Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference - March 4, 2007
Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference March 4, 2007 12 Noon Obrigado Barracks Caicoli, Dili
Allison Cooper, UNMIT Spokesperson: Thanks for coming to the press this afternoon; sorry for the delay, we were waiting until the President had finished his speech [inaudible]. In this afternoon press briefing we are going to be hearing a statement from the SRSG Atul Khare that will be followed by a statement by Brigadier Mal Rerden. After that we are going to open the floor for questioning, of which you all have a chance to ask question. Also the Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro is here for any question you may have on the legal nature and UNPOL police Commissioner Rodolfo Tor [is here] as well. Thank you for coming.
SRSG Khare: Thank you, boa tarde. I have just come about an hour and a half ago, from a meeting with President Xanana Gusmão, President of the National Parliament, Mr. Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, Prime Minister Dr. Ramos Horta, and Brig. General Rerden, Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro to review the situation regarding fugitive Major Alfredo Reinado.
Before I pass over to Brigadier Rerden, I want to reiterate UNMIT's position on the issue. I have always believed that justice is essential for reconciliation and on 12 of February, I reiterated this position at the Security Council in New York. All the leaders of Timor-Leste had repeatedly told me that impunity will not prevail.
UNMIT, in consultation with the Government of Timor Leste and the ISF has considered all possible options to achieve Reinado's surrender to justice.
UNMIT has formed part of a Tripartite group – comprising representatives of the Government, UNMIT, and the ISF -- that met with Reinado twice and encouraged him to peacefully submit to the judicial process.
These efforts ended when Reinado ransacked border police posts last Sunday, taking weapons and other materials.
The next day, President Xanana Gusmão appealed to the citizens of Timor Leste to maintain peace and calm.
In that same speech, the President stated that he had empowered the ISF to carry out and I quote "an operation to capture Alfredo because Alfredo has shown very clearly that he does not respect the State or its institutions" end of quote.
UNMIT regrets that the efforts to ensure a peaceful judicial path have not been successful, I would like to stress that it is Reinado's disregard for the laws of Timor Leste and the wellbeing of its population that have brought us to this point.
All actions taken by UNMIT in relation to Alfredo Reinado have been consistent with its mandated task to support the Government of Timor Leste and all relevant institutions to consolidate stability.
UNMIT is also tasked to assist the Government of Timor Leste, with the help of the ISF, to secure the environment in preparation for the conduct of democratic elections.
Localize disturbances in some parts of Dili and in Gleno occurred last night till the early hours of this morning. Other parts of the country had stayed quite. I am glad that the appeal by the President, and by myself, for peace and calm were largely heard and heeded by the people.
Just to give you some brief details, in GLENO- ERMERA, two vehicles in a Ministry of Education compound were burnt overnight.
In DILI, between around one o'clock in the morning to about -0430 in the morning, several groups burnt tyres on the roads, blocked the road with large stones, indulged in stone throwing and fought long battles with UNPOL. These incidents were not all over Dili but were localized in some specific areas.
I toured the affected areas of DILI from around 03 o'clock to around 0500 in the morning and the situation is now quieter and under control. However, we are making plans for reinforcement of FPUs from BAUCAU and from ISF resources.
I would like to once more appeal to the people of Timor-Leste to cooperate with the police and the ISF to maintain peace and calm. However we are making plans for reinforcement of formed police units from Baucau and ISF forces. I would like to once more appeal to the people of Timor-Leste to cooperate with the police and the ISF to maintain peace and calm. At the same time, I must stress that the UN Police, along with the PNTL and assisted as required by the ISF, will continue to take strong actions against all those who indulge in violence or otherwise flout the laws of this country.
For details on the events of last night in Same, I will now pass over to Commander of the ISF, Brig. General Mal Rerden.
ISF Commander Brigadier General Mal Rerden: Thank you SRSG, Boa tarde, good afternoon. I can confirm the ISF this morning conducted operations in Same, south of Dili. The purpose of the operation was to reduce the threat to TL stability and apprehend Alfredo Reinado and his associates. At this stage, we have not apprehended Reinado. Our operations will continue until such as we do. We cannot confirm at this stage if he was alone or accompanied when he left Same nor can we confirm which members of his groups are armed. No ISF members were killed or injured during the operations in Same. Shots were fired during the operation but the full details of the incident are yet to be confirmed. I can confirm however that four armed Timorese men were killed during the operation when they posed immediate threat to the lives of the ISF members involved. The ISF is currently conducing searches that include helicopter surveillance, roadblocks, vehicles and foot patrol. I can confirm that the ISF has been augmented by some additional forces from Australia. However I will not at this stage provide further details about those forces for operational reasons.
Because of the ongoing nature of the operation, I do not propose to go into further details about particular ISF activities at this stage. We will endeavor to provide updated information when it is available and please note my current policy, that this is an ongoing policy. The Australian led ISF remains committed to support the government of TL and the UN in stabilizing the security environment and enabling the Timorese people to resolve their differences democratically and peacefully.
SRSG Khare: Thank you Brigadier, we will take questions and try [to answer them] best that we can.
Journalist: Was there sighting of [inaudible] of Reinado during the operations.
Brigadier Rerden: There had been sightings of Reinado at different times over the days before the operation.
Journalist: Has he got away?
Brigadier Rerden: At this stage we don't have him and we continue our operations to locate him and apprehend him.
Journalist: Just to make clear Brigadier, whether or not your forces initiated the operations, [inaudible] attacking the civil servants or were your forces provoked?
Brigadier Rerden: I would like to emphasize that the purpose of the operation was to apprehend Alfredo Reinado and that the conduct of the operation was in such a way that there was a [inaudible] response to ensure lawful apprehension.
Journalist: Who fired the shots first?
Brigadier Rerden: I'm not going to go into those operation details. At the moment, we are still waiting for confirmatory details on the exact events that occurred this morning.
Journalist: How many people were apprehended?
Brigadier Rerden: At this stage I am not able to give full details of how many people have been apprehended.
Journalist: Have some been apprehended?
Brigadier Rerden: Yes
Journalist: Where are the dead bodies?
Brigadier Rerden: The bodies are being returned to Dili under the control of the ISF where they would be handed over to the authorities at Dili Hospital under the control of the Prosecutor General.
Journalist: Can you repeat once again? How many were killed?
Brigadier Rerden: There were four armed Timorese men who were killed as a result of the operation.
Journalist: Is [inaudible] a success?
Brigadier Rerden: This operation has been a success so far and will continue to be so. We have restored the sovereignty of the government of TL to the Same area, we have removed a number of people from Alfredo Reinado's group and Reinado is reduced to moving on foot as a fugitive.
Journalist: Aside from those who were killed, how many were injured?
Brigadier Rerden: At this stage we have no details on any other personnel who may have been injured at the time of the operation.
Journalist: Do you have any sense that at 1am or so whenever that you [inaudible] check commenced that Reinado was present?
Brigadier Rerden: The purpose of the operation was to apprehend Reinado. We went forward [inaudible].
Journalist: These four men were killed, do they belong to Alfredo's or the petitioners' group and what is the situation of the population at the moment?
Brigadier Rerden: The first question: we are still having made a formal identification of those four men; it is not possible to comment on where they come from. The situation in Same now is calm.
Journalist: Is there still a siege in Same on top of the hill?
Brigadier Rerden: As I said our operation was successful in completely removing any presence from the Same area of Reinado's group.
Journalist: How do you say it was a success when the aim of the mission was to capture Reinado and he escaped?
Brigadier Rerden: Because every operation has a series of phases and this operation is ongoing and it will succeed.
Journalist: Would Mr. Monteiro mind outlining just in point form what Alfredo Reinado demands [inaudible]
TL Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro: I went to [inaudible] that I was in Same as a messenger of the State and to inform him about the conditions of the surrender and he replied that he disagreed with these conditions and he applied, he recall new conditions on the State and when I came back to Dili and reported to the Head of State, and Head of Government, of course the Head of States called the Head of Government and decided to reject the negotiations under the conditions [inaudible] from Reinado .
Journalist: So therefore you had conditions of surrender for him and you came back with a counter proposal. Can you say what both were? Your conditions and his counter proposal?
PG Monteiro: We only had two points that we proposed to him. First is to surrender himself and second to surrender all of his weapons. This message was passed to him and [inaudible]. At this moment this is condition is as fugitive as [inaudible]
Journalist: He came to you with a proposal for his demands. What was his demand?
PG Monteiro: First point is he would not surrender his weapons. Second point he only would like to do if the Head of State releases all his weapons that had been [inaudible] from Maubisse sometime ago. The second point is he is only willing to surrender 18 weapons that he took from BPU posts.
Journalist: Prosecutor General, is there any other alternative to mediate or negotiation with Alfredo?
PG Monteiro: First, after presenting the counter proposal which was rejected by the State, I returned and met again with him and advised him for the last time and last night around 7:30pm I called him for the last time and called his attention if he had thought of considering the conditions the State had presented.
Journalist: Mr. Rerden you mentioned that the process is ongoing now that Reinado doesn't want to surrender, but you want him to surrender. Is there any deadline for this question, in a week time, two weeks time to end this operation?
Brigadier Rerden: There are many operation details I can't go into but the priority is to achieve an apprehension as quickly as possible so that the stability can be returned to the people of TL.
Journalist: Mr. Tor, during [inaudible] six hours last night there was only one FPU dealing with the violence incidents across Dili. Why didn't you use the coordinated UNPOL forces and what is the [inaudible] need for reinforces from Baucau?
UN Police Commissioner Tor: Thank you for the questioning. We have been using our formed police units. We have formed police unit here in Dili, Pakistan, GNR and Malaysia. The Bangladesh is in Baucau they were not unitizing last night we had just asked them to come today as a reserve. We did use our cooperation last night and there were many incidents of burning tyres on the streets and confrontation against the UNPOL. We also used our patrols to uphold the formed police units in Dili last night.
Journalist: Mr. Rerden you mentioned that during the operation four members were killed, the armed men were killed. Where are the weapons of those men?
Brigadier Rerden: The weapons from those men will be returned to Dili with the bodies and they will be controlled as part of the investigation into the incident.
Journalist: Can you reveal the names of those who were killed?
Brigadier Rerden: We have not completed the identification process for those people yet.
Journalist: From last night's confrontation between the youth and the police, do you think they are supporters of Alfredo? And how many were arrested last night and are there any injured?
SRSG Khare: Before Commissioner Tor responds I must state that we do not like to speculate on the identity or the motive of those who were creating violence last night until we have completed our investigations. No injuries have been reported so far to me, but I will request Commissioner Tor to update you on the question of arrest and injures if any.
UN Police Commissioner Tor: Yes thank you. There were a large scale of occurrences of violence last night and roadblocks and the use of burning tyres. Our police units and patrols attended to all this. However, on the arrest we had around 22 arrests during our operations.
SRSG Khare: I have three questions. One from you, from you and there after.
Journalist: Alfredo has stated that he refuses to surrender and is prepared to die during the operation. If the Australian forces cannot capture him, would they kill him the way they killed his supporters?
Brigadier Rerden: Even now there is still an opportunity for Alfredo Reinado to surrender. That is his choice to make. He must understand though if he makes the choice not to surrender then he must accept the consequences of that choice. In regards to his associates I'm not going to comment on their situation at the moment because it is an ongoing operation that we are still working.
Journalist: I'm not sure whom this question is for but we know how long Xanana Gusmão was able to hide out in that part of the world for years and years. Would a bounty or a reward be an effective way to assist in his capture given that he is going to rely on the goodwill of the people?
PG Monteiro: Specific for Reinado there is none. However, the government in general has a decree law, which provides reward for those who assist the State to tackle the criminalities especially on the weapons.
Journalist: My question is the operation in Same was to apprehend Reinado, but we were [inaudible] the immediate half of the population to move around, the children to go to school, the population to get food. What is the policy of the authority to deal with this matter?
PG Monteiro: In terms of generally speaking, the forces and the government did not expect these things to happen but we have to understand that whenever we deal with these operations these are consequences we have to deal with. But in the short term, yesterday and two days ago when I discussed with Brigadier General we tried to make sure that the Ministry of Labor and Community Reinsertion have free access to provide assistance and also the request in regards to the restricted access to the journalists in this operations and this is a condition that whoever who was [inaudible] for their own safety. For their own safety they should not be there.
Journalist: The latest statement made by Alfredo, he said he had good relationship with Australia and people would not believe that you will apprehend him, second what do you consider his statue a criminal or a rebel?
Brigadier Rerden: With the first question the Australian forces and indeed the International Security Forces have conducted all of their operations in relation to Reinado over the past months in accordance with the directions of the government of TL and on the second question I think the Prosecutor General has made it clear that there are warrants therefore he has charges to answer and he must put himself before the court and go through the justice process.
Journalist: I would like to find out the distance of the clashes between your forces and Alfredo. How far it was and the weapons they used.
Brigadier Rerden: As I said we are still getting all of the details together on the incident and I not able to provide that much detail or that amount of details, at this stage pending investigation that will be completed.
SRSG Khare. Thank you. Before we conclude I think we have to conclude now. We will keep you informed because we want to work with you, but before we conclude on behalf of all three of us who are here may I again make an appeal through you, to the people of Timor-Leste to maintain peace and calm, to cooperate with the authorities to cooperate with UNPOL and to cooperate with ISF. Thank you.