Subject: AU: Timor crisis talks open in Dili
Timor crisis talks open in Dili
Mark Dodd, Dili September 04, 2006
AUSTRALIA and Indonesia opened trilateral talks with East Timor this afternoon as the UN promised a fair trial for fugitive rebel leader Alfredo Reinado if he turns himself in.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Indonesia's Hassan Wirayuda and East Timor's Jose Luis Guterres made no comment on arriving at the prime minister's office for their meeting, held amid concerns Major Reinado's jailbreak and attacks on the political system are fuelling tension in the fragile country.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer arrived in Dili last night after another day of sporadic violence and reports that Australian police were pelted with stones during an attack on a refugee camp on Friday.
The security crisis in the country will be at the top of the agenda when Mr Downer meets East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, President Xanana Gusmao and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda in Dili today.
Mr Downer will also address claims that Australia, whose troops and police have led the peacekeeping mission in East Timor since the outbreak of violence in May, should shoulder some of the blame for Major Reinado's escape from jail last week.
"You cannot blame Australia or New Zealand or Portugal or Malaysia or the Secretary-General of the UN for all the problems of East Timor," he said before leaving for Dili. "The East Timorese have to accept responsibility for their own affairs and manage their own affairs."
Mr Downer was greeted on his arrival in Dili by East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres. The pair had a brief conversation before Mr Downer left the airport in a heavily guarded convoy.
The UN yesterday increased pressure on Australian-trained Major Reinado - on the run for four days after breaking out of Dili's Becora prison with 56 other inmates - saying he should turn himself in and be guaranteed justice or face a violent apprehension by force.
The UN's top police officer in East Timor, Commissioner Antero Lopes, said "escapees like Reinado are encouraged to surrender and face justice with all the assurances of the UN". "We are ready to treat him like a human being if he wants to surrender to face justice and not as a criminal," he said.
He warned that the UN police and Australian Federal Police had good intelligence about Major Reinado's movements.
Major Reinado, who faces charges of attempted murder and illegal weapons possession, enjoys cult hero status among many young East Timorese and he has shown no willingness to surrender.
In a secretly taped interview broadcast on national television last week, he gave a presidential-style speech that covered concerns about East Timor's feeble justice system to advice to warring gang leaders to end their violence. "I appeal to all the country's youths - stop hating each other, sit down in peace and avoid getting drunk," he said.
Investigations are continuing into an attack on a refugee camp in the centre of Dili on Friday by a 300-strong mob that included four people witnesses later claimed were former East Timorese police.
AFP sources said at least eight people were wounded, two critically, after two men armed with police-issue Glock 9mm pistols opened fire on unarmed civilians. AFP officers giving first aid to victims were set upon and stoned after rumours that they were responsible.
The anti-Australian mood has abated but gang violence continues. At least one man was seriously injured yesterday by a dart fired using a slingshot during a clash in the violence-prone eastern suburbs. The head of the AFP in Dili, Commander Steve Lancaster, said he remained concerned at the security situation. But he noted that the weapons of choice for gang members were rocks and slingshots, compared with the firearms and machetes used when the Australian-led peacekeeping force first arrived in May.
He said the large number of East Timor police weapons unaccounted for remained a major worry. Equally troubling were claims of involvement of former police in the attack on the refugee camp. "We've really got to look at rebuilding not just the police force but the whole rule of law, the justice system and the penal system," he said.
A new UN mission expects to deploy a 1600-strong international police contingent to maintain order and rebuild the shattered national police force that fractured along ethnic lines during the political violence three months ago.
Last week's breakout by Major Reinado and other prisoners has raised tensions over Australia's role in East Timor ahead of next month's review by the UN Security Council of the "green helmet-blue helmet" security arrangement.
Under a UN mandate passed by the council 10 days ago, the Australian-led stabilisation force has authority to operate separately from the UN's deployment. But it is widely anticipated that this shared security arrangement will be overturned.
East Timor Holds Security Summit With Australia and Indonesia
By Ed Johnson
Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- East Timor, Australia and Indonesia will discuss bolstering security, as the escape from jail of rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado threatens to destabilize the South Pacific nation's recovery from civil unrest.
Thirty-seven people were killed and 155,000 were forced from their homes by fighting in East Timor earlier this year, following the collapse of the nation's security forces. Reinado, whose rebel militiamen refused to lay down their weapons, broke out of prison with 56 other inmates last week, and has evaded a manhunt by United Nations police and international peacekeepers.
``Obviously we're very concerned still about the situation in East Timor,'' Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday before flying to the capital, Dili. ``It concerns us that, unless these people are apprehended, this could contribute to instability in East Timor.''
The summit, to be attended by East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, will focus on internal security as the country prepares for elections next year, East Timor's government said in a statement. Australian-led peacekeepers were deployed in May to restore calm in East Timor after the government fired a third of the country's armed forces for deserting.
The UN, which has been operating in East Timor since 1999, said it was concerned about a recent escalation of violence in the country.
``Burning and stoning of houses in the capital has increased in recent days,'' Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva on Sept. 1.
Five people suffered gunshot wounds in a Dili camp on Sept. 1 and another person was wounded in a machete attack, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing the Australian Federal Police, which is helping with the peacekeeping effort.
There is a ``clear need for an ongoing strong and robust international security presence until national institutions can be rebuilt,'' Redmond said, according to UN. The UN Security Council last month unanimously approved a new peacekeeping mission of up to 1,608 police for East Timor.
Reinado, an Australian-trained former military police Commander, may be hiding in mountains on the outskirts of Dili, the ABC said, citing unnamed police officials. He was arrested in July on charges of weapons possession, after his group promised it had handed over all of its arms.
The jail break prompted Indonesia to step up border security, the ABC reported.
The former Portuguese colony, which lies about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Australia, became independent in May 2002. The country of about 1 million people, also known as Timor-Leste, voted for independence in 1999 following a 24-year occupation by Indonesia.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com .
Last Updated: September 3, 2006 21:02 EDT