Subject: Transcript/E. Timor: Warning of instablity amid old internal rivalries [+Age]

also: Age: E. Timor PM Attacks Riot Report

Radio Australia December 4, 2003

EAST TIMOR: Warning of instablity amid old internal rivalries

One year ago today, violence flared in the newly independent East Timor Two people were killed and dozens of buildings damaged when one thousand protesters took to the streets of the capital Dili. The violence was blamed on former pro-Indonesian militia. But there are claims factional fighting among pro-independence militiamen was to blame then, and linger today as the UN prepares to leave the country.

Presenter/Interviewer: James Panichi

Speakers: Mari Alkatiri, Prime Minister of East Timor; Edward Rees, UN political advisor; Jack de Groot, director, Caritas Australia

Ed Rees' eyewitness account:

Statement from Eyewitness. 5 December 2002.

Edward Rees

I was present at the Parliament at around 9.30am on 4 December 2002. I heard 2 stories from students about what had already happened. Some students were saying "Police came and shot us". Others said that the Police entered the campus and shot us others were saying that they had shot from outside. I heard that there were 3 students shot.

Then the crowd smashed up the civil security building. They broke the gates into the Parliament and started smashing up the Parliament. One of the bodies of the wounded from the university was carried around the parliament building and put on the sidewalk outside. Everyone thought he was dead. 2 PKF guys resuscitated him and he was taken to the hospital.

At around 10.45am I returned to find that PKF had secured Parliament and the students were milling around deciding what to do, at which time I was told by someone that something was happening at the Civpol HQ. I went there to be met by an SPU team who were blocking the entrance to the HQ and were being stoned by protesters who were around 20-30m from them. There was one UNPOL in the human barricade and the rest SPU. I could see that tear gas had been used down the road by another group. I could see smoke billowing.

Then SPU or the police behind them used tear gas on those stoning the SPU at the entrance. Xanana was reportedly in the police station at the time. When the tear gas canisters were thrown into the crowd, some crowd members threw 2 gas cylinders back at the police. The police withdrew because of the effects of the gas. 3,4,or 5 uniformed SPUpolice stepped in front of their colleagues towards the cloud of gas and raised their weapons to chest level. There were 3 shots fired at the crowd. The time was exactly11.58am. (I remember checking my watch) The crowd dispersed and the gas was moving back towards the police. The crowd came surged towards the police again and then there were at least another 6 shots fired. I did not see the guns or whether they were pointed at the crowd. I could not see if anyone was injured by the shots. Once the SPU started firing 2 or 3 UNPOL emerged from behind the SPU and dragged them back. The crowd and police backed off.

Xanana emerged from the HQ and crowd surged forward. The police were well behind Xanana and met with the crowd on the bridge across the little canal. Xanana tried calming them down for around 15 minutes but was not successful. He urged them to be patient with the police. When he turned to go back into the police station, some stones were thrown in his general direction, but they could have been directed at police. Brazilian police had blocked the eastern end of the road and the crowd left to the west and took the first left going north toward Hello Mister. It was around 12.30-12.40pm when they torched Hello Mister; but it had already started to burn. The crowd then trashed the Resende Hotel and then moved to the main road towards Kolmera at which point several shops were looted and burnt including the border control warehouse.

The crowd began to move westwards along the road to Comoro periodically stopping to smash places or things they didn't like. From Kolmera to Comoro there were around 12 men on motorcycles with telephones instructing and guiding the crowd and keeping the crowd together. I recognised many of the men on motorcycles as being members of various veterans' organisations. By this stage I estimate the crowd numbered around 1500 people. Whenever the crowd reached a place, which might have been an easy target, they zipped ahead and made sure it was barricaded and the crowd did not go near it.

When they got to the road intersection heading to the road where the Mosque is, it had been barricaded to force the crowd past the Mosque. At the Mosque, cars and stalls were burnt. The crowd did not enter the Mosque on orders from a number of men on motorcycles. I spoke to one of them who told me they would not go into the Mosque because they believed the community inside was equipped with firearms.

Then the crowd headed towards Alkatiri's house in a loosely organised fashion, where they destroyed Alkatiri's house and the house of either the brother or sister of Mari Alkatiri across the street. In the midst of burning Alakatiri's house, with around 1000 people on street, 4 SPU appeared at the northern end of road (airport end) and people yelled for everyone to hide. As everyone was running to the sides of the road, I suddenly heard gunfire from the northern end of the road where the SPU were positioned. I did not see them shooting at the crowd at chest level but I did see them shooting at chest level in the direction of the houses on the side of the road. I saw one youth hiding behind a wall. Members of the SPU grabbed him and beat him savagely for around 2 minutes. Then they dragged him to the end of the road and presumably took him into their custody. As soon as the SPU with the youth had disappeared around the corner I went over on my motorbike to see if the injured youth was there. He was not there, and neither were the SPU, so presumably they left in a car.

By this time the crowd had dispersed. Many people were finding their way back to Comoro market. When I reached Comoro Market I was informed that 2 SPU in plain clothes had shot 2 people and driven away. Once the rain started everything cooled off. After the rain at approximately 1700 I followed a convoy of 5 SPU trucks from Comoro police station to the Worldbank. There were hanging out the windows of their cars threatening people by pointing their weapons and teargas guns.

I have no doubt that the violence was planned and implemented by CPD-RDTL, Sagrada Familia and other members of veteran groups. I recognised members of these groups right throughout the day playing key organizational roles, many of them using motorcycles.

My view is that their objective is to completely discredit the police so that the veterans groups can insert their own people into the police force. Whilst the veterans groups have been outwardly accepting that the recruitment process would be slow, they have been waiting for the opportunity to hijack a demonstration for a different cause so it would not be obviously seen to be organised by veterans.


The Age December 5, 2003

E. Timor PM Attacks Riot Report

By Jill Joliffe

Dili - On the first anniversary of riots that set parts of Dili aflame and left two people dead, East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has criticised a United Nations report on the violence.

"It was written by people who either had no intention to investigate or no ability to investigate," he said.

The report on police handling of the riots was released by the UN Mission of Support in East Timor on November 18. It angered critics of the UN, which retains command of East Timorese police until next year and has final responsibility for Dili's security.

The report said investigators could not identify who killed the two students or wounded 16 others, despite forensic testing of 151 police pistols and interviews with more than 300 UN and East Timorese police officers. There was no mention of disciplinary measures or charges laid.

The UN mission chief, Kamalesh Sharma, said when the report was released that he had authorised UN police to act early on December 4 last year.

His statement cleared up doubts that police failure to intervene effectively was due to lack of direction from senior UN officials. But UN spokeswoman Marcia Poole said later that Mr Sharma was not blaming the UN police command for its failure to act.

The death of Honorio Ximenes, 18, in the first volley fired from Dili police headquarters triggered the riots.

Timorese Prosecutor Longuinhos Monteiro returned the report to the UN, saying it was incomplete.

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