Subject: UNMIT Daily Media Review 1 September 2006
Daily Media Review Friday, 01 September 2006
NATIONAL MEDIA REPORTS
Minister of Justice Responsible for Prisoners Getaway
MPs have raised their concerns in relation to the prisoners that escaped from jail on Wednesday saying Minister of Justice is responsible. The President of the National Parliament, Francisco Lu’Olo Guterres lamented the incident noting that such an incident had not occurred in the past four years. Guterres considered the case to be serious for the trial process. He said the fundamental problem of the incident rests with the Ministers of Justice and Defence and the trainers. He added that the Minister for Justice should have looked into the security of the prison following the withdrawal of the international forces. Some of the MPs were of the opinion that the Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento, should be asked to resign as a result of the prison escape; others raised the concern that the escape of Alfredo and other prisoners would have a negative impact on the elections in 2007 and some said it would stop the reconciliation process that has been organized by President Gusmão. In the meantime the Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento said he is prepared to step down but it is up to the Prime Minister to decide.
In a separate article, the Director of NGO Yayasan Hak, Jose Luis Oliveira said the getaway of Alfredo and other prisoners would not only have an impact on the government but greatly on the population of Dili. Oliveira said it is likely that some people have already packed and left for the districts. According to Diario Nacional, Oliveira said another impact would be on the reconciliation process, which is part of the government program to resolve the recent crisis.
Still on the escape of the prisoners, Aniceto Neves, an observer from Hak said the government has given big expense salaries to the international judges to strengthen the judicial system in Timor-Leste but it continues to remain the same. He further said there are many people in the jails in Becora, Ermera and Baucau whose status has not been revised, adding he is of the opinion that the contract with the international prosecutors is not fortifying the Timorese justice. Neves is of the opinion the getaway of the prisoners on Wednesday is the government’s fault. He pointed out that Alfredo and his group were on trial detention up until 28 August but did not receive a court justification. He questioned why they were detained beyond the set date and prolonged until the 30th to be the start of investigations which did not happen. He also said Alfredo received many threats while in detention, reported STL.
Diario Nacional reported Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento as saying that the prison guards were threatened with grass scissors when visiting time was coming to an end, adding that a team has been formed to work with the international police to investigate the 60 prison guards on duty.
Prime Minister Ramos-Horta appealed to the population not be concerned with Alfredo’s escape because he is not the “giant of Timor-Leste”, adding Major Alfredo was in detention for carrying illegal weapons. In relation to reports of F-FDTL in possession of weapons, the Minister told heads of villages and districts during the gathering in Maubara that the information gathered must be concrete in order to have these people detained. (TP, STL, DN)
UNPOL And International Police Would Detain Escapees: Antero
SRSG Sukehiro Hasegawa said the UN together with the International Forces and International Police have the responsibility to locate and detain Major Alfredo and other prisoners that escaped from jail on Wednesday. Speaking during a press conference Thursday, Hasegawa said the new UN mission, UNMIT, had established a joint task force to maintain peace and stability in Timor-Leste and he has requested the police commissioner to head the task force. According to Diario Nacional SRSG Hasegawa said he has already requested the government to review the joint security arrangements for the prisoners especially during visiting hours. SRSG said security for the prison is the responsibility of the government, but the international forces would conduct frequent patrols to that area as agreed to by the military commander, Brigadier Mick Slater, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution which says the international forces were invited to support the implementation of the UNMIT mandate which includes provision of security to the public. On the same occasion, the Acting Police Commissioner, Antero Lopes said the international forces are working together to provide security for the population and are trying to bring Major Alfredo back to prison in order to process his case legally. Australian Federal Police commander, Steve Lancaster said there are cooperation efforts from all the international forces in Timor-Leste including the UN to re-capture the getaway prisoners. Lancaster said the military had also set up checkpoints to search vehicles entering and leaving Dili as well as in the capital. He said he believes Alfredo is still around in Dili and appealed to anybody with information about the prisoners to alert the police. (STL)
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA REPORTS
Downer off to Dili amid violence fears
Mark Dodd and Ashleigh Wilson - Additional reporting: AAP September 01, 2006
FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer will embark on an emergency mission to Dili amid rising fears that violence could flare again in East Timor following the escape from jail of rebel militia leader Alfredo Reinado.
The breakout by 57 prisoners, including Major Reinado, from Dili's Becora prison was "a matter of very real concern" to the Australian Government, Mr Downer said yesterday. Canberra fears rebels could rearm themselves, setting back security efforts in the wake of the deadly violence that forced international troops to take control of East Timor in May. But Major Reinado was last night reported as saying he did not want to stage a new revolt. "I have escaped from Dili not to revolt but because the judicial system in Dili is not good enough. But I will account for my action and answer any charges against me when the system has been improved," he said in a video obtained by the Reuters news agency.
Mr Downer will discuss the crisis with Timorese President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta over the weekend. Australian Federal Police and the military were last night helping in the search for the fugitives who escaped on Wednesday afternoon, but it would be a difficult operation because of the country's rugged and remote geography, Mr Downer said. He expressed serious concern that some of the escapees, including prisoners arrested for involvement in recent political violence, could gain access to weapons. "There are a lot of weapons out there and a lot of weapons unaccounted for," he said. The Australian military commander in Dili, Brigadier Mick Slater, said the breakout appeared to have been well-planned. "There was definitely some organisation to it," Brigadier Slater told ABC radio. As the manhunt continued, bickering broke out over who was responsible for the mass escape.
An aide to Mr Ramos Horta complained that New Zealand troops were only patrolling around the jail every three hours, but New Zealand denied it was to blame. "New Zealand and the multinational force are not, and have never been, responsible for running the prisons in Timor Leste or for maintaining security within them," New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff said. "That is solely the responsibility of the Timor Leste Ministry of Justice." East Timor's Justice Minister, Domingos Sarmento, blamed the breakout on a shortage of guards at the prison. Contradicting Mr Goff, he said the prison was under the supervision of peacekeepers from New Zealand. Brigadier Slater said the breakout occurred during visiting hours when inmates were not locked in their cells. The guards were distracted when visitors created "some sort of ruckus". "The jailbreak appears to have been a fairly simple matter," Brigadier Slater said. "Reinado and about 56 others essentially walked out the front gate under the eyes of the Timorese prison guards."
But Joao Domingos, head of Becora jail's administration, said prison guards were threatened with grasscutters and told they would be killed unless they released Major Reinado and dozens of other inmates. "They threatened us with grass shears. They said 'open the doors or you will die'. We opened the doors and 57 got away," Mr Domingos said. "All Alfredo's men escaped, along with others who were involved in ordinary crimes." By last night, much of Dili had been sealed off and Australian soldiers were under orders to treat the escapees as armed fugitives. They established checkpoints at which vehicles were being inspected. Houses in several parts of the capital had also been searched. The Australian understands that the operation to recapture the escapees had also extended from Dili into the foothills behind the capital city. Major Reinado, the former commander of East Timor's military police, was a central figure in political violence that engulfed the capital three months ago. Arrested on July 25 by the Australian military, he was facing charges of attempted murder and possession of illegal weapons. Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the escape underscored the urgent need for the Howard Government to keep a strong military presence in Dili. (The Australian)
Claims of Australian/American Links to East Timor Coup Attempt
09/01/2006 03:58 AM Ousted East Timorese prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, has made claims that "foreign nationals" approached East Timorese military figures to organise a coup against him. However, he was not sure whether they were American or Australian. He said that he did not have any evidence that Australia was behind the coup attempt, but claimed that the Australian prime minister was pushing to have him removed from power. He also defended his management of the newly formed nation and fought for full control of East Timorese oil and gas fields. (ShortNews)
Clashes break out in East Timor as troops hunt for escaped prisoners
The Associated Press
Published: August 31, 2006 <http://www.iht.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?query=DILI,%20East%20Timor&sort=swishrank>DILI, East Timor Gangs armed with stones and machetes clashed in the East Timorese capital Friday, raising fresh security concerns following the recent escape from prison of a rebel leader and scores of other violent inmates. Hospital officials said at least eight people were wounded in the unrest which broke out after a gang attacked a refugee camp in downtown Dili hotel with stones, witnesses said. International security forces arrived soon after to restore order. East Timor descended into chaos in May amid fighting between factions in the newly independent country's security forces. Tens of thousands of people still live in temporary camps.
International peacekeepers have largely restored order and a new government has been installed, but sporadic gang fights have continued, mostly based on regional divisions exacerbated by the conflict. Local and foreign security forces were searching for 57 inmates who escaped from a Dill prison on Wednesday, including renegade military leader Alfredo Reinado, blamed for some of the worst violence in May, and several of his followers. Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta partly blamed the U.N. and neighboring Australia for the breakout, which has raised tensions in East Timor. Australian forces currently head the peacekeeping force in East Timor.
In a telephone interview with Australia Broadcasting Corp. radio, he said the prison was under the control of East Timorese forces, but that Australian peacekeepers must accept some of the blame because they refused to boost security outside. "I am personally just puzzled why, in spite of our repeated requests for static forces to be outside the prison, this was not done," Ramos-Horta said. "I presume the Australian forces, the U.N., as experts in security, they thought it was not necessary." "Had there been strong security outside, this could have been prevented," Ramos-Horta said.
Ramos-Horta also said it appeared the escaped inmates had accomplices inside the prison. "Obviously there was a failure of the internal security but the internal security is not armed and obviously there has to be some complicity inside," he said. Australian Prime Minister John Howard rejected Ramos-Horta's suggestion Australian troops were partly responsible for the escape. "I am very concerned that these people escaped but I am quite certain the Australian Defense Force has done the right thing," Howard told reporters in Sydney. Reinado was a leading member of the campaign to oust former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. A prison guard said Reinado told him before the breakout he would return to jail if Alkatiri was also imprisoned. Alkatiri is currently under investigation for allegations he provided guns to a hit squad tasked with killing his political opponents. "Before Major Alfredo left the prison he told me that he would return when Alkatiri was in prison," prison guard Helio Watumisa Monteiro told The Associated Press. "We are the victims of an unfair tribunal." Authorities waited more than a month to arrest Reinado following the May violence even though he made no effort to hide and East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has always refused to criticize his actions, leading some to question whether his rebellion was part of wider moves to get rid of Alkatiri. Both Gusmao and Ramos-Horta also demanded Alkatiri step down. (International Herald Tribune)
Young gunner returns home from East Timor Thursday, 31 August 2006 YOUNG Tamworth man Cory Myers is enjoying a few weeks' break back home after a three-month peace keeping mission in East Timor. Gunner Myers is a gunner in the Royal Australian Artillery and was called to Dili after violence broke out in the capital. He said his time there was relatively uneventful but "it was just good to get over there and help out". "We did a lot of patrols and just tried to have a presence. "It was pretty much a ghost town for the first two weeks. "Everyone was too scared to come out of their houses." Gnr Myers said he didn't know what to expect of the conditions there. "It was a bit of a culture shock. They don't have brick houses or TVs or McDonalds. It's pretty poverty stricken. "It makes you realise how good you've got it in Australia little things like getting into your car and going to the movies." Gnr Myers will go back to Townsville's Lavarack Barracks this weekend to return to his normal duties, which include ongoing training. The 22-year-old has been in the army for about 10 months. "I always wanted to do something for Australia, I've wanted to do that ever since I can remember." Gnr Myers said he had also gained many benefits. "I'm heaps fitter because I'm always running everywhere," he said. "I've also learnt how to conduct myself. "I feel like I have better people skills and I'm better at overcoming language barriers." (Northern Daily Reader)
NATIONAL NEWS SOURCES: Timor Post (TP) Radio Timor-Leste (RTL) Suara Timor Lorosae (STL) Diario Tempo (DT) Diario Nacional Seminario Lia Foun (LF) Televisaun Timor-Leste [TVTL]
These Items Do Not Reflect the Position or Views of the United Nations. UNOTIL Public Information Office - END