Subject: AGE: I'm willing to shoot Australian troops, Timor rebel leader Reinado warns

Also SBS: Reinado on the Line

The Age

I'm willing to shoot Australian troops, Timor rebel leader Reinado warns

Leo Shanahan

September 7, 2006

East Timorese rebel leader Alfredo Reinado has vowed not to give himself up and says he is willing to shoot at Australian troops.

Reinado was contacted at his jungle hide-out by SBS program Dateline last night, but refused to confirm his location because "there are Australian troops hunting me around, chasing me around".

The fugitive escaped last week from Dili's local jail with 56 other men. He confirmed that he has been in contact with Australian troops and indicated he was willing to negotiate.

"I do have communication, been communicating with them. I just let them know that, 'don't come after me, because I am not a problem of this nation'. The Government is the problem of the nation and my people will not let that happen. I'm willing to talk to any one, to talk, to do any dialogue, anything but to hand over myself, no way," Reinado told SBS.

He said he was armed and willing to fire upon Australian troops if necessary: "When they after me, I will stop them. If they shoot me, I will shoot them back, because I have a right to protect myself in my country."

His escape has once again put East Timor on the edge, with international forces already struggling to curb gang violence.

He also confirmed that he was in contact with East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao and was "always loyal" to the President.

Reinado and his rebel troops were blamed for the outbreak of violence in May that eventually led Australian troops to return to the fledging nation.

He criticised new East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, accusing him of siding with former prime minister Mari Alkatiri. "Ramos Horta is not in favour with the people any more. Because he's part of the Mari Alkatiri club . . . Ramos Horta, of course, has betrayed me."

Prime Minister John Howard dismissed Reinado's threats as propaganda. "I think Australian soldiers can handle that situation. I have every confidence in (Australian commander) Brigadier (Mick) Slater," Mr Howard said.


Reinado on the Line

It has been a week now since East Timor's most wanted man, rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado with 56 other prisoners somehow managed to just walk out of Dili's jail, it has to be said, under extremely curious circumstances. As it happens, Dateline's David O'Shea was with Reinado and got caught in the cross-fire when the rebel leader fired the first shots of the violence. He was also on hand when Reinado was arrested, three weeks ago. And now, earlier today, still on the run, Reinado out of the blue, called David by mobile from wherever it is that he's hiding in the hills above Dili.

DAVID O'SHEA: Alfredo Reinado, where are you?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: I'm somewhere in East Timor.

DAVID O'SHEA: Yes can you be more specific?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: How come I can tell you that if there are Australian troops hunting me around, chasing me around?

DAVID O'SHEA: They are saying that you are destabilising the situation, increasing tensions. Aren't you going to give yourself up?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: I'm never going to give myself up. Because I've already given opportunity for them, time to the process of the justice side of it. I know myself that I am not a criminal.

DAVID O'SHEA: So can you just explain clearly, what do you want?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: What I want, to listen to the majority of the people. Because these people didn't want this government any more. People want justice, people want change.

DAVID O'SHEA: Are you still loyal to Xanana Gusmao? And have you been in touch with him?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: I always loyal with him, I'm still in touch with him.

DAVID O'SHEA: If President Xanana Gusmao asks you or orders you to hand yourself in, would you do it?


DAVID O'SHEA: So you're not following orders from Xanana Gusmao then?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Not all the orders you should follow. What is the justification of the order? You have to clarify. Not all the order if the order comes to you, "You go and eat the shit" you eat the shit? No way.

DAVID O'SHEA: There are reports here in the media today that you have been in communication with the Australian forces. Is that correct and, if it is, what have you been talking about?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: I do have communication, been communicating with them, I just let them know that "Don't come after me because I am not a problem of this nation. The government is the problem of the nation and my people will not let that happen." Because my people will never hand me over. I'm willing to talk to anyone, to talk, to do any dialogue, anything. But to hand over myself, no way. When they after me, I will stop them. If they shoot me, I will shoot them back because I have a right to protect myself in my country. And I know I don't have anything to against Australians.

DAVID O'SHEA: Are you armed? How many weapons do you have with you? And how many men do you have with you?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: I have all the people in this country who ever support me. They are armed with machetes and spears, that's a weapon also. They are ready to defend themselves. With anything they have, even rocks and wood.

DAVID O'SHEA: But how many heavy weapons do you have?



MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: All my weapons I already hand over.

DAVID O'SHEA: But you told me that last time, when I interviewed you, you told me that you'd handed in all of your weapons and then when they found you in the house that day, you had 4,000 ammunition, guns and magazines.

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Look my friend, listen to me, the order they gave me was to hand over all of my weapons, not hand over all the equipment, all the military equipment. So I had over all my weapons, they ask for weapons, I gave them weapons, they didn't say it includes ammunition and everything. I still have the pistol.

DAVID O'SHEA: Can I just ask you, how did you escape from jail?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Somehow, under pressure I have to escape and arrange all the power I had. I knew that security of the jail was not that strong. Only a few people there and during that time I stayed with the visit time, so door is open, people coming in an out. So I use that opportunity to scare them with everything I have - wood, rock or whatever - and they run away so we come out. And by that time, already three or four days, the prison has been left empty by international group. Normally international group give security there, and they left. That means it was an opportunity for me to go.

DAVID O'SHEA: Prime Minister Ramos Horta has blamed foreign forces for letting you out of jail, for allowing you leave. Is that true?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Yes, because he's in a confusing... confusing situation. He says that because he scared, he's scared the truth will come out.

DAVID O'SHEA: So what do you mean "the truth to come out"?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Because Ramos Horta hide so many things. Ramos Horta is not in favour with the people any more. Because he's part of the Mari Alkatiri group.

DAVID O'SHEA: When I was with you in the hills in May, you called for Australian intervention. Now you've become public enemy number one. What's happened with that relationship?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Look, public enemy number one, that word doesn't suit me because my public didn't feel like I am the enemy. Ask everyone, but the government thinks that I am the enemy.

DAVID O'SHEA: You obviously feel like you've been betrayed, who has betrayed you do you think?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Ramos Horta of course has betrayed me. You know, because Ramos Horta, since he gained his power, everything has changed since he got the power. He never did talk to me any more. And he never implemented anything he talked to me about it.

DAVID O'SHEA: It could appear that all of this is just so you don't have to stay in jail.

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: Look I'm staying in jail, for what?

DAVID O'SHEA: Weapons possession.

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: If you go through what they blame me for, you don't have any basic legal side to it.

DAVID O'SHEA: Are you going to be starting any trouble? Are you going to be sitting waiting? What is your plan?

MAJOR ALFREDO REINADO: My friend, as you know, I never start any trouble all along. The trouble is being start by somebody else. I stand up to stop that until now. Why is everybody blame that I'm the problem of this country? I'm not a problem of this country. If I am a problem of this country, the people didn't stand for me. The government is the problem of the country. I think I'm a solution. Without me, there's already civil war. Without me, all ready the people, many of them already dying, been killing by the defence force themselves. Without me, there would be big chaos today. I just want Australian people not to think that I'm a rebel or I'm a renegade, because if I'm a rebel or a renegade my people, these people, didn't stand for me. And I want the Australian people to tell their government that their troops come here to stand for everybody, not to pick a fight.

DAVID O'SHEA: Alfredo Reinado, thank you for speaking to us.


Reporter/Camera DAVID O'SHEA



Producer AMOS COHEN 

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