Cablegate: Security Missteps Damage Dili's Recent Performance

DE RUEHDT #0066/01 0600915
O R 290915Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

Subject: Former Western guerilla commander discusses Timor's

1. (SBU) Summary. We traveled to Gleno February 28 to assess
how events in the capital are playing in a district west of
Dili. Gleno was calm, markets were bustling, and its citizens
share the same surrounding the February 11 attacks on the
President and Prime Minister. Possible F-FDTL operations in the
district to assist in the capture of the 2/11 perpetrators were
treated with caution . An ex-FALINTIL senior commander with
great regional stature told us the events of 2/11 were the fault
of Timor-Leste's elites because of their preoccupation with
infighting and lack of emphasis on real problem solving. He
emphasized that as long as genuine solutions are not applied to
the core problems, turbulence will continue. End summary.

2. (SBU) Senior defense official and political assistant
traveled to Gleno - the administrative seat of historically
restive Ermera District - February 28 and met with ex-FALINTIL
Region 4 Commander Ernesto "Dudu" Fernandes, Father Enrique
Barreto, and PNTL Ermera District Commander Sub-Inspector Mateus
Mendes. Each spoke of similar themes and concerns in response
to questions about 2/11, the ongoing military petitioners saga,
and the specter of possible F-FDTL operations in the district.
As for Gleno itself - a town that has seen more than its share
of martial arts groups violence, politically-fueled blood
rivalries, and heavy fighting during the Indonesian Occupation
-- it appeared as calm as it ever has over the course of the
past two years. Children were seen playing in the streets, the
central market was bustling, and outlying areas were awash with
normal activity.

3. (SBU) Both Father Barreto and Sub-Inspector Mendes said
that the district's population is wholly confused over what
happened on 2/11, and added that their was no signal that
something was about to occur in the days prior to the events.
Mendes went on to say that the local community was completely at
ease with the presence of the Reinado group, that they were
always well-behaved, and that the local population reciprocated
by showing them plenty of support.

4. (SBU) "Dudu" - Fernandes' resistance-era nom de guerre
meaning either "to push" or "to resist" in the local vernacular
- went into much greater detail in discussing the current
situation, as well as its root causes. First, he stated that he
is as confused as everyone else about the events of 2/11. He,
along with Reinado, Church officials, local political leaders,
and others had been in talks as late as February 8 to construct
a traditional sanctuary on the grounds of the Church complex in
Gleno for the purpose of holding a reconciliation conference
that would involve all national political and Church leaders.
The proposed three-day conference, planned for February 16-18,
would have sought some form of acceptable solution regarding the
Reinado and military petitioner issues, and to have the Church
bless the decisions. Dudu believes that at some point over the
weekend, "someone definitely got to Reinado for some unknown
reason", and 2/11 followed. Dudu then went on to add that if
the result of ongoing joint Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL)
and National Police (PNTL) operations results in the death of
the leader of the remnants of Reinado's group, Gastao Salsinha,
the truth behind what really happened would never be revealed.
He and the local Church have received clear indications that
Salsinha wants to surrender, and Dudu added that they would all
stand with Salsinha on the day he decides to turn himself in.

5. (SBU) Dudu underscored that his and the local population's
support of both the Reinado group and the military petitioners,
of which Salsinha was the original spokesman, arise from
grievances that date back to the origins of F-FDTL in 2000-2001
following the departure of the Indonesian occupiers. During
that timeframe, what remained of the FALINTIL guerilla force
that was scattered about four distinct military regions (Dudu
was the Region 4 Commander), was brought together in cantonment
near Aileu, just to the east of Ermera District and 45
kilometers south of Dili. According to Dudu, rivalries began
almost immediately between him and then Region 1 Commander, Lere
Anan Timur (the current F-FDTL Chief of Staff) and then Region 2
Commander, Falur Rate Laek (the current F-FDTL Training Base
Commander), both considered to be prominent symbols of the
eastern (Lorosa'e) population. He added that both Lere and
Falur were critical of the fighters from the western (Loro'monu)
population as they were perceived not have resisted the
Indonesians as the easterners did. This rivalry carried on into
the formation of F-FDTL, which Dudu decided not to join in order

DILI 00000066 002.2 OF 002

to live a normal life after so many years in the bush.

6. (SBU) Fast forward to 2006, when President Xanana Gusmao's
now famous (or infamous) March 23 speech managed to drive an
even deeper wedge between the Lorosa'e and Loro'monu
populations. F-FDTL was on the verge of collapse following the
desertion of almost 40% of its ranks, nearly all of whom were
from Loro'monu districts. Dudu asserts the power struggle
between Gusmao and then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri caused the
breakdown in the F-FDTL and both are guilty of using the
Lorosa'e - Loro'monu issue for personal advantage. Their
struggle gave rise to the military petitioners and later to
Reinado. On the eve of 2/11, virtually none of the grievances
which arose from the Aileu cantonment, and later enflamed the
2006 crisis, had been resolved.

7. (SBU) Moving to the present, with Reinado dead, Salsinha on
the run and possibly on the verge of surrender, and the military
petitioners engaging in dialogue with the government, Dudu
affirms that there is now a golden opportunity to arrive at a
solution. He states, however, that solution depends on F-FDTL
Commander Taur Matan Ruak (TMR) doing an about face from his
oft-stated, and seemingly intractable position opposing the
return of the petitioners to the military. If TMR would
compromise, and gain the support of Lere and Falur, Dudu
believes Timor would begin to heal the Lorosa'e and Loro'monu
conflict that began in the troubled birth of F-FDTL. Without
complete buy-in from the F-FDTL leadership, said Dudu, any offer
made by the Government to the petitioners will fail and the
Lorosa'e - Loro'monu conflict will continue.

8. (SBU) Lastly, Dudu expressed concern regarding possible
F-FDTL operations in pursuit of the 2/11 attackers in Ermera
District. As long as the soldiers conducted themselves well and
did nothing to upset the local inhabitants, then such operations
could occur without incident. He expressed some confidence in
the abilities of the commander of the ongoing field operations,
Major Ular Rihik, and it should be noted that Ular was Dudu's
deputy during the Indonesian occupation and knows Ermera and its
people well (Ular is from the Lorosa'e district of Viqueque).
However, Father Barreto said in strong terms that if F-FDTL
soldiers found themselves in a fight with Salsinha and his men,
the people of Ermera would unequivocally stand by the latter as
they were their sons and symbols of a struggle which involved
all of them.

10. (SBU) Comment: F-FDTL can be described as being more a
council of tribal chiefs rather than a defense force with normal
traits such as adherence to a chain of command. During the
resistance, the senior leaders of the modern-day F-FDTL were in
many ways equal to one another, and occasionally in opposition
to each other's interests. This bred intense rivalries, and it
has been said that the reason TMR was "allowed" to become the
F-FDTL Commander is because there was a consensus among the
other ex-FALINTIL leaders that he alone had the ability to
conduct himself in a sufficiently civil way, commensurate with
what is expected of a defense force chief. Additionally, it
should be noted that in FALINTIL, assassinations of key leaders
did happen, and severe extrajudicial punishments to include
killings were sometimes deemed an important component to the
force's discipline and survival during the long, 24 year
struggle against the Indonesian occupation. End comment.KLEMM

© Scoop Media

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