Subject: Timor Updates: Horta Wants Peacekeepers to Stay
- Ramos Horta urges peacekeepers to stay longer
- The Australian Editorial: Trouble in Timor [More troops are needed to boost credentials]
- The Age: Give up, army tells Timor fugitive
- SMH: Downer Fears Spread of Timor Weapons
- The Australian: Twice as many troops to stay in Timor
- The Australian: Elusive East Timor rebel 'potential threat'
Agence France-Presse September 4, 2006
Ramos Horta urges peacekeepers to stay longer
East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta has pleaded with Australia not to reduce its troop commitment to the tiny state, saying international peacekeepers were needed to enforce security.
"The Australians - as are the New Zealanders, the Malaysians and the Portuguese - are very keen to leave as soon as possible," Mr Ramos Horta said after talks with the foreign ministers of Australia and Indonesia.
"We are the ones to ask them: 'Please, not so fast.' We still need them here."
Mr Ramos Horta's comments came after Australia's announcement that it would downscale its troop deployment.
On Sunday, before departing for Dili, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the East Timorese "have to accept responsibility for their own affairs and work to solve their own problems, not expect us and the United Nations to fix up all their problems".
Foreign peacekeepers have been deployed in the East Timorese capital since May, when the city was plagued by deadly clashes following the dismissals of 600 soldiers. Sporadic fresh violence has continued since.
Mr Ramos Horta said that he had briefed Mr Downer and Indonesia Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda about the security conditions as well as the next UN mission and elections scheduled for next year.
The United Nations, which established a larger mission in the country after the unrest, has agreed to the deployment of more than 1,600 international police to East Timor.
Mr Downer and Mr Wirayuda later held separate meetings with East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao.
Earlier in the day, Mr Ramos Horta expressed optimism that his country could soon overcome its security problems.
He thanked the international peacekeeping forces for "responding promptly to assist us," but made no further allusion to his charges that the foreign forces were also partly to blame for a recent mass jail break in Dili.
Mr Ramos Horta had said Australia was partly to blame for the break-out that saw rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado and 56 other inmates escape from Dili's Becora prison on Wednesday.
Reinado, who led the group of deserting troops and was accused of sparking the civil unrest in May, was arrested in July on charges of weapons possession.
The unrest triggered clashes among rival security forces and gang wars on the streets that killed 21 people, and prompted the deployment of the Australian-led international peacekeeping force.
On Sunday, Mr Downer said that Dili could not blame the international peacekeepers for every incident in the country.
The Australian Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Trouble in Timor
More troops are needed to boost credentials
WHETHER we like it or not, there is no easy exit strategy for Australia from the turbulent times undermining the rebirth of nationhood in East Timor.
Yesterday's decision to double Australian troop numbers reflects the reality that overwhelming force is needed to return shattered confidence and secure the best environment for successful general elections due to be held early next year.
Together with more soldiers from New Zealand and Malaysia, the number of foreign troops will rise to about 1000. This is in addition to the 1600 international police under UN command.
The fact is that four months after street violence flared in Dili, precipitating a slide into lawlessness and political upheaval, the situation is far from stable. Tens of thousands of refugees remain in camps, too scared to go home, with fears growing that the approaching wet season will bring with it an outbreak of disease. Dili remains in the grip of criminal gang violence and the police force is split along ethnic lines, demoralised and unable to function.
Thousands of guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition are missing from police and military stores. There are genuine fears that political opportunists will exploit the gang violence in an attempt to manipulate the general election. Added to this is the embarrassment that rebel leader Alfredo Reinado remains at large after walking to freedom out the front door of Becora prison with 56 other inmates a week ago. While security at the jail was ultimately the responsibility of East Timorese authorities, the escape has undermined Australia's role of leading the security effort, against the initial wishes of the UN.
Faced with this reality, Australia has no option but to boost its effort.
Attending a tri-party conference with East Timor and Indonesia yesterday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced the increased troop numbers and remained adamant that they would remain under Australian, not UN, control. Indonesia will not commit troops but has agreed to tighten security along its border.
While Australia's priority must be to restore trust to enable the refugee camps to be disbanded, the long-term work remains in properly developing East Timor's social institutions. For, while Major Reinado may be building a reputation among villagers as a hero, his activities pose difficult problems for the Government now under the control of Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta. Major Reinado is reportedly making presidential-style statements while on the run, calling for civil calm and justifying his escape on the basis that the legal system is dysfunctional and unfair. While this may be the case, Major Reinado is facing serious criminal charges of attempted murder and the illegal possession of weapons. Stability is the vital first step in building community confidence in the institutions that must ultimately deal with him. Australia is correct to respond to the latest incidents with a boost in troop numbers but must demonstrate its effectiveness if it wants to preserve its right to operate outside of the UN mandate.
The Age (Melbourne) Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Give up, army tells Timor fugitive
by Brendan Nicholson
THE commander of Australia's troops in East Timor, Brigadier Mick Slater, has assured runaway rebel Major Alfredo Reinado that the Australian Army will guarantee his safety if he surrenders.
Brigadier Slater told The Age he had sent messages to Major Reinado via his associates calling on him to turn himself in.
He said he had spent some time talking to Major Reinado before he and 56 others escaped from prison in Dili.
Major Reinado had told him he wanted to bring about change in East Timor, but he did not want to become a politician.
"I can guarantee him that if he were to arrange to hand himself in to the joint taskforce, that once he was within our control he would be treated fairly and in accordance with the law and we would take care of his personal security."
Brigadier Slater said that when Reinado left the prison, about 15 of those with him were soldiers and close associates.
"The others are just common criminals, murderers, rapists and arsonists," he said.
He said if Major Reinado did not have a mobile phone with him in jail, he would have got one very quickly as soon as he got out. "I've opened a few doors for him to contact us, but a lot of other people have done this as well," Brigadier Slater said.
"I'm not optimistic but I'm hopeful that he does because if he's genuinely worried about his security he knows there is one organisation in the country that can guarantee his safety — us."
He said Australian officials were aware of several people who were likely to contact Major Reinado or were likely to be contacted by him. "The best thing he can do for the country and himself right now is hand himself in and pursue the legal democratic process to bring about a change in government.
"That is not beyond his capacity; maybe not in this election but maybe the next one if he goes about it the right way.
"The first thing he's got to do is come back, stand trial and clear his name as he believes he can clear it."
He said Major Reinado had broken the law but was intelligent and charismatic. He did not think he had joined any group since escaping last week.
Brigadier Slater said he did not think there was an imminent danger of civil war, and he did not think that Major Reinado had gone to join any group.
"If anything, people will come to him. He'll have loyal supporters out there who he feels safe with in different parts of the western provinces. Eventually he would be caught.
"It is probably of more concern to the Government that Reinado could get a substantial following."
Brigadier Slater said he believed the criminals who escaped with Major Reinado had quickly separated from him and broken up into small groups.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday warned that Australia must keep a strong force of troops in East Timor for at least another year to deal with attacks by armed groups.
In Dili for talks with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda and East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, Mr Downer said they shared his concerns about the security situation. "It has changed a little in character," he said. "Previously, some of the violence was politically motivated. There's a lot of just plain criminal violence now with gangs and retaliation."
Mr Downer said the UN decision to send 1600 police would help because the East Timorese police, particularly those in and around Dili, were dysfunctional.
He said Australia's military commanders had told him 650 Australian troops were needed before the election, along with troops from New Zealand and perhaps other regional countries.
He told the East Timorese Government he was concerned about the large number of weapons, including military automatic rifles, that were still out in the community.
Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Downer Fears Spread of Timor Weapons
Brendan Nicholson in Dili
photo: Concerned … Alexander Downer and Timorese President Xanana Gusmao in Dili yesterday. AP
AUSTRALIA must keep a strong force of troops in East Timor for at least another year to deal with the threat of attacks by groups armed with military weapons, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has warned the East Timorese Government and the United Nations.
In Dili yesterday for talks with his East Timorese and Indonesian counterparts, Jose Ramos Horta and Hassan Wirayuda, Mr Downer said they shared his concerns about the security situation.
"It has changed a little in character," Mr Downer said. "Previously, some of the violence was politically motivated. There's a lot of just plain criminal violence now with gangs and retaliation."
He said the UN decision to send 1600 police would help because the Timorese police, particularly those in and around Dili, were dysfunctional.
Mr Downer said he told the Timorese Government he was very concerned about the large number of weapons, including military automatic rifles that were still "out there".
His concerns were raised further, he said by the recent escape of 57 people from Dili's jail.
"You've had 57 people, many of whom are convicted murderers, escape from prison and you have a reasonably volatile political environment leading up to an election at some stage next year and in that mix you have a lot of weapons out there.
"It's one of the reasons I think there needs to be a more robust military presence there than that proposed by the United Nations.
"When you have weapons like this loose out there in the community, you are still going to need some military force.
"It could be a situation when there is an attack mounted against the East Timorese by people who have access to these sorts of weapons." Mr Downer said Australia's military commanders told him that 650 Australian troops were needed in the next phase in the lead-up to the election, along with troops from New Zealand and perhaps other countries in the region.
The commander of Australia's troops in East Timor, Brigadier Mick Slater, yesterday assured runaway rebel Major Alfredo Reinado that his safety would be guaranteed by the Australian Army if he surrenders.
Brigadier Slater told the Herald he had sent messages to Reinado via his associates calling on him to turn himself in.
He said he had spent some time talking to Reinado before he and 56 others escaped from Dili jail.
Reinado had told him he wanted to bring about change in East Timor but he did not want to become a politician.
"I can guarantee him that if he were to arrange to hand himself in to the joint taskforce that once he was within our control he would be treated fairly and in accordance with the law, and we would take care of his personal security."
Brigadier Slater said that when Reinado left the prison about 15 of those with him were soldiers and close associates.
"The others are just common criminals, murderers, rapists and arsonists."
The Australian Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Twice as many troops to stay in Timor
by Mark Dodd
AUSTRALIA will double the number of troops it leaves in East Timor amid escalating security fears ahead of next year's national elections. After meetings in Dili yesterday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was concerned that hundreds of army and police guns, along with tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, remained missing after this year's political violence.
He said that the weapons, combined with last week's mass breakout from Becora jail by 57 prisoners including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, created a "reasonably volatile political environment".
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, who met Mr Downer yesterday, said Jakarta had strengthened security along its 240km-long border with East Timor following the prison break.
Australia sent 1200 Australian troops to East Timor to lead a multinational force after the outbreak of violence in April andMay.
They have been gradually returning to Australia but Mr Downer criticised as too weak a UN proposal for 350 Australian troops to remain to help keep the peace in Dili.
Speaking after meetings with Dr Wirajuda, East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres, Mr Downer said Australia's military contribution to support a new UN mission in the fledgling country would be raised to 650.
He said New Zealand and other countries were also expected to contribute to the increased military presence.
Mr Downer, who also had briefings from senior Australian army and police commanders in East Timor, said a strong military deterrent was needed to combat the danger posed by people acquiring illegal weapons.
"I am very concerned at the number of weapons which are still at large," he said. "It's something I spoke to the President (Xanana Gusmao) about and it's a concern he shares.
"You have 57 people, many of whom are convicted murderers, escape from prison and you have a reasonably volatile political environment leading up to an election next year, and into that mix you have a lot of weapons.
"It's one of the reasons why I think there needs to be a more robust military presence here than that proposed by the United Nations. It could be a situation where there is an attack mounted against East Timorese by people who have access to these sorts of weapons. You could have a situation like that which would be far too difficult for the police to handle and the (Australian) military would have to sort the problem out."
None of the prisoners who escaped from Becora prison last week have been recaptured. It is understood they were held behind just two padlocked doors.
Mr Downer said he believed it was unlikely Major Reinado would come back to Dili "with guns blazing" but he said it was important that he and the other 56 escapees be quickly rounded up - a job he admitted was proving difficult.
Mr Ramos Horta said the potential for the missing weapons to end up in the wrong hands was very disturbing.
"More than 200 assault weapons from the police are unaccounted for," he told The Australian exclusively.
"That is cause for worry and cause for concern by the common people but I am confident we will be able to recover most of them."
Mr Ramos Horta also said tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition were missing.
It is understood an Australian army audit of the East Timor Defence Force arsenal has revealed at least 50 M-16A2 assault rifles are missing.
Worries that the weapons were ending up in criminal hands were highlighted last week during a deadly attack on a refugee camp in the town centre allegedly involving armed former police.
Five people suffered gunshot wounds and one other was wounded in a machete attack.
Renegade East Timorese police were probably involved, Mr Ramos Horta said. But he said gang violence and arson had more to do with unresolved arguments about land and property than ethnic hatred.
The Australian Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Elusive East Timor rebel 'potential threat'
by Mark Dodd
THE capture of Australian-trained army rebel Alfredo Reinado, who led an escape with 56 others from Dili's main jail last week, was proving to be very difficult, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.
There have been numerous reported sightings of Major Reinado and unconfirmed reports of communication between him and East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao since he walked out of Becora prison last Wednesday.
A security source in Dili told The Australian that Major Reinado was hiding near the southern towns of Same and Alas, but constantly on the move. None of the escapees has been recaptured.
Mr Downer said yesterday he thought it was unlikely Major Reinado would come back into Dili with "guns blazing" but he and his fellow fugitives posed a major potential threat to stability.
"The advice I've had is the other 56 should not be underestimated. It's a concern to me that Major Reinado was able to get out of jail as easily as apparently he did," he said.
"I don't have any information that leads me to conclude that Major Reinado is himself going to come bursting into town with his guns blazing. Some people think that could happen.
"My own personal assessment is that is a bit unlikely, but it is nevertheless important to round him and the other 56 up as quickly as possible, and that is proving to be very difficult."
Major Reinado was awaiting trial on charges of illegal weapons possession and attempted murder charges over a gunbattle on Dili's outskirts in May between a group of his heavily armed military police and government soldiers that left two people dead.
East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta said yesterday he doubted that Major Reinado would involve himself in armed violence against the Government because it would destroy any public sympathy for him.
"He knows against the overwhelming force of the Australian army and police he does not stand a chance. To fight in this country - you can fight for years and years but only when you have real profound motivation," he said.
"I do not feel he has the motivation to fight anyone therefore I am still hopeful he will turn himself in. At least that is the message he is getting from the president, to turn himself in."
The UN's police commander in East Timor, Commissioner Antero Lopes, appealed on Sunday to Major Reinado to surrender, saying he would personally guarantee he was accorded his full human rights and would not be treated as a common criminal.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service