were no casualties and UN police quickly calmed the situation, an AFP correspondent saw.

More than 200 people were believed killed at the cemetery by Indonesian troops in 1991.

The UN police commissioner Antero Lopes warned this week that All Souls Day had the potential to spark fresh violence between rival gangs after a resurgence in attacks left at least five people dead in the past two weeks.

Local residents said that this year's celebrations were not as festive as previous years because of the concerns but still hundreds of people turned up to leave flowers at graveyards, the traditional way of marking the day. People in the majority Catholic nation also mark the day by attending mass.

"Some people are afraid to visit graves because of rumours of bombs planted in the graveyards that will blow up during the celebrations," Cristiandion Perreira, a security volunteer from the Dili diocese, told AFP.

All Souls Day has been commemorated since Portuguese missionaries came to East Timor centuries ago and has been a national holiday in the fledgling country since its independence in 2002.

Quiteria da Costa, a member of the national parliament, told AFP he was following a tradition that has been in his family for generations. "This is a tradition to remember the spirits by placing flowers, lighting candles and praying for their souls for forgiveness," he said.

International troops patrolled near all the graveyards in the city, which remained quiet with most shops closed.

Violence flared in the half-island nation in May between security force factions, as well as street gangs, leaving about 37 people dead over two months and forcing the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led regional forces.

Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.

 Justice & reconciliation

Timor truth commission to question generals over 1999 violence

Agence France Presse - November 30, 2006

Jakarta – A joint Indonesia-East Timor commission plans to question former Indonesian military chief Wiranto and other officers over the violence surrounding East Timor's independence vote in 1999.

"It has been decided that starting in January 2007, the commission will begin to 'invite' concerned parties, including Mr. Wiranto," Ahmad Ali, an Indonesian law expert and member of the Commission of Truth and Friendship, told AFP.

He said that before questioning the former general, who headed the Indonesian armed forces during the East Timor violence, the commission would first question some senior officers who served under him.

"We have yet not decided on the names," Ali said, adding that they would be officers with knowledge of what occurred during the small nation's 1999 independence vote.

The body was set up in August last year and is to probe past events to establish the truth about the violence during that turbulent time.

The truth commission, comprised of five Indonesians and five East Timorese, is not a judicial body and will submit its findings to both governments.

Modelled along lines similar to South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it aims at reconciliation rather than recrimination.

Militia gangs, which the United Nations has said were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military, went on an arson and killing spree before and after the East Timorese voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot.

They killed about 1,400 people and laid waste to much of the infrastructure in the half-island, which was a Portuguese colony before Indonesia invaded it in 1975.

An Indonesian rights court set up to try military officers and officials for atrocities in East Timor was widely condemned as a sham for failing to jail any Indonesians.

A militia leader, Eurico Guterres, is the sole person serving a jail term for his role.

15 years after Timor massacre, calls for accountability continue

Democracy Now - November 13, 2006

On the fifteenth anniversary of the massacre of over 270 East Timorese civilians by the Indonesian military, calls for justice and accountability continue for its victims and their families. We speak with John Miller, the National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, and Shirley Shackleton, Indonesian soldiers killed her husband Greg and his Australian- based TV crew in the lead up to the 1975 invasion.

Amy Goodman: As we mark the 15th anniversary of the massacre in East Timor, I'm joined by John Miller, the national coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, and Shirley Shackleton. Her husband Greg was, 31 years ago, killed in East Timor. He was reporting for Australian television with his team. And we welcome you both to Democracy Now!

John, what kind of accountability for the massacre in Timor, where more than 270 Timorese were killed on November 12, 1991?

John Miller: There's been very little. Due to international pressure, there were a few prosecutions of low-level Indonesian officers. One senior officer was sent to the US to study, as his punishment, as people may remember. And there was a lawsuit, and he was found liable. But this massacre and the countless others that have taken place since Indonesia first invaded in 1975, none of the senior military figures, none of the senior political figures have been brought to court.

Amy Goodman: The report that went to the UN?

John Miller: The East Timorese initiated, under the UN administration – had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which did a very thorough history of what went on in East Timor during the occupation, came out with very strong recommendations, which have been ignored. And we're trying to draw attention to them, that would call for accountability, for an international tribunal to bring these perpetrators to court.

Amy Goodman: Shirley Shackleton, you lost your husband in October of '75, about a month and a half before Indonesia invaded East Timor, in '75.

Shirley Shackleton: Yes.

Amy Goodman: Greg was reporting for Australian television?

Shirley Shackleton: He and his team, five of them, went to Balibo, because they knew that this is where the hit-and-run attacks had been taking place for a year. They were denied by the Indonesians. The Timorese kept asking for people to come and see for themselves. They went there just simply to do their job. But when they caught the Indonesians, they were murdered out of hand.

Amy Goodman: I want to go to the last report that your husband did.

Shirley Shackleton: Thank you.

Amy Goodman: Greg Shackleton, in October of 1975 in Balibo.

Greg Shackleton: "Why," they ask, "are the Indonesians invading us?" "Why," they ask, "if Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist, do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out?" "Why," they ask, "are the Australians not helping us? When the Japanese invaded, they did help us." "Why," they ask, "are the Portuguese not helping us? We're still a Portuguese colony." "Who," they ask, "will pay for the terrible damage to our homes?" My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here. That's impossible. However, I said, we could ask that Australia raise this fighting at the United Nations. That was possible. At that, the second in charge rose to his feet. He exclaimed, "Camerado journalist!" shook my hand. The rest shook my hand. And we were applauded, because we are Australians. That's all they want, for the United Nations to care about what is happening here.

Amy Goodman: And that was Greg Shackleton. He ended by saying he was reporting from a place he would not forget in Timor. And it was a report that Australians would never forget, because he and his crew were executed by the Indonesian military.

Shirley Shackleton: Well, I don't use the word "executed." It suggests that there was some sort of formal trial. They were just shot. These guys were cowboys. I mean, they were dressed as civilians. They just walked through into the village. The journalists came out with their hands up, and they just shot them. They kept a couple and tortured them, I believe. But we haven't any real evidence, but there's a lot of eyewitnesses who have assured us that that is what happened.

Amy Goodman: Greg's mother committed suicide a few years later?

Shirley Shackleton: She did. She did, yes, not because of the murders, but because the Australian government did absolutely nothing and, I would have to say, still have really done nothing of any value.

Amy Goodman: Although later, they signed the Timor Gap Treaty, dividing up Timor's oil between Australia and Indonesia. Perhaps that was one of the motivations for not criticizing Indonesia.

Shirley Shackleton: Oh, a lot of it. Yeah, they're only interested in market shares. As all Western documentaries are interested in market share in Indonesia, they don't care what happens anywhere else.

Amy Goodman: 200,000 Timorese died over the next quarter of a century. John Miller, on this report, what role has the US played in the issue of accountability?

John Miller: Well, the Truth Commission recommended that the US, Australia, other governments that backed Indonesia, and the weapons companies that profited from selling the weapons that killed so many Timorese, killed the Australian journalists...

Amy Goodman: 90% of the weapons used in the invasion were from the United States.

John Miller: Right. That they should pay reparations to the Timorese and that these countries – and Australia and the US are now stepping up their military assistance in the name of countering the war on – prosecuting the war on terror – that governments not supply Indonesia with weapons and training until the military is totally reformed and until it proves it can respect human rights. And one way to show that it respects human rights is to let its generals and former generals be tried for the war crimes they committed in East Timor.

Amy Goodman: President Bush is visiting Indonesia.

John Miller: Right. He's making a second visit this month, after he goes to the APEC conference. And we're going to be pressing him not to offer more weapons and training when he goes there.

Amy Goodman: Protest planned by Indonesians there?

John Miller: Yeah, I think they already have started. A garden, historic garden is being destroyed in Bogar, where the meetings are going to take place, to accommodate his helicopter. And it will be one of these very – like his last visit, a very quick one. I think it's only supposed to last eight or ten hours. And it will be another way for the US to signal to Indonesia that business as usual has come again and that the US fully backs the Indonesian government and the Indonesian military.

Amy Goodman: Do you ever see an international war crimes tribunal or a Timor war crimes tribunal taking place as a result of the 200,000 people being killed?

John Miller: It will take time. The Timorese government is very afraid to press for this, because they need good relations with Indonesia. Indonesia has shown what kind of damage it can do to East Timor if it wants. But the East Timorese people continue to want it. And I think recent events, the recent crisis in East Timor shows why it's necessary to enable the East Timorese to have some kind of closure and put the past behind them. And I think the Indonesians need it. And I think our own country needs it, as well.

Amy Goodman: Shirley Shackleton, we'll end with you. Though it was your husband that was killed in 1975, you took up the cause of all of the Timorese and have become in Australia a well-known East Timor activist. Do you feel that people understand what took place?

Shirley Shackleton: No, not really, because millions of rupiah have been spent to lie, to make it look as though Indonesia had to do what they had to do. Nevertheless, you just keep trying. You just mustn't give up. I have to say that on the day that that INTAFET went in – that was, the Australian military went in – people that I knew had actively criticized me, they just rushed me when I went down the street to the grocery shop. I have people giving me flowers and kissing me. I mean, they completely changed their view. It shows if you start to win, you're a winner. It was extraordinary. And I think the fact that so many hundreds of thousands of people got out on the streets demanding that Australia go in, it shows that all those years they knew that what we were saying was right. They can prove it.

Amy Goodman: And the person in charge of the operation that killed your husband, Greg...

Shirley Shackleton: Yunus Yosfiah. Yes?

Amy Goodman: His position in Indonesia? He became the Minister of Information.

Shirley Shackleton: Oh, he got promoted. He's the hero. He's a very rich man now.

Amy Goodman: We're going to leave it there. Shirley Shackleton, her husband, Greg Shackleton, killed October 1975. John Miller, national coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. Tonight, we'll be at Judson Church in New York at 7:00. Shirley Shackleton will be talking about her experiences. I'll also be talking about the massacre in East Timor on this 15th anniversary.

East Timor massacre victims still waiting for justice

Counterpunch - November 11-12, 2006

Ben Terrall and John M. Miller – This November 12 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the 1991 massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor (also called Timor-Leste).

On that day, Indonesian soldiers killed at least 271 East Timorese civilians nonviolently marching to demand a UN- supervised referendum after years of illegal Indonesian military occupation.

US reporter Allan Nairn, who joined the marchers and had his skull fractured by a soldier wielding a US-supplied M-16, wrote later: "The troops fired no warning shots and did not tell the crowd to disperse. They... raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once and opened fire."

By the time of the Santa Cruz massacre, more than 100,000 East Timorese had died as a result of the US-backed occupation. But the testimony and documentation of Nairn, Amy Goodman and other foreign journalists who survived Santa Cruz exposed the brutality of Indonesian military occupation to the outside world, and helped spark a campaign in the US to block military aid to Jakarta.

East Timor finally achieved independence after a hard-won referendum in 1999, a process steeped in yet more Indonesian military mass killings. Under intense US grassroots pressure, the Clinton administration suspended all military assistance to Jakarta when the Indonesian military responded to the pro- independence vote by laying waste to East Timor in September 1999, and Congress subsequently legislated continuing limits on aid.

But after seven years and countless processes, Indonesia, Timor- Leste and the United Nations have failed to achieve accountability for crimes against humanity committed between 1975 and 1999. This impunity has led some in Timor-Leste to believe that they will not be held accountable when they commit violent crimes.

Timor-Leste's people still live with their memories of Indonesia's quarter-century of illegal military occupation; the majority of them experienced this brutality first-hand or have victims in their immediate families. This unhealed mass trauma continues to strongly influence the reactions of Dili residents, both in their decisions to flee en masse during armed battles between police and military this past April and in the fact that many still refuse to return home. The secrecy and self-reliance essential to the independence struggle needs to be transformed into transparency, accountability, and open debate.

The majority of East Timorese, and their supporters internationally, continue to view an international tribunal to pursue Indonesian generals and political leaders who organized and ordered the worst atrocities during the occupation as the only resolution for the current situation of impunity and post- traumatic stress. A credible international tribunal can demonstrate that impunity will not prevail, as indicated by a May 2005 Commission of Experts report on 1999 human rights violations in East Timor. That report concluded, "The Commission wishes to emphasize the extreme cruelty with which these acts were committed, and that the aftermath of these events still burdens the Timorese society. The situation calls not only for sympathy and reparations, but also for justice. While recognizing the virtue of forgiveness and that it may be justified in individual cases, forgiveness without justice for the untold privation and suffering inflicted would be an act of weakness rather than of strength."

Timor-Leste's truth commission, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (known by its Portuguese initials, CAVR) came to equally strong conclusions on the need for concrete justice. The product of three years of extensive research by dozens of East Timorese and international experts, the CAVR report (called "Chega!", Portuguese for "Enough!") recommended reparations to East Timorese victims from countries – including the US – which backed the occupation, and from corporations which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period.

An East Timorese involved in disseminating the report throughout the country remarked, "It is clear that many in the community who took part in seminars on Chega! over the last two months saw a strong connection between the findings and recommendations of Chega! and the re-emergence of violence and instability. Many asked why East Timorese leaders have failed to learn the lessons of the past."

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration refuses to learn past lessons. It is willing to give the Indonesian military nearly anything, sacrificing justice in the name of fighting terrorism. On November 22, 2005, the State Department announced, "it is in the national security interests of the United States to waive conditionality pertaining to Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and defense exports to Indonesia." Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), author of Congressional restrictions this maneuver overrode, called the move "an abuse of discretion and an affront to the Congress. To waive on national security grounds a law that seeks justice for crimes against humanity – without even obtaining the Indonesian government's assurance that it will address these concerns – makes a mockery of the process and sends a terrible message."

Given the US electorate's strong rejection of Bush's politics of empire in the recent congressional elections, there now exists the potential to change that message and to once again move toward a process of justice for the many victim's of US-backed Indonesian military crimes in East Timor, including those at Santa Cruz 15 years ago.

[Ben Terrall is a San Francisco-based writer. John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network in New York.]

 West Timor/refugees

Crisis looms in Dili as wet season approaches

Sydney Morning Herald - November 22, 2006

Cynthia Banham, Dili – The Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in East Timor if camps for internally displaced people are not moved before the wet season.

After meeting the acting United Nations special representative to East Timor, Finn Reskd-Nielsen, in Dili Dr Nelson said it was extremely important for the East Timorese Government to move quickly to relocate the camps because once the rain started they would be flooded and become a sea of mud.

"We will have a crisis on our hands," Dr Nelson said. He said the rains could begin any day.

Dr Nelson also said he would also consider reducing the number of troops in East Timor, after a two-day visit in which the commander of the Australian force, Brigadier Mal Rerden, said the 950 troops now on the ground was more than sufficient for the mission. However, there are safety concerns following the murder this week of two foreigners in Dili, one of them a Brazilian missionary.

Brigadier Rerden described a period of increasing stability and calm. "The UN police now are slowly reaching the level where they've got a good capability.

"That's also having an impact on the streets. We're able to let the police now take primacy in the day-to-day law enforcement and we provide backup and support in the event of something big happening."

Dr Nelson met Australian commanders and the East Timorese Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta. A scheduled talk with the President, Xanana Gusmao, was cancelled by the President.

Dr Nelson said a part of the purpose of the visit was to get an on-the-ground feel for the security environment. "Part of it is reviewing the size of the force composition," he said.

He said he would discuss troop numbers with the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, at a meeting of the national security cabinet when he returned.

"It is possible that we might have a slight reduction at some time in the not too distant future," Dr Nelson said.

He said he had reiterated Australia's commitment to East Timor to Dr Ramos-Horta. He also discussed plans for helping to train the East Timorese defence force and provide training for maritime and border protection.

The leaders also discussed security arrangements for elections scheduled for May. Australia also wanted to develop an agreement with Dili that formalised the way Australian forces operated with those of East Timor and the UN.

"What's important is we have a clear understanding of how we work and how we work co-operatively with Timor Leste," Dr Nelson said.

Brigadier Rerden said there was still some gang activity in Dili, though the Government was making efforts to engage local youth groups. He said some of the gang violence appeared to be orchestrated or controlled and was aimed at having a political effect.

Some of the violence, in particular, had been directed against the Australian presence, though there was a lot of support for the Australian Defence Force from the populace. One senior officer told the Herald there was a lot of anti- Australian feeling in the ruling party Fretilin, which is still headed by the deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, who continues to exercise significant influence in the country.

Refugee visa alarm Claim migrants bullied by ALP

Herald Sun (Australia) - November 15, 2006

Ellen Whinnett – East Timorese refugees say they have been threatened with visa cancellations if they do not support the Labor Party.

Several sources have told the Herald Sun that many members of the East Timorese community living in Richmond have been bullied by ALP officials, who ordered them to sign up as members or otherwise make cash donations.

The sources – who were too afraid to be publicly identified for fear of retribution – said threats were made that the Government would begin cancelling visas if the ALP officials' demands were not met.

They claimed the officials were supporters of local Labor MP Richard Wynne, who holds the seat of Richmond. Mr Wynne strongly denied the claims, saying there were only 11 members in the East Timor branch of the ALP in Richmond, and the numbers had been unchanged for years.

"That is absolutely not the case. I work extremely closely with the East Timorese community and their attention has been very much on what's happening in East Timor," Mr Wynne said.

"The number of East Timorese people in the branch is 11 and it's been that way for five years with no change." He said he believed the complaints had been made to the Herald Sun for political purposes.

Hundreds of East Timorese people had arrived in Australia since the 1990s on tourist visas but were allowed to stay permanently after widespread violence broke out in 1999 when the country voted for independence from Indonesia. Many of them settled in Richmond, in the high-rise public housing estates.

One former refugee has written to Premier Steve Bracks, alleging people had been ripped off by party officials who took money from them, then said their membership had been rejected and refused to refund the money.

The refugee has also detailed allegations that local East Timorese had been ordered to support Mr Wynne at the election in 12 days.

"Premier, the East Timorese people are very unhappy about what is going on but they are scared to speak up," the refugee claimed in the letter to Mr Bracks.

"Because the people in the Labor Party, including (an official) and his group always told them that if they don't vote for Labor Party or help Labor Party or give money to Labor Party, their family can't come to Australia and they will not get help from the Australian Government."

Yarra City councillor Stephen Jolly, who is standing against Mr Wynne as an endorsed Socialist Party candidate, said he was well aware of the allegations.

"This allegedly unethical behaviour by the Labor Party is disgusting, threatening some of the most vulnerable people in the community," Mr Jolly said.

"These people have come from a war-torn island, after 25 years' occupation. They come here for freedom and instead they get intimidated."

 Human rights/law

Timor's former interior minister to face trial

Associated Press - November 29, 2006

Dili – East Timor's former interior minister will go on trial Thursday on allegations of arming a political hit squad with state weapons as the tiny nation descended into violence earlier this year, court officials and lawyers said.

Rogerio Lobato earlier claimed he was acting on the orders of then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned in June after street battles in the capital killed 37 people and sent more than 155,000 others fleeing their homes.

Lobato could face a maximum 47-year prison sentence if convicted of distributing firearms to civilians and treason, said Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro.

The preliminary hearing is due to be held in the East Timor High Court, near the headquarters of Australian peacekeepers instead of the Dili District Court for security reasons, said court official George Barbosa da Silva.

Vincente "Railos" da Concecao, the self-proclaimed leader of the hit squad, told The Associated Press he would attend as a witness. East Timor has been plagued by instability since rival security forces clashed in the capital Dili in April and May after Alkatiri's government dismissed 600 soldiers, more than a third of the armed forces.

Calm largely returned with the arrival of more than 2,500 foreign peacekeepers and the installation of a new government, but there have been isolated cases of gang warfare, looting and arson attacks in recent months.

Alkatiri has been questioned several times about the hit squad allegations – charges he vehemently denies.

It is unclear if he will run in general elections scheduled for May 7.

East Timorese mark 15th anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre

Agence France Presse - November 12, 2006

Dili – More than 1,000 East Timorese gathered in the capital Dili on Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, when Indonesian troops fired on a memorial procession, killing more than 250 people.

Dili's Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva presided at the seaside Motael church over a memorial service for the victims of the November 12, 1991, massacre of East Timorese taking part in a procession to the capital's Santa Cruz cemetery.

In all, 271 East Timorese are known to have died, while a further 250 are missing, believed dead, and 382 were wounded.

The massacre occurred when Indonesian soldiers fired into a crowd of independence protesters holding a memorial procession for Sebastio Gomez, a young East Timorese man.

Gomez was killed when Indonesian soldiers stormed the Motael church to seek pro-independence activists.

"This is a day to reflect for all of us, so that we can step forward," the bishop told the congregation packed into the small seaside church, as more worshippers listened outside.

The congregation then processed to the cemetery some two kilometers (one mile) away, carrying pictures of the dead and missing.

There, they laid wreaths and heard speeches by rights activists calling on the Indonesian government to account for the massacre and reveal where the bodies of those missing were buried. No incidents were reported.

One of the ceremony's coordinators, Joao Shoque, said young Timorese had shown patriotism and solidarity 15 years ago.

"Therefore I trust that youths in Timor Leste can show their solidarity to others and mutually embrace each other," Shoque said.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and declared the country its youngest province the following year, but in the face of persistent armed resistance.

The Santa Cruz massacre was a turning point in the history of East Timor as it put the occupation of the former Portuguese colony into world attention, prompting more internationalsupport for the East Timorese cause.

East Timor achieved full independence only in 2002, four years after Indonesia relinquished control of the territory following a UN-sponsored self-determination ballot. Violence flared in the half-island nation in May between security force factions, as well as street gangs, leaving about 37 people dead over two months and forcing the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led regional forces.

Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.

Alkatiri grilled over allegedly arming civilians

Agence France Presse - November 7, 2006

Former East Timorese prime minister Mari Alkatiri has appeared under tight security escort at the General Prosecutor's Office for questioning over allegations of arming civilians during the May unrest.

Arriving in a government car under escort from several East Timorese security personnel and six Australian soldiers, Dr Alkatiri made no comment upon arrival.

Today was the second time he had responded to a summons from the General Prosecutor's Office since he appeared there in July.

Dr Alkatiri, who resigned from the prime ministership in June, is being investigated over allegations that he armed civilians to silence his political opponents. He has vehemently denied the claims.

The UN inquiry into violence in East Timor issued a report last month that said Dr Alkatiri failed to prevent weapons falling into the hands of civilians and should be criminally investigated.

Dr Alkatiri was quoted by the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper on Monday (local time) as saying the accusation – that he was involved in the distribution of guns by his political party, Fretilin, to its members – had been proven false by the UN Commission of Inquiry.

The tiny nation of 1 million was rocked by unrest in April and May that followed the dismissal of soldiers who had deserted the army, complaining of discrimination from superiors based on whether they came from the east or west of the country.

Some 37 people were left dead in pitched battles between security forces during bloody street violence. More than 150,000 people fled their homes and 3,000 Australian-led peacekeepers were deployed to restore calm.

 Health & education

Cuba's gift to East Timor - good health

Southeast Asian Times - November 26, 2006

John Loizou, Dili - The contrast between the physical presence of Cuba and the rest of the world in East Timor is as stark as the difference in the philosophies that divide them.

Most of the grand embassies and their subsidiaries, such as the ubiquitous USAid, built for the countries that have rushed to recognise newly-independent East Timor – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the former occupier, Indonesia, and the former colonialist, Portugal – dot the elegant esplanade that borders Dili harbour, the Avenida dos Martires da Patria, where centuries-old tropical trees provide shade and in less-troubled- times, tranquillity.

In the morning, middle-aged diplomats, accompanied by their security guards, jog the beach. By day, fishermen hawk their catch from beneath the shade while women – many dressed in traditional sarongs – offer tomato, garlic and bananas or play cards in the dust while they await customers.

Before sunset, their more affluent sisters from the spacious houses used first by colonial administrators and then the commanders of the Indonesian army sit by a lighthouse that I'm told was built immediately after World War II and watch the sprinkling of cargo vessels, wooden fishing smacks and inter- island ferries riding at anchor or look out to the massive statue of Christ installed by Jakarta that dominates the far skyline or the barren island of Atauro.

Portuguese East Timor was a place of exile for opponents of Antanio de Oliveira Salazar who was overseer of the authoritarian right-wing regime that controlled his country's social, economic, cultural and political life from 1933 to 1974. Atauro served as a prison – a place of exile for the exiles.

But the embassy for the Republic of Cuba stands amid the hot dusty, busy streets of the overcrowded – and now sometimes violent city – in the lee of the rugged mountains that are so essential to life in the most eastern of the sparsely-populated Lesser Sunda Islands.

Here, in this unexpected concrete jungle, the only shade is that provided by the darkened windows. But if the Cubans lack grandeur, they do not lack generosity.

At last count, the defiantly Socialist Caribbean country had 302 volunteers working in East Timor. They began arriving in April 2004 and their two-year tour of duty has them working throughout the republic, including five hospitals and its most remote villages.

There are: 228 physicians, 23 nurses, 40 health technicians and 11 teachers of Portuguese and Spanish who help prepare young East Timorese to study medicine in Cuba.

Another 12 members of the team work with the East Timorese students in Cuba. Almost 500 young East Timorese study medicine in Cuba with the first 20 now in their third year.

When he first saw the emaciated new arrivals from far off Southeast Asia, President Fidel Castro quipped that they would have to be first "fattened" before they could be expected to study successfully.

The programme was initiated by East Timor's former Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, and his successor, Jose Ramos Horta, told a meeting with relatives of the students in Dili earlier this month that the cooperation and solidarity symbolised by the Cuban health workers was a beautiful gesture of friendship with the people of East Timor.

"Cuba has given the opportunity to these youth to prepare themselves, be better men and women, and return to their homeland in 2012 to work for the welfare and health of the people of Timor Leste," he said.

Cuba has physicians working in 68 countries, says a member of his country's management team for the East Timor programme, anaesthetist Dr. Eries Ramirez Salomon.

"We will stay as long as the people of the country need us. But our programme will ensure that in ten to 12 years most of the doctors will be from East Timor. Our plan is to stay here until the East Timor Government says we are no longer required and our goal is to provide medical treatment for all of the people of East Timor and to prevent disease."

Dr Salomon and three of his senior colleagues, programme – deputy co-ordinator, Dr Roberto Fernandez, the dean of the Medical Science Faculty at East Timor's National University, Dr Marcia Cuervo Calvino, with co-ordinator of the Cuban nurses in East Timor, Javier Garrido Guerraro, who previously served in Botswana, as interpreter – and I have met at the small, neat house in the grounds of the Dili Hospital occupied by the Cubans where they proudly explain their programme to me.

In keeping with the portraits of revolutionary Che Guevara that look down from the walls, a computer linked to the internet via broadband in the corner and sipping excellent coffee – "a present from Cuba" – they provide "collective" response to my questions.

Were they shocked by the primitiveness of medical facilities in East Timor, I ask. After 45 years of the United States economic blockade we are accustomed to hardship, they reply.

They also explain that the principal threats to the health of East Timor's mostly rural and slum-dwelling population are malaria, dengue fever, respiratory infection, tuberculosis and malnutrition.

Data about the severity of these maladies is not available but the Cubans are developing a variety of programmes to reduce the prevalence of these common diseases in East Timor, says Dr Roberto Fernandez. But the most important task is eradication of the mosquito habitat.

The Cubans also teach the action needed for preventative health – information now crucial to the thousands still living in the capital's refugee camps – where many of the Cubans are now working.

Cuban medicine throughout the world has two major objectives, they say. To prevent disease and pay particular attention to the patients. "We are doing both in East Timor and all the members of our group have the same tasks," says Dr Salomon.

The team has a comprehensive collection of statistics as proof of their success. For example, the child mortality rate where members of the Cuban team work is 27.5 for each 1,000 live births – more than 50 percent less than elsewhere.

Maternity mortality is 175/100,000; elsewhere the figure is between 600 and 800 for each 100,000. But myriad specialist services ranging from essential gynaecology to orthopedics and pathological anatomy to forensic medicine and dermatology to psychiatry and dentistry are also being provided.

The team has done more than 4000 surgeries in East Timor and these includes the first Caesarean delivery at Oecusse – the first such operation in the district. The Cuban government pays all the team's living costs, including travel despite the blockade by successive United States administrations.

East Timor: Thanks for our doctors Cuba

Prensa Latina - November 13, 2006

Dili – Timor Leste Prime Minister Jose Ramon Horta expressed gratitude to Cuba on Monday for providing medical training to almost 500 young people from that small insular Southeast Asian state.

In a rally in the capital, Dili, with relatives of the students, Ramos Horta said that such cooperation and solidarity is a beautiful gesture of friendship with the people of Timor Leste.

"Cuba has given the opportunity to these youth to prepare themselves, be better men and women, and return to their homeland in 2012 to work for the welfare and health of the people of Timor Leste," the prime minister said.

He recalled the first meeting between President Xanana Gusmao and Fidel Castro in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2003, in which "the Cuban leader offered the Timor Leste government this possibility that has become a reality today."

Those students are included in the New Physician Training Program in centers of the Cuban provinces of Granma, Ciego de Avila, Havana, and Pinar del Rio, and Isla de la Juventud special municipality.

Ramos Horta also noted the work of almost 30 Cuban doctors and teachers in the 65 sub-districts of this small country of almost one million inhabitants, in what he called a very commendable and exemplary effort.

 Opinion & analysis

Bush has chance to hold terrorists accountable

Democracy Now - November 15, 2006

Amy Goodman – The troops marched slowly, their US-made M-16s raised. It was Nov. 12, 1991, a day that would forever be seared into my memory, and into history. I was reporting in East Timor, a small island nation 300 miles north of Australia, brutally occupied by Indonesia since 1975. A third of the population – 200,000 Timorese – had been killed in one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.

Thousands marched that morning toward the Santa Cruz cemetery to remember Sebastico Gomes, yet another young Timorese killed by Indonesian soldiers. I was doing a documentary for Pacifica Radio. My colleague Allan Nairn was writing for The New Yorker magazine. In a land where there was no freedom of speech, press or assembly, we asked people: "Why are you risking your lives by marching?"

"I'm doing it for my mother," one replied. "I'm doing it for my father," said another. "I'm doing it for freedom."

At the cemetery, we saw hundreds of Indonesian troops coming up the road, 12 to 15 abreast. The Indonesian military had committed many massacres in the past, but never in front of Western journalists. We walked to the front of the crowd, hoping that our presence could stop the attack. Children whispered behind us. I put on my headphones, took out my tape recorder and held up my microphone like a flag. We wanted to alert the troops that this time they were being watched by the world.

The Timorese couldn't escape. They were trapped by the cemetery walls that lined both sides of the road. Without any warning, provocation or hesitation, the soldiers swept past us and opened fire.

People were ripped apart. The troops just kept shooting, killing anyone still standing. A group of soldiers surrounded me. They started to shake my microphone in my face. Then they slammed me to the ground with their rifle butts and kicked me with their boots. I gasped for breath. Allan threw himself on top of me to protect me from further injury.

The soldiers wielded their M-16s like baseball bats, slamming them against his head until they fractured his skull. He lay in the road in spasm, covered in blood, unable to move. Suddenly, about a dozen soldiers lined up like a firing squad. They put the guns to our heads and screamed, "Politik! Politik!" They were accusing us of being involved in politics, a crime clearly punishable by death. They demanded, "Australia? Australia?" The Indonesians executed six Australian journalists during the 1975 invasion.

We shouted, "No, we're from America!" I threw my passport at them. When I regained my breath, I said again: "We're from America! America!" Finally, the soldiers lowered their guns from our heads. We think it was because we were from the same country their weapons were from. They would have to pay a price for killing us that they never had to pay for killing Timorese.

At least 271 Timorese died that day, in what became known as the Santa Cruz massacre. Indonesian troops went on killing for days. It was not even one of the larger massacres in East Timor, and it wouldn't be the last. It was simply the first to be witnessed by outsiders.

I write about the massacre this week not just to remember the 15th anniversary of that event and those who died that day. President Bush is headed to Indonesia on Monday. This will give the president and Congress an opportunity to show they are serious about holding terrorists accountable.

If they were to cut all military aid to Indonesia until those responsible for the massacre and for the policy of genocide are held accountable, they would be showing the world that the United States stands on the side of justice. The US Congress must hear the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation's call for an international human-rights tribunal and for reparations from the countries and corporations that supported the brutal occupation.

The definition of terrorism is the same in all languages, whether carried out by individuals or states, by al-Qaida or, in our name, by US-supported governments abusing human rights. Sad to say, the Bush administration and Congress have so far ignored the call for justice. What we witnessed and survived 15 years ago was terrorism, pure and simple – the killing of innocent civilians.

Tripping over the region

Canberra Times - November 3, 2006

James Dunn – For Prime Minister John Howard, the recent Pacific Forum meeting must have been a rather uncomfortable experience. It should also have been a learning experience, a warning that Australians cannot take these small states for granted.

While the Government's declared aim to improve governance should be pursued, its officials and troops, it would seem, need to proceed more sensitively, respecting the independent status of these countries, while pursuing their lofty aim of improving governance. If they fail to do this, Australia's efforts could turn out to be counterproductive.

Howard and Alexander Downer should heed the words of Sir Michael Somare, leader of the largest of the Pacific states and the region's elder statesman. Sir Michael is the only leader who bridges the gap between the era of colonial experience and today's political scene. That journey has not been an easy one, for reasons which most Australian politicians seem not to understand, for it is a journey that we have no experience of.

For example, most South Pacific states suffered the World War II upheavals we were spared. Also their national cohesion and unity have been undermined by the fact their national boundaries were formed by European colonial expansion and rivalry rather than natural evolution.

Howard may have handled the Forum calmly, but whether he was encouraged to reach out and understand its background is another matter. It is not enough to call on these states to lift their game as if they were business enterprises. There is more to the problems facing Pacific states like Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Solomon Islands than mismanagement by weak, corrupt and irresponsible administrations. Australia will no doubt continue to play a leading role economically, but it will not necessarily win the respect and trust of the peoples of the region, on which success depends.

Right now the most serious problem of this nature is further west in East Timor, where more violence erupted last week. In a way, the Timor situation is by far the most serious international challenge posed by our small neighbours. Australia may be a big player there, but our influence is not unchallenged. The Timorese leaders may have close links with us, but their cultural preferences are elsewhere. The Timorese Government has cultivated close relations with the leading Portuguese Community states, especially Portugal and Brazil.

Despite past problems there are still close links between the East Timorese and Indonesians. Bahasa Indonesia is still more widely spoken in East Timor than Portuguese. Then there are strong links with Japan, now the leading aid donor, South Korea, China, Singapore and Malaysia. Timor also maintains special links with the European Union and the US, especially the US Congress some of whose leading figures in the past supported East Timor's quest for independence.

Most East Timorese politicians, especially the current Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, accord the Australian relationship fundamental importance, but they have not forgotten those dark corners of the past, our dismal performance in relation to Indonesian moves to annex the colony and, more recently, our greedy response in relation to the Timor Gap treaty.

If Australia's embrace becomes too close, it will not take a lot to arouse some resentment and suspicions. That is inclined to happen when our official pronouncements are insensitively paternalistic, or are laced with Cold War prejudices.

It was evident, for example, that Mari Alkatiri was seen by some in the Howard Government as a left-winger, who could be leading the new nation in the direction of a Marxist political format. The fact he persuaded Cuba to send some 300 doctors to East Timor did not pass unnoticed. But there was nothing particularly Marxist about Alkatiri's administration. In fact, his readiness to follow World Bank guidance caused Paul Wolfowitz to praise his form of administration earlier this year.

Timorese were impressed with the internationalism of UNTAET, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, with its sensitive rules of engagement, and most do not agree with Australia's insistence that our forces there remain independent of the UN, in effect directly under Australia's control.

From our military's point of view, it was really a mistake, for Australians, instead of the international community, now have to face hostility for the occasional incidents that are bound to occur during the outbursts of violence. A belief by some that Australia may have been behind Mari Alkatiri's removal also persists. It has just been aired by Defence Force Chief Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak. Although Ruak was criticised in the UN report he remains a highly respected figure in Timor Leste.

It is fair to assume the popularity our troops enjoyed five years ago when they displaced the hated TNI forces has declined somewhat. The media has reported the outbursts of hostility from street gangs, but these hostile attitudes go beyond the politics of the street. A number of Timorese parliamentarians have joined with the defence chief in calling for an investigation into incidents involving Australian troops.

During my stay I was impressed with the discipline and professional conduct of our soldiers, but it needs to be acknowledged that a few cases of overreaction, leading to some harassment, have occurred and, although these have been dismissed by the Horta Government, they have led to criticism that will not go away.

While the incidents are not serious, neither the Government nor our defence force commanders should dismiss them without a careful investigation. As our military contingent stands apart from the UN mission, it needs to take care to avoid any political alignment, bearing in mind the tribal character of the street gangs, a number of whom have links with East Timor's leading political parties. These gangs are a mixed bunch. Some are led by former Falintil guerrillas; a few have former TNI militia as members, while others function as protectors of the security of political or community bodies.

Unfortunately, while our forces and the UN mission cannot stem the violence, it will be impossible to disarm and disband them.

[James Dunn is a former Australian diplomat and advisor to the government in East Timor.]

 Daily media reviews

November 30, 2006

Alfredo's status needs to be cleared: Menezes

MP Rui Menzes who is also the spokesperson for PD reportedly said that the government must identify issues pertaining to Alfredo and clarify whether he is still in the army, and explain the guns under his possession and how he acquired them. Menezes said the government is responsible for the guns currently in the hands of Alfredo. He said the process of purchasing weapons has not been transparent under the former and present Prime Ministers. He said the Timorese people and institutions with close connections to defence and security are amazed with the type of guns Alfredo has in his possession. In relation to Prime Minister Ramos-Horta's statement calling Alfredo a criminal, Menezes said that a person should not be condemned as a criminal until proven so by a court. Meanwhile, Alfredo has stated that there are political interests in using him as the accused. He said that he is aware of the authors of the crisis and does not want to be the victim of other people's wrongdoing. (DN, STL, TP)

Lobato's trial starts today

Timor Post and STL today reported on Timor Leste's former Interior Minister Robato's trial, scheduled to start in Dili today. According to these dailies, the trial has been moved from Dili District Court to the Court of Appeal due to the situation and the conditions. A team of national and international lawyers are representing Lobato. (STL, TP)

Domestic violence rate high in Viqueque

PNTL Sub-Inspector Gaspar da Costa has said that according to cases attended by the police in Viqueque area, domestic violence is on a high. Da Costa said police are having difficulties attending to some cases due to the lack of vehicles assigned to PNTL in that area. He further said that despite the crisis, a total of 47 PNTL officers continue to work and some are now in Dili undergoing the 'screening' program to ascertain whether they were involved in the crisis.

In a separate article, STL reported on Deputy Prime Minister Rui de Araujo's speech during the seminar on the 16-day activities against violence. He said that the local leaders play an important role in helping to decrease violence against women. Therefore he reminded the participants that the three-day seminar is important for them to learn how to respond when domestic violence occurs, and stressed the importance of using the knowledge in their daily activities. (DN, STL)

Government plans to help the media

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta has reportedly told Jornal Diario that the government already has plans to help local private newspapers and radio stations because they provide the same information services as the national broadcast services. Ramos-Horta said the role of Timorese journalists is important, but the resources are limited due to economic factors, adding, despite the difficulties, the journalists try and get the news to share with the public. He further said at times the information is distorted but that's normal and like the journalists, the government and the MPs also make mistakes but the important thing is to keep on defending the freedom of expression and the media. The Prime Minister said this type of assistance depends on the proposals from the newspapers and the type of services provided that can be used by the government such as paying for a full page of coverage in the newspapers for government information as is done in some other countries. (DN)

November 29, 2006

Xanana: Stop fighting against each other

During his speech at the ceremony of the commemoration of Timor- Leste's 31st anniversary of independence on Tuesday, President Xanana Gusmao stated that Timor-Leste appeared to be a country without law and order any more, and it should not continue to be so.

He appealed to the people to stop fighting against each other, and to start cultivating peace in Timor-Leste. President Gusmao welcomed the statements made by the martial arts groups, which tried to stop violence, as a positive step to assist the nation to live with peace and love for all people.

According to the President, he had asked the Government to accelerate the vetting process of PNTL officers, so that they would resume their work in assisting the international police forces. In addition, the President said the Government should consider involving F-FDTL in the process of preventing people from fighting and killing each other. (DN, STL)

Lu-Olo: Paying tribute to the resistance fighters is a big pride for Timor-Leste

President of the National Parliament, Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" stated that the celebration of Timor-Leste's independence for this year was a very proud moment for all Timorese because during the occasion the State managed to officially pay tribute to the citizens who contributed to the struggle for independence of Timor-Leste. Meanwhile, the former President of Fretilin, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, one of the prominent leaders being recognised for his contribution to the fight for independence, welcomed the tribute by saying that even though it was late, it was good that the State started thinking of doing so. 'The tribute is a commitment to those of us who are still alive to carry on the aspirations of those who have passed away [in fulfilling the independence]. " (DN)

Hasegawa becomes witness to Lobato's case

Paulo Remedios, the defense lawyer for former Minister of Interior, Rogerio Lobato was quoted as saying that former SRSG Sukehiro Hasegawa has been named to be part of the list of 35 witnesses to testify for Lobato's case. The list also included the name of former DSRSG Anis Bajwa. The list was sent to the court last week. (Timor Post)

Martins and Lere shocked to see the picture of Alfredo with bazooka

Speaking to the journalists, both Paulo and Lere said that neither F-FDTL nor PNTL have weapons like bazookas. Lere said that 'I am not aware of such kind of weapons. If F-FDTL had them, I would have already been familiar with that". In fact, there were no such weapons in the F-FDTL institution. But questioned on the plan of F-FDTL commandos to hold a dialogue with Major Alfredo, Colonel Lere said that they were negotiating and he was not sure when it would materialise. He said that Major Alfredo should not consider himself as an active military person since he had deserted the military headquarter. He said 'if we are military, we should behave as real military, but now he [ Major Alfredo] has escaped from headquarters and still considers himself as active military". He is no longer active military, stressed Colonel Lere. Major Alfredo should pay attention to the military regulations, stressed Colonel Lere.

In addition, PM Ramos-Horta said that no East Timorese were entitled to hold any illegal weapons which means that the ones held by Major Alfredo and his inmates are illegal ones. Therefore PM Horta, on behalf of the government, urged Major Alfredo and his members to surrender the weapons to the International Forces. PM Horta added that "Alfredo should not talk on R3 (Resolve the Problem, Restructure, and Revolution) but he should talk on PJT (Prosecutor, Justice and Tribunal) because it was not the right time for him to seek any humility for himself, but he should deal with the prosecutor general. The case of Major Alfredo was more complicated than the case of Major Tara and Marco, and Petitioners, PM Ramos-Horta said.

However, Diario National, states that PM Ramos-Horta was quoted as saying that International Forces did not capture Major Alfredo at the Suai-two-day seminar because they wanted to avoid bloodshed in Timor-Leste. Mr. Horta then declared that Major Alfredo was considered by the second constitutional government as a criminal and in fact this government had issued a capture- warning for Major Alfredo, but it was found that the event in Suai was not the right place to capture him. On the contrary, Major Alfredo said that nobody could disarm him. At an interview with STL, Major Alfredo said that 'I will not hand over my weapons to either Xanana, Ramos Horta, or to anybody. No one has the right to disarm me". (DN, TP, STL)

Commemoration of Independence Day, 28 November

Francisco Xavier do Amaral was officially considered as proclaiming the Independence of East Timor at the commemoration ceremony of the 31st Independence Day. The recognition was directly delivered by President Xanana. The President then took the occasion to appeal to all Timorese to quickly put an end the violence and promote peace. 265 recipients were symbolically bestowed with the medal and emblem from the sovereign bodies, and some special guests. After the ceremony, two women, Beloran and Madalena protested to the Organizing Committee for not including their names on the list, but the president of the organizing committee, Virgilio Smith, explained to them that the ceremony was merely a symbolic one and convinced both women to calm down and wait for the next event as there will be a similar ones scheduled for December 2006, March and May 2007. (STL, TP, DN)

Xanana asks F-FDTL and PNTL to participate in ending violence

President Xanana Gusmao has asked the Government to reactivate PNTL and asked the participation of F-FDTL to end the violence and killings in the country. He added that PNTL must return to the field in order to help the International Forces to stop rock throwing and killings. The President also appealed to all the crime actors to stop violence and said that those who choose violence must be arrested.

Mr. Xanana has also expressed his regret on the political and security crisis that the nation confronts today. On the same occasion the President of Republic expressed publicly his support to all the statements of Prime Minister Dr. Ramos-Horta condemning the criminal attitude of some people and the members of martial arts who turned the noble idea of Martial arts into criminal and violence which has sacrificed a lot of lives, most of whom belong to the young and the poor. The President also expressed appreciation for the effort of all the martial arts groups who gathered last Friday to state their commitment to end violence in the country. (STL, TP and DN)

November 25, 2006

Without justice, I will not hand over the weapons - Alfredo

There was an exclusive interview between Timor Post and Fugitive Major Alfredo Reinaldo prior to the two-day seminar held in Suai, 24-25 November 2006. Major Alfredo in the interview said that this crisis was begun at the military institution which caused his desertion. He then admitted that he was still in possession of weapons but he said that he will not hand them over to anybody if there was not justice for people and himself. He said, "If I am accused for any involvement in this crisis, I am ready to face the court, but as this is a military crisis within the F-FDTL institution, I would like to see the change in this institution." He also stressed that the institution was used for the political purpose which resulted in the ongoing conflict. In respond to the plan of the government and some leaders to hold a dialogue with him, he told that any dialogue might be held as long as it was opened for the public, so that everyone could get access to the information.

Alfredo said that there should be a revolution of our mentality, and a reformation to solve the problem, restore the justice, peace, government structure, and constitution. He added that the 'revolution' did not mean we should use weapons to fight each other but it means people have to change their mentality in sorting out problems.

In addition, Major Alfredo also strongly criticized the current government for being similar to the first constitutional government, under the leadership of Mari Alkatiri. He said that this government was even worse than the previous one.

In resolving the East Timor crisis, he said that he will take part in the process and will not escape from justice. Hence, he told the participants at the two-day seminar that in finding the solution to our crisis, people should leave behind any personal and political interests, but that there should be a just solution for every East Timorese including himself. Among the participants in the seminar were Major Tara, Major Marcos Tilman, Dr. Lucas da Costa, Father Martinho Gusmao, Jaime Hamjah, representative of the Ministry of Labor and Community Reinsertion, youths and students from Ermera, Ainaro, and Covalima, and Gastio Salsinha and Railos who took part on the second day session.

Separately, in relations to allegations that illegal money collectors collected money from businessmen in Dili in the name of Major Alfredo Reinado, he then called upon every businessman particularly in Dili to stop giving any money for anybody on his behalf. He said that he has not asked anybody to beg for money. (TP, DN, and STL)

The trial of Rogerio's case The case of the former Minister of Interior, Rogerio Tiago Lobato is scheduled to be prosecuted on Thursday, 30 November 2006 by three judges, two international judges including Ivo Rosa from Portugal and Telma Angelica from Brazil, and Antonio GonC'alves from Timor-Leste on charges of illegal weapons distribution. The trial is expectedto be opened to the public. (STL & TP)

28 November is not a day of Fretilin Party only: Lu'Olo

In response to the question on preparations to commemorate Independence day, 28 November 2006, Francisco Guterres, President of the National Parliament said that 28 November, is not only Fretilin's day but a day for all citizens to celebrate because it was on this date in 1975 that Fretilin unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Timor-Leste. Lu-Olo said this date is in honor and memory of those that defended the 28 November for 24 years. In addition, Secretary General of Democratic Party, Mariano Sabino was quoted as saying that 28 November was a historical date for the new generation while 20 May 2002 was a date where East Timor was considered a nation with the democratic rule of states. (STL & DN)

No comments by Fretilin Party on the conspiracy theory

After the release of the conspiracy theory written by the President of Republic, Xanana Gusmao, there was no reaction from any of the CCF members or militants. The silent position taken by the Fretilin leaders did not mean that they were afraid of the truth of the theory, but rather because they do not want to waste their time and energy to instigate any threat to the peace and political stability of this country. However, Juliao Mausiri, one of the Fretilin leaders reportedly justified the theory of conspiracy, saying it is based on facts. He said the theory written by Mr. Xanana reflected acts of the Fretilin-led government, and the politics of CCF that did not correspond to the needs of the people. He then added that the Fretilin leaders did not have any comments as they did not have sufficient support. (STL)

November 24, 2006

28 November is not Fretilin's: Lu-Olo

Francisco Guterres, President of the National Parliament says that 28 November, as forecast in the Constitution, is not only Fretilin's day but a day for all citizens to celebrate because it was on this date in 1975 that Fretilin unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Timor-Leste. In addition Lu-Olo said this date is in honour and memory of those that defended 28 November for 24 years. (STL)

Martial arts groups calls for peace

Up to 7 martial arts groups made a statement on Thursday calling for members of PSHT to stop violence. Representatives of the various group said they no longer accept and tolerate the behaviour of PSHT members in attacking, robbing, burning and damaging homes in the Dili. They appealed for the government to establish regulations for martial arts groups to stop PSHT actions, as they have been responsible for the destabilization of the country. However the Secretary General of Colimau 2000 group, Osorio Maulequi has blamed members of PSHT for their involvement in crimes as a conspiracy with PD to try and win the 2007 elections. But Fernando "Lasama", President of PD, has rejected the accusation as false and appealed to the martial arts groups '77' Korka and Kolimau 2000 to not let themselves be used by other people like political parties. The youth groups of Santa Cruz and Kintol Boot have taken the initiative to reconcile through the youth program "Dame Malu". The two groups are committed to having no involvement in further conflict, said Manuel Freitas, representative of Santa Cruz youth group. (STL, DN)

Escape of prisoners not guards fault

Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento said the report presented by the Commission in charge of the investigation into the escape of prisoners in August including Major Alfredo found that the prisoners' guards were not involved in the incident. The report says the guards lacked discipline and recommended to the justice ministry to take measures to increase their discipline and obey the tasks appointed to them. (TP)

UN supports elections

The Special Assistant to the Electoral Certification Team, told the media yesterday that the Independent Certification Team would work in Timor-Leste to ensure that electoral international standards are implemented, and that they would be in the country soon. According to Diario Nacional, the team would present the report on the next visit, which clearly indicates their mandate and the importance for the elections to take place in 2007. The UN will provide logistical and other modes of assistance. (STL, DN)

November 23, 2006

F-FDTL plans to dialogue with Alfredo

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta reportedly told the media on Wednesday that F-FDTL is planning to hold a dialogue with Major Alfredo and his colleagues to resolve pending problems within the institution. Ramos-Horta said the planned meeting is a proposal from Brigadier General Tara Matan Ruak who also intends to meet with Majors Tara and Marcos to ask them to return to F-FDTL Headquarters. Tara also wants to establish a military commission to carefully define the meetings, without putting aside the justice process, said the Prime Minister. He said he would personally contact Majors Tara and Marcos and that Salsinha Gastao's case is a different one, which would also be resolved. Horta said time is up for Alfredo and his colleagues, including some members of UIR to hand in their guns and meet the President of the Republic and whoever else they wish to meet and to present themselves at headquarters to wait for the justice process. Timor Post reported on the proposed two-day seminar scheduled to start on Friday in Suai with the theme 'Peace And Justice'. Major Alfredo is expected to participate in the event as well as Minister of Labour and Community Reinsertion, Arsenio Bano, Dr. Lucas da Costa, Director of Peace and Justice of Baucau Diocese, Augusto Trindade and Benevides Correia Barros. The participants each will speak on various topics ranging from establishment of the National Forum for Justice and Peace for Reformation in Timor-Leste. Major Alfredo will focus on Resolving the Problem, Reformation and Revolution. (TP, DN)

Commission presents report

Commission A of the National Parliament has presented the proposed projects on the electoral law for the National Parliament and the National Independent Commission to the plenary but was not debated as per the agenda due to other matters under discussion.

According to MP Vicente Faria, the proposed project laws were delayed due to the lack of advisors and a quorum to approve the document. With the help of a legal advisor supported by UNDP, however, the commission achieved its aim and is happy that the work is done.

Opposition MPs were not happy with the Fretilin bench for re- tabling the Project Law 12/I4 on the Status of Former Honoraries of the Sovereign Bodies for discussion and approval. Some of the opposition MPs walked out during the discussion saying that the approval of the document would be to safeguard the former Prime Minister and some ministers of the first constitutional government. (TP, STL)

Police detain 8 people

Australian Forces together with UNPOL have detained 8 suspects in Ermera District. Minister of Interior Alcino Barris said there are strong indications these 8 people were responsible for the deaths of 5 people, thee burning of more than 100 houses and the population fleeing to other locations. Barris said the population, the elders, youth and the Colimau 2000 group were also holding a dialogue on Wednesday to try and resolve the problem. He said in Maubisse, Ainaro there were some incidents involving the population and Colimau 2000 group leaving one death and some injuries. It is reported that some groups have forced the population to join Colimau 2000 and their refusal resulting in fighting. He also said police tried to detain members of the group but they all fled after attacking the police, one of whom is now receiving medical treatment, at the national hospital. Minister Barris has requested the support of UNPOL and the Australian forces to work together with PNTL in Ainaro to try and detain those responsible for the violence in that area.

In a separate article, Mike Stone, the Australian Forces spokesperson said they would continue to work with UNPOL to detain the people responsible for the ongoing violence. Stone further said the Australian forces are providing security to the people of Timor-Leste and expatriates working in the country because they have the right to live in peace. He said there have been changes in Dili because the majority of the population want to carry on with their lives despite the many challenges they face and said it is imperative for the community to work together to provide information about the problems and help the justice process. (DN, STL, TP)

President chairs high level dialogue

President Gusmao chaired a high level dialogue in Dili Wednesday with the participation of the heads of government, parliament, defence forces, national police, religious institutions, political parties, national and international NGOs. According to information, obtained by Dario Nacional, one of the main discussions of the agenda was the reconciliation and coordination between the two security institutions as well as security for the population. The dialogue was organized by the Commission for Dialogue and Community Reinsertion and closed to the media. STL reported that the motto of the dialogue was "causes, consequences and lessons learned during the crises. President Xanana appealed for reconciliation saying "we must all be honest and acknowledge our mistakes and be humble to forgive others. We must start with dialogue because we know that reconciliation is a process to search for peace within each one of us before we speak to all the community and for us to respect each other'. (STL, DN)

November 22, 2006

Australia will continue to provide security: Nelson

Australian Minister of Defence, Brendan Nelson told the media on Tuesday that his country is committed to providing security to Timor-Leste including training for F-FDTL and help the government implement the 20:20 military program. Among other issues discussed between Nelson and Prime Minister Ramos-Horta, was the work of UNPol and International forces particularly the Australian and New Zealand forces in normalizing the F-FDTL and PNTL, Bilateral Military Corporation, security arrangements for the 2007 elections and training on the surveillance of maritime borders. Brendan Nelson further said that they discussed the situation of the IDPs and the importance of them returning to their homes. He told Ramos-Horta that Australia would reduce the numbers of the present military personnel, if opportunity arises, in which case the country would get a smaller military component from other nations to support Australia and New Zealand forces.

STL reported Australian Defence Minister as saying that the international military forces would not be under the UN command as it was a bilateral corporation. However, the Australian and New Zealand forces are committed to help the people of Timor- Leste and the priority would be to take the IDPs to their home.

Diario Nacional reported that the National Commission for Dialogue and Community Reinsertion lost one of its members, 35 years old Jose Soares Barros whose body was found in Aimutin, Comoro. Barros was taken from his home at 03:00 a.m. by unknown people accusing him of having close ties with the Kolimau 2000 group, which is responsible for the recent killings in Ermera. He is survived by his wife and 8 children. (TP, STL, DN)

Prime minister disgusted with killing of Brazilian missionary

PM, Jose Ramos Horta reportedly expressed his anger in relation to the murder of the Brazilian Evangelic Missionary, Edgar Concalves Brito last weekend. He said that the person who killed Brito is considered as an animal because Mr. Brito came to East Timor to work for this country and the East Timorese people. He is very sad with the incident and promised that the perpetrator will be brought to court, face justice and put in Becora Prison for the rest of his life.

Diario Nacional reported on the Brazilian community's peace protest on Tuesday afternoon in Dili in relation to the death of the Brazilian missionary. Prime Minister Ramos-Horta, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Education, Ambassador of Portugal, Brazil and representatives of the Muslim, Catholic and Protestant Church participated in the march. The organizing coordinator for the event, Tadeo Marcos said the peace march was not only for the Brazilians but also for the Timorese who died during the crisis. The march was held in silence with participants wearing white headbands and holding white pieces of cloth as a sign of peace.

In a separate article, Timor Post reported that 11 people sought medical assistance in Bairro Pite clinic following violence. Teresa Conceicao, Head of the clinic's emergency section said 9 people were from Dili and two from Ainaro District including a policeman and a civilian. Conceicao said of those who came from Dili, one had a gun shot wound and came from the Bidau Aikadiruhun; others were hit by rocks and rama ambons. (STL, DN, TP)

Government violates the rights of people: Oliveira Director HAK Foundation, Jose Luis Oliveira stated that the current government led by Jose Ramos Horta has violated the rights of people as they abandoned the IDPs and prolonged the time of putting an end to the conflict by constructing temporary housing. He added that the effort of the government to sort out the crisis was good but did not have a good system. Hence, abandoning the IDPs and lacking good will to resolve the ongoing crisis meant that the government had violated the rights of people, stressed Oliveira. On another occasion, he also told DN that an apology expressed by the four organs of sovereignty to the people in regards to the conflict was a good sign. (DN, TP)

Alkatiri does not have any intellectual maturity: de Jesus

A senior leader of Fretilin Reformist Group, Egidio de Jesus was reported in STL as having said that the declaration of the former PM and the current Secretary General of Fretilin Party, Dr. Mari Alkatiri in which he accused the Catholic Church of ousting him from the PM seat indicated that Alkatiri did not have any intellectual maturity. His accusation was baseless as there is no evidence, de Jesus said. Hence, Mr. de Jesus called for every East Timorese journalists, intellectualists, and leaders including himself to think first before giving any statement to the public. He said that Alkatiri always speaks first but thinks later. He then reportedly said that Alkatiri was forced to step down because of the involvement of the weapons distribution for the civilians. (STL)

More peace marches

Youth for Peace Action is scheduling to hold another march in various parts of Dili on Thursday, a continuation of 12 November marches, calling for peace. According to Timor Post, discussion is still underway today whether to proceed with the march due to the impact it might have. A communique issued by the youth, says the action is an initiative of the youth and the population who want to live in peace, to end the violence, the dichotomy of 'loromonu' and 'lorosae' and appealed to everybody to join the march. The document says "if you love Timor-Leste join us/come together'. It is a way to try helping the leaders to find an immediate solution for the crisis. (TP)

Parliament inquiry into purchase of ammunitions

MPs question the pledge of Prime Minister Ramos-Horta to purchase ammunition for F-FDTL. According to MP Leandro Isac, Ramos-Horta had stated in the National Parliament that the government under his leadership would not buy more guns and ammunition for Timor- Leste Defence Forces. Contrary to a document the Parliament received, the government had ordered 15 tonnes or two containers of ammunition for F-FDTL. Isac said the current priority is to resolve the internal problem of F-FDTL and not purchasing ammunition for F-FDTL. He said that the people still fear associated with guns and ammunition. He would like the government to justify the purchase. MP Clementino Amaral (KOTA) feels that the public needs to know why the ammunitions were purchased. MP Pedro da Costa (PST) disagrees with the government's decision of purchasing ammunitions from Korea as the situation in the country does not permit the acquisition of more guns or ammunitions either for F-FDTL or PNTL. (STL)

November 21, 2006

Timor's name stained: Ramos-Horta

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta said the killing of a Brazilian by a youth is a serious crime and it has put a stain on Timor-Leste in the eyes of the world. On the continued violence, Ramos-Horta said the government will continue with its program of 'simu malu', appealing to the people not to lose hope and courage, and for the youths to get rid of their sharp objects, hatred and stop accusing the leaders as being the dividers. He stressed that the leaders, namely F-FDTL and PNTL, have reconciled but some youths and martial arts groups have not done the same. The Prime Minister said the accusations that some leaders are behind this violence is false, pointing to the problems in Ermera between the Kolimau 2000 group and the martial arts group, that it was the actions of the youth and not ordered by the leaders.

President of the National Parliament, Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" said the actor of the crime against the Brazilian citizen must be detained and processed in court. Guterres is of the opinion that the peace process initiated by the youth must continue and the violence that has been occurring is likely caused by small groups of people who can be easily identified. Meanwhile, Lu-Olo also said he received information from victims of human rights violations, from the hamlet of Gulolo, a sub-district of Letefoho, allegedly accusing PNTL Police Reserve Unit (URP) for the violations. He said the case has been brought to the attention of the Deputy Minister of Interior, the Prime Minister and his two deputies. (STL, TP)

Incident not related to peace actions: Eric Tan Gim

UNMIT DSRSG Eric Tan Huck Gim told the media on Monday that the incidents at the National Hospital and Obrigado camp are not related to the peace actions initiated by youths. On the murder of the Brazilian citizen, Tan Huck Gim said that an investigation is underway and law and order would be reinforced but it is important to detain those involved in the conflict. He praised the initiative of the youth to create a peaceful environment, adding the initiative is important for the future of Timor-Leste and it must be continued. The DSRSG further said Timor-Leste has overcome the difficult period and must now prepare for the 2007 elections and, based on the UN mandate, UNMIT is committed to providing support to ensure that elections are just and free. On the same occasion Acting Police Commissioner, Emir Bilget said UNPOL has established permanent police posts in some neighbourhoods and are operating 24 hrs, 7 days a week. The areas that now have static police presence starting this week are the airport, seaport (operational during daytime only, during business hours) and Hera. Bilget also said that soon posts will be established in Fatuhada, Bebonuk, Manleuana, Matadour and Tasi Tolu. But while reconstruction is in progress UNPOL will try to make its presence visible through patrolling. He said in order to increase the police presence at the National Hospital police numbers would be increased in Aikadiruhun as well as the number of patrolling vehicles.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of youth for peace, Joao da Silva "Choque" said violence would not stop if the justice sector continues to be weak to charge those responsible for crimes. Da Silva said the youth peace initiative must be supported with security and it is time the UN police work seriously to detain the groups or individuals that continue to create violence. He said the peace action alone would not guarantee an end to the violence, adding community dialogue, security and justice must work hand in hand to identify those creating violence. Joao da Silva said small groups and individuals are the ones creating disturbances hence the police must act and the judicial system must be strong otherwise face having the youths blaming each other without substance. According to Timor Post, more peace actions have been planned but dates have not been confirmed.

Diario Nacional reported that rock throwing between youths of Bidau Massau and Bidau Toko Baro, or the IDPs at the National Hospital, left two people seriously injured. A total of four people were injured during the fight. (TP, DN)

F-FDTL and PNTL will take IDPs home: Bano

Minister for Labor and Community Reintegration, Arsenio Bano said F-FDTL and PNTL would be involved in the repatriation of IDPs therefore he asked the community to collaborate with the two institutions. To better prepare for the 'simu malu' programme, a first meeting was called on Monday with the participation of Lino Saldanha, representing PNTL, Major Koliati, representing F-FDTL and government officials from the Ministry of Public Works, the State Ministry and youth representatives. Minister Bano said plans have already been drawn and said the involvement of F-FDTL and PNTL is under the humanitarian assistance aspect to help the communities. Bano said a meeting is scheduled for November 25 for 30 members each of both institutions to further grasp the program so they can better contribute to the relocation of IDPs. (DN, TP)

President stops MPs visit

MPs from UDT and PSD have expressed disappointment with the attitude of the President of the National Parliament for impeding the Parliament Delegation from visiting IDPs together with youths. The decision for the visit was agreed upon by the party benches but it has not been implemented. MP Alexandre Corte-Real (UDT) said the President of the Parliament must explain to the public the delay of the visit, adding the President himself promised to send a delegation to visit the IDPs. MP Joao GonC'alves (PSD) agreed with Corte-Real, further saying the President of the Parliament met with the parties' benches to organize a delegation with the aim for the visit. (TP, DN)

November 17, 2006

UNPOL will collect guns in Ermera

UNPOL will hold an operation to collect guns still in the hands of civilians in Ermera District, Prime Minister Ramos-Horta reportedly told the media on Thursday. He says the government will work together with the Ministry of Interior on this initiative. The Prime Minister further said UNPOL would also conduct operations in Bobonaro district and warned some members of the Kolimau 2000 group not to make further confrontations, as they would receive harsh consequences. Ramos-Horta also appealed to the martial arts groups to stop the violence or face being banned. (DN, TP, STL)

Kolimau 2000 group attacks martial arts group

Confrontations between the Kolimau 2000 Group and the martial art group (PSHT) in Ermera resulted in 4 deaths, up to 10 homes set on fire and the population seeking refuge inside the coffee plantations, reported the media today. The incidents occurred on Wednesday and Thursday, as members of Kolimau 2000 from Ermera, Letefoho, Bobonaro and Atsabe attacked the martial arts group while they were holding a meeting. The fight is a continuation to the previous conflict on 2 November, which resulted in the death of two people, and about 18 houses set on fire, said a source. Prime Minister Ramos-Horta and Minister of Interior, Alcino Barris travelled to the district upon receiving this information and decided that PNTL UIR and URP units would be stationed in that area even though the population have requested F-FDTL to provide security. (DN, TP)

F-FDTL and PNTL to provide security

The Prime Minister, President of the National Parliament, Minister of Labour and Community Reinsertion met with President Gusmao yesterday to discuss the implementation of security in the neighbourhoods by F-FDTL and PNTL. According to Ramos-Horta, President Xanana has welcomed the plan as it would help the population still living in the camps to return to their homes, as well as help with the reconstruction. He further said the population requested the reactivation of the two institutions therefore it is important that both show their sensibility among the community by working together as it would help heal the wounds and support the government's 'simu malu' programme which has been already implemented. (DN, TP)

F-FDTL and PNTL dialogue

The second step after Wednesday's parade of unity, F-FDTL, PNTL and the political parties held a dialogue on Thursday where Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak appealed for respect, humbleness and recognition of the mistakes, to look forward to the future and how to take the IDPs to their homes, as well as prepare for the upcoming elections. Paulo Martins, PNTL Commander General said during the 4 years in the institution he felt the command was weak due to political interventions, hoping that the next government, the next political party that would form the government, must separate the work of the police and politics in order for PNTL to proceed independently, (DN, TP, STL)

Acting SRSG and president of parliament discuss legislation

The meeting between Acting SRSG and President of the National Parliament centred on the legislation of the electoral law and the United Nations support program for the national electoral commission. According to Lu-Olo the Acting SRSG requested the legislation to be approved by the end of November in order to proceed according to the UN's calendar of support to the electoral commission. (STL, DN, TP)

November 16, 2006

Parade of unity

F-FDTL and PNTL held a joint parade yesterday afternoon in front of the Government Palace to kick-start the resumption of their services today, reported the media. Speaking during the event, Diario Nacional reported President Gusmao as saying that the crisis was the fault of the sovereign state, noting the parade was a compromise bestowed upon the two institutions by the constitution to defend and provide security to the population. Gusmao added that wrong decisions taken by the sovereign bodies led to the conflict between the two institutions, noting the sovereign bodies have also tried to amend their mistakes in order for F-FDTL and PNTL to reconcile and overcome the crisis. The President said both institutions will work with the government and the dialogue and community re-insertion commission to take IDPs back to their homes and appealed to the youth to maintain their commitment to re-establish peace and strengthen national unity. STL reported the President of the Republic calling on F- FDTL and PNTL to re-establish peace saying "if we the Timorese create the problem, then we are the ones to resolve". Xanana Gusmao said everything is possible from starting a war to stopping it and he appealed to the youth to collaborate with PNTL and F-FDTL.

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta appealed for both institutions to work together again despite the deep wounds, noting that the crisis that occurred in Timor-Leste also occurs in other countries and in some on a much greater scale. Therefore, he appealed to the people and the leaders not to lose faith in both institutions.

President of the National Parliament said the joint parade could re-establish peace for the nation, especially the people, adding that the action made him brought him pride, reminding him of the words of many expatriates – that peace can be restored.

Speaking to Timor Post following the parade, Acting SRSG, Finn Reske-Nielsen said he was truly happy to see F-FDTL and PNTL together again because it brings hope that reconciliation, stability and peace will prevail in Timor-Leste soon. (STL, TP, DN)

Taur is trying to dialogue with Alfredo

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta has reportedly said that F-FDTL Brigadier General, Taur Matan Ruak is organizing a team to hold a dialogue with Major Alfredo Reinado and his group. The efforts of F-FDTL follow unsuccessful meetings held previously with Reinado including a meeting with Bishop Belo. Ramos-Horta said the problems between Major Tara, Marcos, the petitioners and Major Reinado are all different problems. He said Major Tara and Marcos are not a big problem and the petitioners problems have been handed to the notable's commission. He said Major Reinado should not forget that he might have erred by killing and injuring some members of F-FDTL, adding that Reinado was the one who went looking for the conflict in Fatu Ahi. (TP)

November 15, 2006

IDPs are now returning home

Following a community meeting with youth representatives for Becora and Kulau, Joao da Silva "Choque" and Jacinto da Silva "Hadia Kulaua", some IDPs have started returning home. STL reports that the meeting, held in a familiar/friendly environment and moderated by Fr. Guilhermino of Becora Parish, discussed many issues of concern like guaranteeing security. Jacinto da Silva 'Kulau' said Kulau was one of the worst affected areas during the crisis and the youth must start to play a greater role in establishing a peaceful environment to assure security for the IDPs wishing to return to their homes, adding, many people from the east have now returned to their residences. He further said the youth of Kulau have welcomed the notion and are providing security for those who have decided to return home. Jacinto da Silva 'Kulau' said he is delighted with the peace actions achieved by the youth in relation to the 12 November massacre anniversary commemoration. He pointed out that a step has been achieved and has opened the way for dialogue and community re- integration, adding, the next phase would be to clear the camps opposite the seaport, the airport and other areas. Joao da Silva "Choque" said the two-day peace march was successful despite some incidents of rock throwing, which according to him is not important, as there are always provocateurs, and appealed to the organizers to continue to maintain their position and work for peace and stability of the nation. The Coordinator of Comoro airport camp, JosC(c) da Silva Gusmao has stressed that the IDPs of that camp have expressed the desire to return to their homes if the youths assures them safety. (STL)

Major Tara met with brigadier general Major Agusto de Araujo "Tara" met with F-FDTL Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak for the second time in relation to plans for the veterans to travel to Dili and stabilize the situation. MP Riak Leman organized the meeting. He said that many people, including the government, initially agreed to the plan but the government then decided not to support it because of lack of funds,. Apart from the plan, both Tara and Ruak discussed the subsidies for the petitioners as some of them from Ainaro District are currently facing extreme difficulties. They also discussed the construction of houses for the veterans and for the people who lost their homes as a result of the crisis. (STL)

Strict access for media

Journalists of Timor Post (TP) and Diario Nacional have reported that the media is facing difficulties in accessing information on the current Prime Minister's activities which contrasts to that of the former Prime Minister's office. According to TP, during Prime Minister Alkatiri's period, his public relations staff allowed the media access to his daily activities. The journalists are reportedly unhappy with the system adopted by PM's Ramos- Horta public relation office (TP)

Delegation from Britain meets Barris

A delegation from Great Britain including the Jakarta based Ambassador visited Timor-Leste on Tuesday and met with the Minister of Interior Alcino Barris to discus security and justice assistance. According to Barris, it was also an opportunity to explain to the delegation the functions of the police before and after the crisis and the vision of the ministry's development.

President determined to withdraw project

Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" is determined to withdraw the electoral project law from Commission A of the National Parliament if it continues to delay the presentation of the document to the plenary. Guterres said the document was presented to the Commission on October 25 and he personally does not know what is stopping it. But he insists that the report and the suggestions must be approved and presented to the plenary session for discussion and approval within this week, adding that it would enable STAE and the National Electoral Commission to proceed with preparations for the 2007 elections. (TP)

November 14, 2006

Youth peace march praised

Timor-Leste leaders have praised the peace march organized by youths following the 15th anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre on 12 November. Prime Minister Ramos-Horta has acknowledged the goodwill of the youths in Dili to re-establish peace. He said the actions of the youth were a good example for the political leaders and the older generations. President of the National Parliament said the march was a lesson for the leaders and to consider the population as one and that there is no such thing as "lorosae and loromonu" and everybody must respect and accept each other and take the country forward. President of PSD, Mario Carrascalao said the government should take advantage of the momentum to resolve the political military crisis. Carrascalao said the peace march is a sign the youth are becoming conscious that peace is imperative for the day-to-day living of a citizen. Youths, including those from the troubled areas of Dili hugged, cried and reconciled on the evening of 12 November and lit candles together in memory of the victims of the massacre. They also spontaneously organized the peace march around Dili on Monday, which concluded at the National Parliament with a delegation of four people, from east and west, addressing the Parliament. The delegation appealed for the leaders to reconcile as a way for IDPs to return to their homes. They said the peace march was a spontaneous action that came from their consciousness and from their heart with courage from those that have long gone since the massacre of 12 November, adding the anniversary of the massacre led them to work for peace. (TP, STL)

AJTL condemns violence

Assosiacao Jornalista Timor Lorosae has condemned the violence against a journalist of TVTL and a stringer for AFP, Nelson da Cruz by a group of unknown people. Virgilio Guterres, President of the association said the violence is an act against human rights, impedes the publication of news and goes against the principles of democracy including freedom of speech and press. Guterres said violence against journalists has occurred a few times and calls on those that have committed the violence to respect other people's right to live and to stop with such actions. He also calls on the government to identify the people committing these crimes not only against journalists but against the population as well. Da Cruz was reporting on a violence outbreak in Colmera, Vila Verde when he was attacked. (TP)

Norway government helps construction

The government of Norway has donated US$2 million to help in the reconstruction of temporary homes for IDPs. According to TP, the Norway government representative in Jakarta gave the aid. Raul Mosaco, Deputy Public Works Minister, said the temporary homes would be established in Tibar, Tasi Tolu, Becora and Hera. (TP)

November 11/13, 2006

UNPOL putting efforts to reduce violence

The UNPOL Commander for Dili District, Graeme Cairns has reportedly said the UN police continue to aim to reduce violence in Dili. Speaking at a press conference in Acanunu Church grounds in Hera, Cairns said the priority of UNPOL is to stop violence. He said that the situation had improved over the past 2 to 3 weeks. Cairns further added that investigators are working with the Prosecutor Generala's office to detain suspects and proceed with court procedures. He stressed that the UN is now encouraging PNTL officers to actively engage in their previous activities. On the returns process of IDPs, Cairns said it is important to provide security for IDPs who are returning home, with a further increase of police patrols in the neighbourhoods, as well as ask the community to welcome them. (STL)

Time for IDPs to return home: Reske-Nielsen

Acting SRSG, Finn Reske-Nielsen has also appealed to the people still living in refugee camps to return home, as the rainy reason will be a big threat in terms of diseases. And if they do not want return to their homes due to security reasons, Reske-Nielsen said that they should consider relocation to other places. "I know security is a concern to the IDPs but as you know the UN has been requested to maintain law and order following the UN Security Council decision two months ago," the Acting SRSG said, adding the police has also increased its patrols due to the number of police available on the ground, thus improving security in Dili. Therefore, he asked the IDPs to return home noting that thousands of people have already done so. He cited as an example the number of people seeking refuge in Don Bosco compound, which numbered 17,000 in the month of June when he first visited the camp to 3,500 in his recent visit. The Acting SRSG on Friday met with some IDPs of Aldeia Acananu, Hera who have already returned to their homes. But these returnees told the present head of the UN in Timor-Leste that they are having difficulties with food as they have not had the time to prepare their lands for maize cultivation due to the crisis. Present at the event, the head of IOM, Luiz Vieira said his organisation will continue to support the return of IDPs to their homes and congratulated the villagers of Acananu for setting a good example to IDPs. (STL, TP)

Commemoration 12 November massacre

The 15th anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre was observed with activities organized by the youth and a mass celebrated by Bishop Ricardo. The bishop was reportedly sad with the poor participation of the people in the mass. Deputy Prime Minister, Estanislau da Silva, President of the Court of Appeal, Claudio Ximenes, some Diplomatic Corps and Members of Parliament were present to mark the commemoration. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Jose Luis Guterres praised the courage of the youth as heroes and appealed to them to re-establish national unity as they did during the resistance period. Guterres said even without an invitation he would still participate in the commemoration ceremony, since 12 November is an important date that opened the eyes of the world to Timor-Leste to gain its independence. He continued, the people of Timor-Leste must extend their hands to each other to show the world that Timor-Leste belongs to the Timorese and will become successful. MPs have appealed to the youth to reflect on this date and to strengthen the trust between them. The President of the Organizing Committee of 12 November, 1991-2006, Joao "Choque" da Silva assured the participants that just as the youth of Timor-Leste gave their lives for the independence of so their country they would not like to see the population continuing to suffer. He said he believes that the youth would work in solidarity aiming to support IDPs returning to their homes. Da Silva pointed out that the will to work together has been shown through sporting activities organised on the eve of the anniversary of the massacre which saw the participation of both F-FDTL and PNTL officers engaged in sports competition, which is a sign that the people have not lost their sense of nationalism. The NGO Forum wants the UN to carry out a justice process against those responsible for the massacre and appealed to the government not to forget justice to the victims and their families, to provide assistance to surviving victims, and to find the graves of those killed on 12 November. (STL, TP)

November 10, 2006

International forces will leave if not required: Horta

Following his address to the National Parliament on Thursday on the 100 days of governing Ramos-Horta who is also the Minister for Defence told MPs that the international forces continue to be present in the country because the national forces are still weak. But the Prime Minister stressed that once the police starts to function properly the forces can start to withdraw from the country, adding there is no limit for the presence of the forces. He said the Malaysian government had to withdraw its troops because they did not have the funds to pay for the troops. Ramos-Horta added that Malaysia hopes to continue to provide assistance if the UN Security Council decides to send peacekeepers. In a separate article in STL, the Prime Minister appealed to the Military Police, Major Alfredo Reinado and Vicente da Conceicao "Railos" to surrender weapons still in their possession or have the police and the international forces chase and detain them. The Prime Minister said once they surrender their guns, he personally will ask the international forces to provide security for them but according to the latest information he has received, Railos has moved from his area. (STL)

Claudio Ximenes presents justice officials

The President of the Court of Appeal, Claudio Ximenes, has presented six justice officials who have arrived in Timor-Leste from Portugal under the cooperation program accord between Portugal and UNDP's Justice Program to assist the judiciary system. (STL)

Survey on reconstruction of houses

Deputy Minister of Public Works, Raul Mosaco said the government is now holding a survey at the suku level to identify houses that were destroyed during the crisis, based on data collected from the Hera, Metinaro, Obrigado Barracks and Lecidere IDP camps. Mousaco said a team from his Ministry has also checked three state locations previously used by the police in areas like Taibessi and Caicoli to set up the new neighbourhood. He said discussion is still taking place on the latter. (TP)

November 9, 2006

F-FDTL cannot be active until problems resolved

President of PSD, Mario Carrascalao said the government must first resolve the problems of the petitioners and Major Alfredo Reinado before F-FDTL becomes active stressing the crisis began with the petitioners. He further said the Notable Commission, which was established by the government, could now resolve the problem. Meanwhile Prime Minister Ramos-Horta said the Defence Forces would become active and continue their daily activities at their headquarters in Tasi Tolu and will not provide internal security, as it is not their role. Ramos-Horta added their reactivation follows the result of the COI report, clearing the institution of a massacre. The Prime Minister and Minister of Defence pointed out that the F-FDTL depends on the 20:20 plan, and how F-FDTL can cooperate with the international forces and what their role in a global context will be. (STL)

Vice-minister resigns from post

Isabel Ferreira yesterday submitted her resignation letter for her post as Vice-Minister for Justice following a request by the President of the Republic to the Prime Minister due to the dual positions she is currently holding. Ferreira said when she was invited to take on the position of Vice-Minister she agreed on the condition that she would continue to serve as the CVA Commissioner. But now she has been asked to resign as Vice- Minister of Justice. She said the leaders have not been consistent with their original decision. (TP)

PSD doubts parliament commission

MP Joao Goncalves (PSD) doubts that the work of the Parliamentary Commission, to analyse and evaluate the COI report, would be efficient as it does not have the power to take those responsible to court. Goncalves said the Commission could only carry out further investigations and gathering evidence from people who have not been heard yet. He further said the Commission should at least establish a terms-of-reference to specify their work, adding that to investigate the COI report requires a lot of resources. He further questions if, when the specialized permanent commission of the Parliament faces difficulties in delivering their work, this new commission would be able to achieve its objective? The MP said that PSD made a political statement in the Parliament to request Timor-Leste to establish a commission composed of the four sovereign states – the president of the republic, government, the court and the parliament – to conduct a study on the conclusions and recommendations of the COI report. Based on the study, Goncalves stressed that the commission should present further recommendations based on the seriousness of the crimes and national interest. The MP said all aspects are involved in the terms-of-reference but the proposal did not have the support of the plenary session. The Parliament Commission consists of seven-members, four from FRETILIN party and three from opposition groups and they are expected to report back to the legislature within two weeks. (STL)

November 8, 2006

Government plans to stop assistance

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta has given an ultimatum to the IDPs that the government will stop humanitarian assistance in the month of December to refugee centres, reported Timor Post. He further said the displaced people must be responsible if they refuse to leave the camps, as the government must take care of thousands of people in other neighbourhoods who also need assistance. Ramos-Horta said assistance would be channelled through the villages and hamlets (sukus) and those IDPs returning to their residence would be entitled to the assistance. Speaking to the media following his visit to the displaced people in Dom Bosco camp in Comoro, the Prime Minister stressed that those living in the camps would not be forced to leave. He said it is not the government's policy to force them but they must be responsible for their own food. The head of the government said thousands of IDPs have returned to their homes with the assistance of the government and asks those still in the camps to follow the same path. In preparation for the rainy season and for those not wishing to return to their residency, Ramos-Horta said four areas have been established and would be ready in two weeks time. He said these areas: Tasi-Tolu, Tibar, Hera and Becora are good in terms of security with the additional 24-hour security provided by UNPOL and the international forces. He said soon F- FDTL will join PNTL and the international forces to strengthen security. (STL)

Fretilin 'status quo' and 'mudansa' will hold dialogue Mari Alkatiri, Fretilin's Secretary General said the leaders of Fretilin 'status quo' and 'Fretilin mudansa' have the will to resolve the party's internal problem through dialogue. Alkatiri said that if Fretilin welcomes dialogue with other people, it would also welcome the same within the party. He said he is certain the dialogue will take place and an evaluation will be completed on what went wrong. (STL)

PNTL joins patrols

To further strengthen the security situation in Dili, 100 PNTL officers have provisionally joined patrols with UNPOL. The number will increase this week with another 50 members of PNTL Rapid Response Unit (UIR) joining to help provide security to different neighbourhoods. Vice-Minister of Interior, Somoxo said once the 1200 PNTL officers assigned for the capital pass the screening process, the situation will improve and there will be no more rock throwing. (STL)

F-FDTL commander meets President Gusmao

For the first time since the crisis, around 100 F-FDTL commanders met with President Gusmao who is also the Supreme Commander of the Timorese Army Forces. According to Timor Post, some of the officials had travelled from Baucau and Metinaro with full military gear and headed by Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak. The meeting took place at the President's residence in Balibar, Dare. (TP)

November 7, 2006

Cooperation between martial arts groups would stabilize situation

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta is optimistic that soon the situation in Dili will be stabilized since the martial arts group leaders have agreed to cooperate to resolve the problems. Ramos-Horta said President Xanana Gusmao met with many youths as a step towards helping the government develop plans to resolve the problem of the IDPs since the rainy season has begun. He said that starting this week he would visit the camps to explain the program already established by the government and the priorities set out for the IDP camps opposite the seaport, the airport, the national hospital and Obrigado Barracks. (STL, TP)

Taur ready to help resolve problem

Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta who is also the Minister for Defence and Security said members of the national defence force would become active this week, carrying out their duties and address how to help resolve the IDP problems. He further said that F-FDTL Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak expressed willingness to help the government and the State resolve the issue but further discussion is required on what role the national armed forces will play. Before resuming their work next week, Ramos-Horta said, a dialogue would be held between F-FDTL, PNTL and youth groups still requiring strong support from the President and the government. In the meantime, the President of PSD, Mario Carrascalao said that it might be too early for F-FDTL to resume their work as the situation in Dili is still unstable and there could be provocations to further damage the name of the institution. Carrascalao cited as an example the 28 April when the army was called to help restore law and order and lost their credibility after allegations spread that F-FDTL carried out a massacre of about 60 people. The COI report determined that F- FDTL did not carry out a massacre in April. (STL, TP)

"Lu-Olo" asks for urgent set up of police posts

President of the National Parliament, Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" hopes that the government can speed up better conditions and improved security in the communities to allow the IDPs to return to their homes. Lu-Olu said the displaced people must be moved from the camps, as the rains will begin soon, adding that he is aware that the government already has programs in place but it also needs to speed up the establishment of permanent police posts. The President of the Parliament said the Parliament has agreed to call on either the Minister of Defence or Interior to clarify the security situation of the nation. (STL)

Establish better conditions for IDPs: Alkatiri

Former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri asked the government to create favourable conditions for the people still living in refugee camps. He said the conditions must be better to prevent the children from becoming sick and for people to feel at peace. (STL, TP)

November 6, 2006

I resigned for the sake of the country: Alkatiri

In a lengthy interview with STL, published today, former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri speaks about his activities since his resignation as head of the government, the allegations on guns distribution and the COI report. He said during the interview that if he had not resigned the country would have been torn in pieces and many people would have died. He stressed that he did not want to continue governing at the cost of the death. Alkatiri also said he resigned because he did not want a sudden vacuum in the state institutions like the resignation of the President of the Republic or the dissolution of Parliament which would have further contributed to the deterioration of the country.

Following his resignation, Alkatiri said together with Fretilin leaders and President Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo", they appealed to the members of Fretilin to continue to be tolerant and patient which stopped Timor-Leste from a civil war. The former Prime Minister insists that since the beginning, he considered the crisis a constitutional coup d'etat. Alkatiri said the accusation that the F-FDTL massacred 60 people has been proven false by the Commission of Inquiry report as has the allegation of the distribution of guns by Fretilin to its members. He says there was a conspiracy of a coup d'etat against the government, which did not involve the use of guns. He is also not accusing either President Xanana Gusmao or other leaders for the attempted coup, which resulted in the leadership falling into the trap.

Mari Alkatiri said the attempts to bring down his government started in 2002. He said he never distributed any guns nor did Fretilin use or distribute any guns. On the issue of controlling the situation, the former Prime Minister said he and the President of the National Parliament requested the assistance of the international forces. He thanked them and appealed to them to work effectively for the people to live in peace. Alkatiri says he continues to work to contribute to peace for the country and welcomes anyone who wishes his seek his advice as many ministers, including Ramos-Horta, very often ask for his advice on government related matters. He is now writing a book and drafting strategies to strengthen his party, Fretilin. (STL)

UN peace keepers needed in more troubled areas of the world

Prime Minister Ramos-Horta has said that the UN Security Council may not have the determination to send peacekeepers to Timor- Leste due to the many bigger problems around the world that require blue beret troops. Ramos-Horta said the UN is facing difficulties to mobilize troops to Lebanon and other parts of the world that are in a worse situation than Timor-Leste, even though many countries in the region have shown their interest in helping the country. He said members of the Security Council opposing the peacekeepers in Timor-Leste are Japan, the UK and USA. In the report to the SC, the Secretary General proposed 350 peacekeepers with 150 to provide security for the UN staff at Obrigado Barracks and the 200 to provide security for the population. (STL)

[Produced by the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) Public Information Unit.]

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