Subject: Timor rebel comes out of hiding
East Timor's top rebel gives up
Timor rebel comes out of hiding
April 26, 2008
A REBEL leader who played a key role in attacks on East Timor's top two political leaders has come out of hiding to start negotiating his surrender.
Gastao Salsinha, who led a dozen heavily armed rebels to the home of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, yesterday met Government leaders, Timorese army chiefs and local Catholic church leaders at a house in Gleno in the country's western mountains.
A United Nations spokeswoman in Dili, Allison Cooper, confirmed the talks. "It appears Mr Salsinha is taking a step towards surrendering," she said.
For weeks Salsinha had told negotiators he would surrender only to President Jose Ramos Horta, who returned to Dili last week after nine weeks in Darwin recovering from gunshot wounds. But Mr Ramos Horta refused to go to the mountains to accept the surrender, saying Salsinha must give himself up.
A former army lieutenant who led 600 soldiers sacked in 2006 after they went on strike, Salsinha joined forces last year with rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, shot dead at the home of Mr Ramos Horta during the February 11 attacks.
Political leaders in Dili urged Timorese security forces not to kill Salsinha after he fled because they wanted him to tell them the identities of the figures behind Reinado.
Mr Ramos Horta has revealed that Reinado and his Timorese-born Australian lover, Angelita Pires, had been given access to $1 million in a Darwin bank account. Australian Federal Police have been asked to trace the source of the money.
If Salsinha surrenders, he is expected to play a key role in a Government offer to give the sacked soldiers their jobs back or to pay them the equivalent of three years' salary about $US7000 ($A7493).
Government officials have been reluctant to finalise the deal while Salsinha is on the run, fearing some of the men would take the money and rejoin him in the mountains. Negotiations over the offer have been at a sensitive stage for weeks.
Although 80% of the men want to rejoin the army, analysts say their return to the ranks could revive hostilities over accusations that soldiers from western parts of the country were discriminated against by those from the east.
Mr Gusmao needs to secure the deal if the country is to return to peace, analysts say.
Since the attacks, Salsinha has often changed his account of what happened when speaking to journalists on his mobile telephone. At first he even denied going to Mr Gusmao's house.
Most recently, he claimed that Reinado was drunk, stressed and angry the night before the attacks and that he and the other rebels were not given any instructions to attack.
Investigators want to find out why the men under Salsinha's command at Mr Gusmao's house opened fire on the Prime Minister's vehicle. Reinado could not have ordered them to as he had been dead for up to an hour.
East Timor's top rebel gives up
Paul Toohey | April 26, 2008
REBEL lieutenant Gastao Salsinha last night surrendered after two years on the run and put himself in the personal control of East Timor's most senior army officer, Brigadier Tuar Matan Ruak.
Salsinha's capitulation will hopefully bring to an end two years of stand-offs, negotiations and violence that has torn the country apart.
Salsinha, who allegedly led the attack on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11 while Alfredo Reinado launched the raid on President Jose Ramos Horta's compound, spent yesterday sitting in a house in Ermera, in the west of East Timor, with a Catholic Church priest acting as his mediator as armed forces surrounded the position.
Negotiators had gone to a house near the town of Gleno, atSalsinha's suggestion, to collect him.
Despite being circled by a heavily armed joint command taskforce made up of F-FDTL (army) and PNTL (police), Salsinha continued to hold his weapon and said he would not surrender until members of his family, who are also on the run, and eight or nine other rebels, joined him. In the end, Salsinha, 35, did not have much in the way of bargaining power.
Salsinha's role as a rebel leader dates back to January 2006, when he and other members of the F-FDTL wrote to their brigadier and then president, Mr Gusmao, complaining that people born in the west of the country had been overlooked for promotions.
They said the government preferred to reward eastern-born soldiers who were more likely to be associated with the Indonesian resistance. The following month, 591 of the "petitioners" abandoned their barracks.
In March, they were officially sacked. The petitioners, led by Salsinha, then won permission to stage a four-day demonstration in front of the Dili government offices. On the final day, April 28, 2006, they were joined by unruly youths. The government, led by then prime minister Mari Alkatiri ordered the F-FDTL in.
Six people were shot, two fatally. Violence spread across Dili and the country turned on itself. About 150,000 easterners became displaced and sought shelter in tent camps in Dili, most of which are still occupied.
Early in May 2006, Reinado, a military policeman, joined Salsinha's men. Reinado became the brash spokesman, with the quiet but determined Salsinha his second-in-charge.
Later that month, Reinado engaged F-FDTL and police in a firefight near Dili, in which five were killed and 10 injured. Reinado was later arrested for murder, but escaped from prison.
Meanwhile the government was accused, and later proved guilty, of arming a secret militia to attack the petitioners. Many police, or PNTL, born in the west, supported the petitioners. On May 25, 2006, nine police under the protection of the UN were massacred in cold blood as they sought to surrender.
This set in train events that would last more than two years and culminate in the February 11 attack on the President and the Prime Minister, with Reinado being shot dead.
Although Salsinha was not charged with murder, he was wanted for staging the ambush on Mr Gusmao's home.