Subject: AU: Violence mars pre-poll Timor

AP: East Timorese presidential hopeful wants charges against fugitive soldier dropped

Violence mars pre-poll Timor

Mark Dodd

March 12, 2007

GANG violence on the streets of Dili and rebel army major Alfredo Reinado remaining at large are destabilising conditions for East Timor's presidential elections, due in four weeks.

Vicious gang warfare that has displaced more than 60,000 people is being stoked by political rabble-rousers who want to crush Fretilin, the country's biggest political party, a senior party powerbroker and central committee member said yesterday.

In its first official response to the failed attempt by Australian special forces to capture Reinado, Fretilin said it had no desire to see the rebel killed. Reinado, a former commander of the country's military police and a major player in last year's political violence, is wanted for treason.

The search continues for the elusive rebel, embraced as a hero by many of the Dili gangs, after Australian soldiers failed to catch him last week following a six-day stand-off in the southern town of Same.

"There is no need to have more dead heroes than we already have. Fretilin want him (Reinado) alive. At least, it is in everyone's interests he lies low," Fretilin's Filomeno Aleixo told The Australian.

"These elections are very important to help us overcome the political crisis and restore democratic values. Things are not easy for Fretilin. The crisis has made us realise we are the main target by opponents wanting to make us look weak."

Security was at the top of the agenda at a weekend Fretilin party congress in Dili to discuss the April 9 presidential ballot, Mr Aleixo said.

The party was concerned by the security situation in Ermera district, where many of Reinado's supporters were based and had threatened Fretilin officials. Fretilin cadre intended to meet with youth groups and tell them not to be manipulated by self-serving politicians seeking to weaken the party that had delivered independence to East Timor.

Fretilin is the biggest and best organised of East Timor's political parties and holds 55 seats in the 88-seat Constituent Assembly.

But last year's political crisis revealed growing internal dissent at the leadership role of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

The Australian understands moves are under way to expel members of a rebel Fretilin reform group supporting Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta's presidential candidacy.

About 500,000 East Timorese - half the population - are eligible to vote for a new president from eight candidates. National parliamentary elections will follow although a date has yet to be set by President Xanana Gusmao.


East Timorese presidential hopeful wants charges against fugitive soldier dropped

3/11/2007 06:15:25 AM EDT

AP WorldStream English (all)

DILI, East Timor_A candidate in East Timor's presidential elections next month said Sunday he wants charges dropped against a fugitive rebel military commander.

Francisco Xavier do Amaral, a former founding member of the dominant Fretilin party, was confirmed over the weekend as one of eight candidates who will stand for election on April 9.

The 77-year-old stalwart of his nation's independence struggle said that he would use his influence as president to have renegade Alfredo Reinado cleared of his murder charge.

But that decision would be for the new parliament which will be elected mid year, do Amaral said.

"I'll try my best to convince the other groups that in my opinion, it's unnecessary for him to be charged," do Amaral told The Associated Press.

Reinado, who deserted the army last year, has become a lightning rod for criticism of East Timor's crisis-prone government and appears to have gained popularity since he became the target of a manhunt by international troops.

He has been charged with the murder of a soldier in a battle between rebel and loyalist troops outside the capital Dili in May last year.

The clash was part of an explosive rift in military ranks that spilled over into the streets of Dili where arson and gang warfare left at least 37 people dead and sent 155,000 people fleeing their homes. The arrival of 2,700 foreign peacekeepers helped restore order.

Do Amaral described Reinado as "a hero" in the nation's west for championing claims that the westerners were discriminated against in the army.

Some people from the east of the country claim that they are the heroes of the 24-year resistance to Indonesian occupation while they accuse many in the west, closer to the border with the Indonesian province of West Timor, of collaborating with the occupiers.

Do Amaral, who acted as East Timor's president for 10 days before Indonesian troops invaded in 1975, was the sole opponent of the incumbent Xanana Gusmao at the inaugural presidential election in 2002 after East Timor broke away from Indonesia.

Gusmao will not contest the next poll but has not ruled out running in parliamentary elections in the middle of the year.

He has become the target of public outrage over his part in a government decision to ask the Australian military to capture Reinado, who had been holed up with armed supporters in a mountainous base at Same, south of Dili.

Australian soldiers attacked the base on March 4, killing four rebels. Reinado escaped and remains at large.

Reinado escaped from prison in August last year while awaiting trial, arguing that he could not receive justice in East Timor.

Another two presidential candidates _ Fernando Lasama and Lucia Loboto _ on Sunday sympathized with his perception of discrimination in East Timor's justice system.

"People don't believe in the courts now," Loboto said.

Back to  March 2007 menu

World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu