Timorese rebels begin disarming

Friday, June 16, 2006

Map of Dili and immediate surroundings.

East Timorese rebels begun disarming Friday, when the rebel leader, Lt. Cmdr. Alfredo Reinado, and his men handed over ammunition and more than a dozen weapons to Australian peacekeepers. The disarming started after a official request of President Xanana Gusmão this week.

The disarming process requested this week by East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmão, started today in Maubisse, as Alfredo Reinado, the leader of the military rebels, handed over his M-16 rifle, with telescopic sight, to an Australian soldier. Followed by him, his men saluted him and handed over their weapons. As Reinado checked that they were unloaded and turned them in to an Australian soldier, that noted down the weapon type and serial number.

In this ceremony at a ninteenth century Portuguese village, where Reinado's rebel group camped after fleeing the Timorese capital, Dili in April, Reinado and his men gave up 12 automatic rifles and four pistols. These were then stored at a container guarded by Australian soldiers.

After delivering the weapons Lt. Cmdr. Alfredo Reinado guaranteed in a press conference that he will continue to fulfill the orders of Xanana Gusmão.

Regarding the polemic question about the continuation of the Timorese first Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, in power, the Commander clarified that he is a "military and a Lieutenant Commander on the hierarchy of the Armed Forces" and that he is only "fulfilling orders".

The disarming process of the rebels' weapons will be also followed in Gleno, where the remaining rebel troops lead by the Lt. Cmdr. Marcos Tilman and Alves Tara are camped.

The start of the process had been announced this Thursday by Marcos Tilman and confirmed by Army Brig. Michael Slater, commander of the Australian-led forces. The announce was made 24 hours after President Xanana Gusmão have proclaimed, in message to the Parliament, that the hour for the second phase of the international military forces in the country had arrived. The international military forces, as the second phase starts, will leave Dili into the interior of the country, leaving the Timorese capital in control of the international police forces.

According to Army Brig. Michael Slater, that was speaking to the press in Dili to announce formally the beginning of the disarming process, the international force "will guarantee protection" to the rebels, that as of today are disarmed, in way that "nobody will go to their meeting with aggressive intentions".

Questioned regarding if the delivery of the weapons translates as a surrendering of the military rebels, Mick Slater rejected that classification, pointing out that "East Timor is not crossing a civil war".

"There's no civil war and nobody is surrendering. There's yes a internal dispute. The important is to create a reliable climate next to the population, taking it to gradually return to its communities", he added.

First Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Timorese Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta showed to be satisfied with the delivery of the rebels' weapons.

"It's a good start to stabilize the country. I expect that others follow the example", Alkatiri pointed out.

"They have not done harm to anyone and they have pledged they would not involve in violence with their comrades in the defense force," Ramos Horta said. "So that has only boosted their credibility", he added.

Regarding the ex-Lieutenant Gastão Salsinha, spokesman of the 600 individuals that subscribed an petition denouncing alleged practical discriminatory in the Timorese Armed Forces, Marcos Tilman assured that "they don't have any weapons".

Dismissed from the army in March after going on strike to complain of discrimination, the rebels have been hiding in the mountains surrounding Dili, since the start of the violence in the country in the last months.

By request of the Timorese authorities, a force of more than 2,000 military and police troops of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal started to arrive at Dili as May 25, 2006, to establish order and peace in the country, after a violence wave have caused the death of more than 2 dozens of people and 130,000 refugees.

  Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: 2006 East Timor crisis