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Source of Original Interview in
Source of Unofficial Translation into English from Portuguese: http://timorbanafatin.blogspot.com/2006/06/civilian-population-was-pushed-to.html
Original Title: Mari Alkatiri, primeiro-ministro de Timor-Leste «A população civil foi
empurrada para a morte»
Micael Pereira, enviado a Timor
9 Junho 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
“The civilian population was pushed to death”
Interview to Mari Alkatiri, by Micael Pereira
9th of June 2006
In a moment of deadlock in which the opponent factions in East Timor
hold their breath but do not drop their weapons, PM Mari Alkatiri talks
about the critical episode that led the rebels to the mountains: the
alleged “Raikotu massacre” on the 28th of April.
Expresso: Last week you told
Expresso that you believed it were not just kids acting on themselves
in the streets of Dili and that there was an organization behind them.
What or who are you talking about exactly?
Mari Alkatiri: Luckily that is
not just my own opinion anymore. The forces in the field, the
international forces, have also come to the conclusion that there are
people behind the groups who are assaulting and burning houses, because
they have radios and walky-talkies. They communicate between
themselves, which suggests there is a central organization managing
everything. Some of those groups are active. Other groups organize
themselves just to take advantage of the chaos in the city.
E: Are you referring to criminal groups associated to former 1999
MA: Some groups, yes. But we cannot say that all the groups burning
houses have the same nature. Some are doing it with the clear purpose
of hitting certain persons. Not because they are Loromonu or Lorosae
but key persons.
E: Who are those key persons?
MA: The purpose is to frighten public servants of a certain level to
neutralize the government’s action, to create political collapse.
E: And do you believe groups interested in political collapse are
associated to the rebels major Alfredo [Reinaldo], majors Marcos
[Tilman] and Tara, and lieutenant [Gastão] Salsinha?
MA: I do not have exact data to say they are associated to majors
Alfredo or Tara. I cannot make that accusation but the truth is in some
declarations they themselves let us believe so: that they will do
everything to create a collapse in governing and that they have
infiltrated groups. There are other groups that appear spontaneously,
that are opportunists and take the opportunity to steal. The majority
is even of that sort.
E: The rebels insist that they will only accept starting the dialogue
after the PM resigns.
MA: A group of rebels cannot want to determine the future of a country.
That cannot be admitted anywhere.
E: Is that a condition that you will not really accept?
MA: Never. The country would never again be a country. Today it is
they; tomorrow there will be others.
E: The rebels accuse you of having given orders on the 28th of April so
that the FDTL army used force against civilians.
MA: The order was given by me. The police was completely unstructured,
without a command. There are laws that say when the police is not able
to do their job the army may be asked to intervene, and restore law and
order. But the order given was not to shoot civilians but to control
and keep them away.
E: At the Dili National Hospital, where we were, there is confirmation
of more than 60 civilians shot [five dead confirmed, all civilians,
although the number may be higher because the wounded were taken by
their families]. The rebels name it the “Raikotu massacre”. In a moment
when they are claiming to assume the responsibility, who [do you think]
should be responsible?
MA: I know some people even threw grenades against the army. One
grenade exploded and another did not. Two people were killed as a
reaction of the army to those grenades, even before the order I gave.
Some talk about civilians but do civilians carry grenades? Do civilians
carry automatic guns? Should we keep considering these civilians as
E: Are you saying the petitioners [the army deserters] and civilians
with them were armed?
MA: Of course. And [even] if they were not armed, they should not be
with the petitioners. Why did the petitioners push the civilians ahead
as a human shield? That was the strategy – a strategy used by Suharto’s
forces many times here in East Timor.
E: At Falintil/FDTL headquarters, where we also were, the soldiers say
the petitioners are militias.
MA: The truth is that civilians were pushed to death so they could
accuse and cause the government’s fall. And they could not have caught
the army; otherwise it would have been a total disaster.
E: Do you not attribute that responsibility to colonel Lere Anan who
commanded the forces in that day?
MA: What responsibility?
E: The responsibility of the army having shot civilians.
MA: It is better to have an investigation first.
E: But is the investigation being done?
MA: No, it is not being done. But it has to be done in order to find
out who shot whom. The others were armed as well. There are soldiers
who were shot in the back.
E: Is that investigation not urgent?
MA: We have asked for it everywhere.
E: And who should investigate?
MA: The Minister of Foreign Affairs has already written to the Human
Rights Commission so they can do their report. We are the first country
in the world to ask for that. We have also written to the United
Nations (UN) so they can take part in the investigation. We have all
justice systems working to initiate it. We have international
prosecutors and judges in our justice system, nominated by the UN. They
are not just Timorese. That will all be done. Because what it was
wanted was that many people had been killed they keep claiming more
than 60 deaths. The last number given by lieutenant Salsinha already
mentions more than 500 people. It has been multiplied by ten. If 60
people were killed who are they? Where are the relatives who lost them?
This is a simple investigation, it is not like in Indonesian times when
Suharto did not allow anyone to come and investigate. How many
journalists are in this town right now? Journalists also have a certain
capacity to investigate. Nobody puts forward the names of the dead, nor
even of the victims’ relatives. They keep talking, however. It smells
E: Have you got precise information on the weapons that have been
confiscated in Dili?
MA: I do not have any official data. More than 400 fire weapons have
been mentioned but I cannot confirm it. I hope it is true because it
means there will be less 400 weapons in the neighbourhoods.
E: Is the communication with the international forces working well?
MA: The Australian Minister of Defence and the commanders in the field
– from Australia and New Zealand – have just been with me.
E: There is a conspiracy thesis that defends Australia is behind the
chaotic situation in East Timor. It is a fact that the dossier on the
exploration on natural gas in Timorese waters with the government in
Canberra is still an open one. Does this make any sense?
MA: To anyone who wants to make an analysis of all this, all the parts
in the puzzle have to be looked at in order to understand the origins
of this conflict. To someone who is ruling the country, the problem of
stability and the problem of law and order have to be solved now and
E: There is a tension with Australia, for example, on the decision
about the natural gas pipeline of the Great Sunrise wells. The company
that operates in that area is Australian [Woodside] and there is an
agreement that waits to be ratified by the parliament in East Timor
that could jeopardize future pretensions of your government to enlarge
the Timor Sea limits.
MA: I do not agree with the interpretation that such an agreement could
jeopardize the Timorese pretensions. There are countries in the world
with centuries of history, which have still not defined their maritime
borders. It is better to have an agreement with a neighbouring country
to explore maritime resources than to postpone that agreement. If we
insist with the borders we will not reach a consensus and we will need
another 30 or 40 years. After the current crisis we will be able to
respond much quicker to the problems of rebuilding the country because
we will than have the resources. Everything that has so far been done
with Australia aiming for a more equal distribution of revenues was
E: How do you see Australia’s PM John Howard position and declarations?
He has put in doubt your performance has the leader of the government
MA: The only interpretation I can make is that John Howard has surely
not been following the governing of East Timor. Because f he had so he
would not have said the silliness he said, accusing the governing of
being a bad one when it was praised by everything and by everyone,
including the Australian government. East Timor’s development partners
were in Dili in April, where an important Australian delegation was
also present and everyone praised the governing. Suddenly, in two
months I became a demon to the Australian media. If I were PM of a
powerful country I would never interfere in the political managing of
E: The Australian press suggests that you were trying to reinforce your
own personal power. In last Fretilin’s congress the militants had to
vote in you raising their arm. It was also written that you did not
want elections in 2007 to be followed by the UN.
MA: That is a lie. They are trying to demonize someone, has other
leaders in the world were demonized, so it can later be overthrown. If
someone supported the secret vote in the Fretilin’s congress, I did.
Everyone ignored this. When the suggestions came from the districts
that the voting would be by raising of the arm, I stood up asking for
the secret vote. But the majority voted on the raising of the arm. And
the involvement of the UN was asked by the government.
E: By yourself?
MA: Yes, through the Minister of Estate Administration. We asked the UN
to send an evaluation team to find out what was needed to be done. What
they want though is an electoral law approved by the [UN] Security
Council and not by the National Parliament. That is not possible. This
is a state with sovereign institutions that can approve laws. Because
otherwise we will continue as a protectorate of the UN. We are not a
protectorate – not even from the UN. But we do want the participation
of the UN in the elections. Why so much noise?
E: What about the fact that you reinforced the capacity of the police?
The police was better armed than the FDTL army.
MA: The police was not even formed by the government. We inherited a
police formed by the UN.
E: But you reinforced it. You created new unities within the police.
MA: When problems in Ermera, Atulia and Atsabe arose, related to the
reintroduction of militias that killed people, there was the need to
send forces [to those areas] as the international community saw that as
an internal conflict and it could not get involved. At the time it was
a decision of the Estate. Of President Xanana. The Estate decided to
send the FDTL to Atulia and Atsabe. This was in January 2003. From then
on and because we were sending the Falintil/FDTL to fight that armed
group, we were criticised as it was a police matter. But the group was
using machine guns and our police had pistols. Where did you see a
police [armed with] pistols fighting bandits armed with machine guns?
Therefore the idea of creating a special group within the police, the
reserve unit, formed by 80 men.
E: And what do they do?
MA: They are used to fight those armed groups in rural areas. They are
80. That unit was created when the UN still had the responsibility of
defence and security.
E: How do you explain the internal divisions within the army and the
MA: They were politicized. If you talk with the FDTL commands you will
find out that the first thing that happened was an attempt of enticing
them to support a military coup.
E: Was General Matan Ruak [Chief of the Estate Armed Forces] enticed by
MA: I said the command, I did not mention names.
E: And who was the command enticed by?
MA: I will not mention names. Those who listen to me know whom am I
referring to. There was an attempt to entice the FDTL command to
support an eventual Estate coup.
E: An Estate coup related to the militias?
MA: Related to various sectors of the country. Sectors outside the
Estate. The command was clear in saying that there would only be
changes through constitutional and electoral means and that they do not
allow coups. From then on, the best way was to weaken the Falintil/FDTL.
E: Have you been receiving enough support from Portugal in managing
MA: Yes. I have spoken several times with PM José Socrates.
There is a total availability by Portugal in the sense of helping us
once again, in restoring law and order and in supporting us in the
economical recovery of East Timor. I only have to thank. The Portuguese
position has been exemplar in not involving itself in internal affairs,
but by helping only.
E: Do you believe you will win elections in 2007?
MA: I have no doubts.
E: Do you feel nervous?
MA: No. I work very well under pressure. I am more nervous when I have
E: Are you not afraid?
MA: No. If I were afraid I would have already died scared.
E: And have you been able to sleep?
MA: No. But not because I am afraid or nervous but because I have
worries and I have sense of responsibility. I sleep a bit. I do not use
any medicine to sleep. From time to time I have another whisky or two.
But no medicine.
// posted by nv @ 4:13 PM
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