Subject: JP Interview/Ramos-Horta: 'Police Very Factionalized' [+RI's Silence; Alkatiri]

also: JP Op-Ed: Indonesia's silence on Timor Leste crisis; and JP: PM Alkatiri resignation would not solve crisis, experts say

The Jakarta Post Friday, June 16, 2006

Jose Ramos-Horta: 'Timor Leste's police are very factionalized'

Thousands of people in Dili and other areas of Timor Leste remain too traumatized by the convulsions of violence in the former Indonesian province to return to their homes. The Jakarta Post's Ati Nurbaiti spoke with Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who also serves as defense minister, in Dili about the situation in the world's youngest state. The following are excerpts of the interview.

Question: The public perception here is that multinational troops are standing by when their houses are burning, that the forces are just here to check for weapons. What's their actual assignment?

Answer: What's clear is that their assignment is to end the violence in Dili, the shooting and killings. They arrived May 26 and now it's much calmer compared to two weeks ago. Many people are back on the streets. There are thousands of displaced people but we believe they will want to return in about two weeks to one month; some to their homes, others to temporary shelters built by the UN with better facilities and more space.

How will you rein in rebel military and police members?

With the military it is not very difficult. The army is very disciplined with solid command. I refer to the 800 veteran soldiers (among a total of 1,400 personnel). (Regarding charges that military recruitment favors those from the east, the origin of former guerrillas), the 600 soldiers who left (dismissed) were mostly from the east, while 200 (among the 800 veteran soldiers), including very senior members, are from western regions like Liquica.

Those who left were mostly new recruits who had served one to four years, some quite young. They didn't like life in the army, they were disillusioned, they said they suffered discrimination. This may be true but it's not the case with the vast majority. They were not involved in violence and the government is finding ways to provide them compensation so they can resume their lives, and for the young ones to go back to their studies.

And the police?

The police are very factionalized with too many weapons, and more than 3,000 police with so many areas of expertise, like the border police, the rapid response unit, the special force. I don't know how we managed to have all these different units for such a small nation. If you don't have good leadership -- and they didn't -- obviously you have problems with a police force with such different backgrounds. (Including former Indonesian police members -- ed.)

I believe under the President and the new interior minister, we can heal the wounds. Many of the police personnel are very good and highly respected. I feel sorry they became victims of poor leadership, so we have to help restore their dignity.

Would you blame the UN?

It is too simplistic and hypocritical to blame the UN. It didn't decide to buy weapons for us. They didn't say you need 3,000 police members. The UN gave training as we requested.

If the UN is blamed it would only be for leaving too soon; but many of our own people and some of the leaders were in a hurry to see the backs of the UN.

The UN was not perfect, but it was indispensable; it provided political space for institution building.

But some of us were ultranationalists instead of being pragmatic and humble. Borders are important, but I'm not so obsessed with nationalism, but with peace and justice. Others get absolutely excited about flags.

How long can you afford having the rebel groups?

We have met with all the groups to prepare an all-inclusive dialog in two weeks. It will include the rebels and representatives of the defense force and the church, to reach a political settlement.

The rebel military leaders have a simple demand, that is justice and accountability (for military and civilian casualties blamed on government forces in a number of incidents). Generally, they have been peaceful since the conflict.

How will you heal the wounds between the police and military?

The incident of May 25 (still being investigated, in which nine or 10 police personnel, unarmed and escorted by UN police, were shot dead by men in military uniforms) was an absolute tragedy. The military says police started it, the police likewise. I prefer to wait for a full investigation.

The Reinado group is being "contained" in their base by Australian troops. Are you planning to have other groups contained in their respective areas by the multinational forces?

Yes, also to have civilian groups surrender weapons

There have already been orders from the Supreme Council, as a result many police began turning in their weapons. The Australian Defense Force say they have confiscated some 1,000 weapons, including those surrendered voluntarily. What would be the motives of anyone arming civilians?

I haven't the slightest idea why with 3,000 police you need to arm civilians.

What are plans for the police force and the military?

We'll be restructuring, reorganizing the police, with a smaller force and less weapons.

The defense force will be reorganized in the future. With changing security challenges in the region we'll study whether we need a conventional military or not. We should have a modest force, in my view, a civic military with an engineering battalion to help build roads and schools, a medical battalion, etc. But we do need a strong maritime police force to protect our waters from piracy, illegal fishing and smuggling.

So you're not concerned about the current recruitment policies of the military?

At the senior level most are from the east, but the army was beginning to train officers from the west. And in five years most seniors will retire so new officers are needed from all the regions. And we need an army to be geared for peacetime. To resolve the current crisis do you agree with demands to replace Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri? Or to allow President Xanana Gusmao take over government and dissolve parliament?

Under no circumstances should we breach the constitution, whatever is decided. If I were the prime minister, and only had to suffer 10 percent of what he's suffering in terms of allegations and attacks, I would resign. But he (Mari Alkatiri) has a strong personality, and maybe believes he is truly innocent.

We're in a serious crisis. I reject blaming outside interference. Australia, Malaysia, Portugal and New Zealand came because we asked them to. And we're extremely grateful to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In every way they can, Indonesia has helped. I visited the border three times in a month, the border is peaceful, and the border police are happy with the cooperation with the Indonesians.

So would Alkatiri resigning solve the problem?

Maybe not. Fretilin (Alkatiri's party) won the 2001 election and new polls are in 2007. If Dr. Mari hasn't committed any crime he is entitled to serve until 2007.

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The Jakarta Post Friday, June 16, 2006

Op-Ed

Indonesia's silence on Timor Leste crisis

Aboeprijadi Santoso, Amsterdam

For two months Timor Leste has gone through its worst crisis since its independence. Much of the country's trade and economy depend on us. Much of the geo-political space in which it has to pursue its foreign policy, and to achieve stability and justice, depends on us. They use our language, even smoke the same kretek cigarettes as we do. And, in the most fundamental sense, they had suffered under "our" harsh occupation. Yet, with a few exceptions, many prefer to remain silent, ignoring their sorry plight. Why?

As early as March 1992, in Lisbon, I had the occasion to meet with Rogerio Lobato, the exiled Fretilin minister, who was also the brother of East Timor's, hero Nicolai Lobato, killed in the 1980s by one of Gen. Prabowo Subianto's units. Two rumors were circulating at that time: That Rogerio Lobato planned to buy arms in 1975 from China for the freedom struggle at home, and that he was involved in gold smuggling to Angola. Both could have been true, but only the second was later confirmed. He left the impression of a maverick adventurer.

Rogerio Lobato belonged to the first generation of heroic Fretilin leaders who spent their lives abroad. Unlike Jose Ramos-Horta and other exiled leaders, though, he was not prominent in the country's national front, the CNRM (later changed to CNRT) umbrella coalition, which formally included Fretilin. In 1986 Xanana Gusmao decided to join the CNRM and reestablished the Falintil guerrilla as a non-partisan i.e. national military wing -- a move that hurt Fretilin leaders, but advanced Xanana's, and Falintil's image abroad.

While Xanana, Ramos-Horta, the CNRT, the non-Fretilin, non-left-wing leaders took much of the credit abroad, the Mari Alkatiri-led Fretilin remained deeply rooted in the society. When the country regained its independence in 2002 with Xanana as the national leader, Fretilin became the most popular political party.

Nonetheless, the cleavage between the former CNRM - and Fretilin leaders apparently remains. And when alleged discrimination among former Falintil guerrilla's and regionalism were aggravated by the firing of one third of the country's military, and this subsequently linked up with factionalism within the administration, the state almost collapsed.

With the Australian armed forces securing Dili, Fretilin's PM Alkatiri was seriously challenged and two key ministers had to quit, including the maverick adventurer Rogerio Lobato, who dismissed the 573 soldiers and politicized the national police. Fretilin's dominant rule, based on democratic elections, remains legitimate, but the crisis put them in a difficult position.

Basically, there is nothing unique about this. Many Asian leaders had much less difficulties when integrating former guerrilla's into the new army, in particular when the revolutionary leader took firm control as both political and military leader (Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, Myanmar's Gen. Aung San, China's Mao Zhe-dong, all in the 1940s).

By contrast, the CNRT/Xanana-Fretilin cleavage and the subsequent crisis remind us of Indonesia's experience of how difficult it was for vice president and prime minister Mohammad Hatta in 1948 to "rationalize" the politicized army and the armed partisan groups whom, like the Fretilin, were much ideologized. It eventually led to the Madiun civil war, which was worse than the recent Dili riots.

But the Timor crisis also reflects the depth of the quagmire out of which the new state was born. Long before the 1999 vote, some leaders, notably Ramos-Horta, had contemplated a free East Timor without a military force -- like Costa Rica. How unrealistic this was was soon demonstrated -- not by the Timorese, but by Jakarta. The Cosa Rica dream was abandoned precisely because the Indonesian Army, in gross violation of the New York Agreement, orchestrated a murderous intimidation campaign and turned Dili into ashes.

A massive exodus has always been a collective protest in a cry for basic security creating a pattern with profound lessons for both the rulers and the ruled. In the former East Timor, many learned how to resist the occupiers and apparently how to generate public fear. When people joined the civilian defense (Hansip) units imposed by the Army in the 1970s, or the militia's two decades later, they learned their modus operandi, while at the same time they created networks of estafetta's to help the clandestine groups disseminate information to resist the military and the militia's.

Just as the uprising in the early 1990s demonstrated the impact of the harsh occupation among the new generation which was completely Indonesian-educated, the recent riots remind us how the roaming gangs of unemployed looters acted exactly as the militia's did in 1999. Thus, the militia's masters may have gone, but some patterns remain.

With the administration almost collapsed and the population fleeing yet again in the hundreds of thousands - repeating what they did in 1975-1976, 1978-1979, 1999 -- the country almost turned into a failed state. The cycle of mass exodus means that the state has lost much of its credibility. At the grassroots level, it was not new, but this time it reflects the crisis at state level.

Indonesia's oppression has contributed so much to Fretilin's popularity that it led Xavier do Amaral, who proclaimed East Timor's independence in 1975, to remark in 2002 that it is "as if Fretilin was spoiled by history. For their part, Jakarta's generals had used East Timor as a stepping stone for their careers. While many remain silent on how much we "owe" to East Timor and vice versa, the crisis, ironically, also brought with it "a blessing", as Tempo weekly magazine put it, for Gen. Wiranto as UN files on his role mysteriously vanished.

For a small country with a great portion of its people who had lost parents or siblings during almost a quarter century of occupation, the crisis will reflect, in some ways, the consequences of Indonesia's past presence.

But Jakarta and the international community may have been all too aware of this humiliating legacy and its possible consequences hence they continue to ignore the findings and recommendations of the UN mandated truth commission CAVR that could eventually satisfy the East Timorese people's demand for justice. The UN chief, too, ignores the report when he calls for aid to help Timor Leste rebuild the country.

The writer is a journalist with Radio Netherlands.

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The Jakarta Post Friday, June 16, 2006

PM Alkatiri resignation would not solve crisis, experts say

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Experts and activists agree that Timor Leste needs to remain on the path to democracy rather than bringing down Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, and must first address its past before it can move forward into the future.

Timor Leste Journalists Association head Virgilio Guterres said most media had wrongly accused Alkatiri of being the source of the current problems in Timor Leste. He pointed out that it was not the prime minister who dismissed almost half of the country's armed forces.

"It was the defense minister who fired them because the soldiers simply did not show up for over two months. And of course, the prime minister and president agreed with the decision. However, all media outlets point to Alkatiri as the one who fired them," he said Thursday during a seminar here on Timor Leste.

The country plunged into chaos after around 600 soldiers were dismissed in March. The soldiers complained of discrimination because they came from the country's west.

Twenty-one people died in May as sporadic battles between rival soldiers and between soldiers and police descended into gang clashes. Late last month the government appealed for foreign help and now more than 2,000 combat-ready foreign peacekeepers, chiefly from Australia, are deployed in Dili.

Guterres said the initial problem was not acute, as less than 200 soldiers signed a petition complaining of east-west discrimination. The other 400 soldiers had left their squads for months.

"So they were separate cases. Unfortunately, the defense minister fired them all at the same time, creating a sense of unity among them. It would be very different if they were fired separately," he said.

Guterres, rights activist Johnson Panjaitan of the Indonesian Legal Aid Center and Haryadi Wiryawan, head of the Department of International Relations at the University of Indonesia, all agreed that bringing down Alkatiri would not bring peace to Timor Leste.

Many media outlets have reported that pressure has mounted on Alkatiri, whose Fretilin party won the last election, to step down before the upcoming general election. So far, President Xanana Gusmao and parliament have refused to bow to the pressure.

"Timor Leste must first resolve its past problems, including bringing to justice people responsible for gross human rights abuses and trying criminals. Unless they deal with those problems, they won't be able to move forward as conflicts and injustice will always reemerge," Johnson said.

Johnson proposed that the United Nations should help Timor Leste improve its capacity.

"They should help bring gross human right violators and criminals to justice, and help the country build its capacity for democracy and governance. If not, then the conflict will continue to reemerge," he said.

Haryadi said that although he had no hard evidence, he believed that the current Timor Leste conflict was not an isolated case.

"It should be remembered that Australia has political and economic interests in Timor Leste. They want to have influence in the country, and don't want Indonesia to have more leverage. Alkatiri's socialist outlook is seen as not in line with what they want Timor Leste to be," he said.

Haryadi said that Australia aimed also at preventing Timor Leste from becoming too close to China, which is very aggressive in widening its influence in the Pacific.

Johnson also said that it would be naive to think that the conflict in Timor Leste arose without a grand design.

------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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