Subject: The Reinado tapes
The Australian: The Reinado tapes
Paul Toohey | August 22, 2008
A SECRET recording of the last meeting between
East Timor's President
Jose Ramos Horta and rebel leader Alfredo Reinado reveals that
the two men had run out of ways to end a stalemate that had held the
country moribund for almost two years.
The recording, obtained by The Australian, was made by Reinado on
January 13 on a small digital recorder hidden in his top pocket at a
meeting in the western hilltop town of Maubisse. Just before Reinado
died, he handed it to a friend for safekeeping.
Reinado was gunned down at almost point-blank range inside Ramos Horta's
villa on February 11, while the President survived after being shot
twice, apparently by Reinado's rebels. The rebels say Reinado told them
he had a 6am appointment with Ramos Horta and point out they dawdled on
the way to Dili, stopping in places to kill time to arrive at the
Although no one suggests Ramos Horta made the appointment, the January
meeting reveals how frustrated he and senior government figures had
become with Reinado. It is possible that Reinado, who was relying on
Ramos Horta to solve his problems, lost patience and
stormed Ramos Horta's villa.
An alternative theory is that Reinado had been falsely informed the
President wanted to see him and was set up for his death by powerbrokers
who sought his elimination.
Ramos Horta had warned Reinado that if an agreement was not reached on
that day, then "there are no more other opportunities. If the President
of the republic has come and a solution is not found, then what other
solution is there? These are my words."
Four men attended the meeting: Ramos Horta, Economy and Development
Minister Joao Goncalves, Reinado and Reinado's second-in-command Gastao
Salsinha, who is now in jail.
Waiting outside was Major Mike Stone of the
Australian Defence Force,
now assigned to Ramos Horta's staff; and Reinado's lawyer, Benevides
The meeting was a failed final attempt to end a two-year impasse that
plunged the country into civil strife after about 600 soldiers from
western Timor deserted and fled to the hills, claiming the army
leadership was favouring soldiers from the east for promotion. Reinado
eventually joined the petitioners, but his case was different: the
courts had issued an
arrest warrant for him on murder charges, after he had engaged in
a deadly firefight with the army in 2006.
Ramos Horta went to the meeting believing that the group acting as
mediators between him and Reinado, the Movement for National Unity and
Justice (MUNJ), had secured a commitment from the rebel to surrender
weapons he had unlawfully seized from border police in early 2007.
Ramos Horta discovered that Reinado had made no such promise. The rebel
argued he had shown good faith in 2006 by surrendering his weapons to
then president Xanana
Gusmao. He said Gusmao had promised that the surrender was just a
formality intended to restore public
faith and that he would get his weapons back. Reinado told Ramos Horta
that Gusmao had betrayed him by not returning the weapons, and this led
him to raid the border posts to obtain guns.
Ramos Horta regarded the surrender of weapons as essential for him to
offer Reinado a guarantee of amnesty in the context of the murder
"You told MUNJ you accepted the solution of compromise that I have
presented," the President said.
Reinado said: "I have the right, as military, to protect myself."
Ramos Horta, angrily: "We have spoken of this many times, major."
Reinado: "And I have never changed my position, Mr President."
Ramos Horta reminded Reinado that he, not Reinado, was supreme commander
of the army. "The command does some things wrong but there is in no
country or any state which, after such efforts, would accept your
attitude," he said.
"Many opportunities have been given to you. Many opportunities. I have
said many times already that during these months that good, positive
behaviour will help to stabilise the situation.
"Many people don't understand; many suspect that I would also support
you from behind. I don't. I only look to do dialogue and dialogue and
dialogue. I try to look at the problems from each side.
"However, major Alfredo Reinado, the moment has come that we must go
forward, meet each other, to bow to each other, because the reason is
not 100 per cent on your side or 100 per cent on the side of the
Government or FFDTL (the Timorese defence force). If you want to show
the community that we can find solutions for the problem and show that
only you are right, then there is no solution."
The recording adds force to the argument that Reinado's lover, Angelita
Pires, who has been accused of being Reinado's puppeteer, was not as
influential as has been claimed. Pires was not at the meeting and
Reinado's stubbornness is clearly of his own making.
Reinado had earlier written to the President saying he was prepared to
be placed under house
arrest in Dili, with a New Zealand guard, while awaiting his
trial in a military court. (Timor has no such court.) He no longer
trusted Australian troops because he felt they
were encroaching on his turf.
The President said it would be better if Reinado stayed out of Dili and
that he would have to surrender to the authorities for
house arrest while
awaiting trial. But "that is only a formality", he added. He said he
would use "indirect pressure" to persuade the prosecutor-general to
allow Reinado to remain free while awaiting trial.
However, Ramos Horta warned that he had no power over the courts, even
though he had infuriated them by ignoring the warrants and issuing
freedom-of-movement letters that ordered the security forces not to
arrest Reinado. Ramos Horta said an
amnesty law would
be passed on May 20 that could lead to his freedom. But Reinado was
aware the President had no legislative power and could guarantee no such
Salsinha insisted he and the petitioners were still serving members of
the army. However, Salsinha and his men had been sacked in early 2006
and Ramos Horta made it clear that the army's head,
Taur Matan Ruak,
did not want them back. "Taur says we will
not accept them to come back because we already sacked them," the
President told the rebels. He said he would return to Dili and try to
persuade Matan Ruak that the soldiers could reapply to join the army or
be paid out to go away.
Reinado retorted that all serving members of the military - not just the
rebels - should be put through a triaging process to reapply for the
military and to prove their worth. He challenged serving soldiers to a
physical test to see who was better.
Ramos Horta was contemptuous of Salsinha and did not address him by his
He took a different view of Reinado, regarding him as a serving officer
who needed to face justice.
In a strange aside, the President said to Reinado: "While we are in this
process, I ask yourselves to please keep an eye. I heard that from the
border the Indonesians are bringing weapons in."
Reinado agreed this was the case and asked the President to give him the
authority to raise a battalion to protect the border. Ramos Horta did
The meeting ended after one more attempt by Ramos Horta to persuade
Reinado to surrender his weapons. "No, Mr President," Reinado responded.
"It's like this. I also have the right to protect myself."
Ramos Horta made a half-hearted suggestion that they meet again in a few
days, but no date was set. It appears as though Ramos Horta had given up
on Reinado. The two men never saw each other again.
Goncalves told a reporter after the shootings that Reinado had agreed to
surrender and submit to justice on January 13. "He agreed. A deal was
essentially done," Goncalves was reported as saying. That clearly was
not the case.
Three days after the meeting, Leon de Riedmatten from the Centre for
Humanitarian Dialogue wrote to Reinado on behalf of Ramos Horta,
informing him that the military was reluctant to reintegrate the
petitioners into the army but reassuring him that he would remain free
and that no military
operation would be conducted against him.
Gusmao, the East Timorese army, the Australian-led International
Stabilisation Force and the courts had all tired of Reinado and regarded
him as a common criminal.
Ramos Horta, the Nobel peace laureate, was the only one who saw hope.
The President was the only one Reinado would listen to. But after two
years of Reinado demanding justice but refusing to face the courts, it
is clear that Ramos Horta, too, was running out of patience.
De Riedmatten told Reinado the President had to travel overseas in
January and would not be able to meet him that month. He promised that
Ramos Horta would meet him again "before the middle of February".
However, the President made further plans to travel
overseas in mid-February and again cancelled the meeting with Reinado.
On February 6, Australian troops entered Reinado's hilltop zone, which
led to a three-hour stand-off, with the rebels firing shots in the air.
It is possible that Reinado thought he was close to being arrested and
that his one hope in the world, Ramos Horta, had left
him for dead.
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