Viewing cable 06DILI203

06DILI2032006-05-03 11:06:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 SECRET Embassy Dili
DE RUEHDT #0203/01 1231106
P 031106Z MAY 06
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 DILI 000203 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  5/3/2016 
REF: A) DILI 194 B) DILI 135 
DILI 00000203  001.2 OF 004 
CLASSIFIED BY: Grover Joseph Rees, Ambassador, Embassy Dili, 
REASON: 1.4 (b) 
¶1. (C) Summary: EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric John, along 
with Ambassador Rees and Emboffs, met with President Xanana 
Gusmao May 2 to discuss U.S. priorities and concerns in East 
Timor.  The major focus of the discussion was the riots on 
Friday, April 28 and the subsequent intervention of the armed 
forces (F-FDTL) to quell the violence.  DAS John expressed the 
great importance the U.S. places on the development of stable 
democracy in East Timor.  He emphasized the connection between 
encouraging respect for law and order and addressing 
accountability for the serious crimes committed in Timor in 
¶1999.  President Gusmao expressed great concern regarding Prime 
Minister Mari Alkatiri's decision to call in the F-FDTL to quell 
the disturbances, the actions of F-FDTL during these operations, 
and the potential long-term implications.  He also reiterated 
his overarching criticism of the Government's handling of the 
original complaints of the ex-soldiers whose demonstrations last 
week led up to the riot.  The President appeared extremely sad, 
apparently in large part because of his disappointment in his 
former comrades-in-arms who now make up F-FDTL.  On the issue of 
accountability for the crimes against humanity committed in East 
Timor in 1999, the President again highlighted the need for good 
relations with Indonesia and expressed his understanding for the 
fragile political environment in Jakarta.   He assured DAS John 
that he is watching the work of the bilateral Truth and 
Friendship Commission closely and will not accept an outcome 
that does not lead to a genuine disclosure of the truth. The 
President did not object to reinstatement of the investigative 
component of the UN Serious Crimes Unit to complete the 
unfinished investigations into 1999 atrocities.  End summary. 
¶2. (C) During a May 2 meeting with DAS John and Ambassador Rees, 
President Gusmao talked at some length regarding his 
disappointment with recent developments and how they have been 
handled.  He stated that he "never expected" the violent turn of 
events, and that it demonstrates that Government and military 
leaders were either unwilling or unable to solve the problems 
when they were small and then took the wrong approach when they 
became large.  He said that "we didn't take care of our people, 
we didn't listen to their voices, we just added to the 
problems."  He expressed particular surprise and disappointment 
at the attitude of F-FDTL leadership, citing statements on the 
part of some military leaders to the effect that the dismissed 
soldiers were their "enemies".  When asked about the accord that 
had seemed on the verge of being finalized when the riots broke 
out, see Ref A, President Gusmao acknowledged that the situation 
had appeared near resolution at that point, but that this 
progress had come too late.  Reporting on his meeting on Friday, 
April 28 --- a couple of hours before the riot broke out --- 
with Lieutenant Salsinha, the leader of the petitioners, he said 
Salsinha had been ready to move forward with the accord but had 
told the President he could no longer control the "youths" 
(i.e., non-petitioners) who had joined the demonstrations and 
were increasingly agitating for greater confrontation. 
¶3. (S) President Gusmao was extremely critical of the decision 
to call in the F-FDTL on Friday afternoon.  His described his 
discussion with Prime Minister Alkatiri, which directly preceded 
the meeting with DAS John.  He reported that Alkatiri had said 
Minister of Interior Rogerio Lobato, who exercises ultimate 
control over the PNTL, did not take the necessary actions to 
keep order.  Moreover, the President (please strictly protect) 
said Alkatiri believes that Lobato may have allowed the 
situation to get out of control on purpose, and perhaps that 
Lobato may even have instigated the riot in order to create 
chaos that would justify an authoritarian response.  In the 
President's view, Alkatiri is using Lobato and PNTL Commissioner 
Paulo Martins as scapegoats to justify his decision to call on 
the F-FDTL, noting that the relationship between Alkatiri and 
Lobato is now extremely negative, although he did not specify 
whether the Alkatiri-Lobato split preceded or was caused by 
Friday's events.  Moreover, he believes this is part of a trend 
toward the army being more closely identified with the ruling 
Fretilin party.  (Comment:  It is interesting that the President 
focused all his criticism regarding the handling of the riots on 
the Prime Minister and his decision to call in the F-FDTL, and 
DILI 00000203  002.2 OF 004 
had no direct criticism of police handling of the rioting or of 
Lobato's role in the events.  Many Timorese and international 
observers, even if they disapprove of the decision to call in 
the army, agree with the Prime Minister's view that the PNTL 
were at best inept in their response and at worst purposefully 
negligent of their duties.  End Comment.) 
¶4. (C) Gusmao's main concern regarding accountability for the 
weekend's events is focused on the F-FDTL and the need to fully 
investigate their actions in the areas they controlled Friday 
evening through much of Saturday.  Regarding the rumors of 60 
unreported deaths at the hands of soldiers in the Tasitolu area 
of Dili, the President noted that these cannot simply be 
dismissed.  He expressed his fear that the rumors might be true 
and that the soldiers who took over security operations may have 
been motivated by revenge.  He emphasized the importance of a 
thorough accounting for army actions, noting that the F-FDTL 
would lose all credibility if it is seen as perpetrating a cover 
¶5. (C) In discussing the situation as of yesterday, President 
Gusmao stated that he does not think there will be further 
violence in the coming days.  However, the key challenge, he 
noted, will be to quiet the many rumors circulating in Dili 
about potential attacks or clashes.  Regarding the petitioners, 
many of whose locations are still unknown, he expressed 
satisfaction that Alkatiri has publicly recognized that the 
petitioners were not the main culprits in the rioting and that 
most had not taken part.  He also reported that Alkatiri had 
promised him that petitioners are not to be arrested, but rather 
sent back to their homes so that they can participate in 
interviews with the commission being formed to investigate their 
complaints.  The President added that the Prime Minister had 
asked him to give a speech on television later that afternoon to 
try to calm the situation and encourage people to return to 
their homes, and that he had agreed to do so.  (Comment: The 
speech, delivered yesterday evening and rebroadcast today, was 
short and does not seem to have instilled much more confidence. 
The President appeared to be tired and sad and rather than being 
directly reassuring made statements to the effect of "the Prime 
Minister tells me that the situation is calm."  End comment.) 
¶6. (SBU) The President also said that he would try to call 
Lieutenant Salsinha, the leader of the petitioners, to enlist 
his help to calm the situation. We have no further information 
today on whether he was able to have this conversation.  (Note: 
in interviews with media outlets in the last few days, Salsinha 
was more confrontational than in previous statements.  He said 
he only trusted the President, not the Government or the F-FDTL, 
because "they have lied and they have killed."  Salsinha said he 
believed the rumors that FDTL had killed an additional 60 people 
in Tasitolu and hidden the bodies.  End note.) 
¶7. (SBU) DAS John shifted the conversation away from recent 
events to accountability by asserting that the issue remains one 
of the US Government's top priorities in our bilateral relations 
with both Indonesia and East Timor.  He cited the reformist 
efforts of Indonesia's current Government, especially in regard 
to corruption, as the grounds for reestablishing military to 
military relations with Indonesia.  DAS John stated that true 
reform in Indonesia requires the TNI be held accountable for its 
action in East Timor, but made clear that accountability does 
not necessarily require punishment.  Rather, a measure of 
accountability can be achieved by revealing the whole truth 
about the 1999 crimes, including the names of the perpetrators. 
He stated that the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC) is the 
best vehicle to achieve this, and it should include 
international participation.  DAS John added that its term 
should be extended for an additional year.  (Note: The TFC's 
original mandate of one year will expire in August.) 
¶8. (C) President Gusmao provided his assessment of the political 
environment within which the bilateral Truth and Friendship 
Commission (TFC) is operating.  Describing Indonesian President 
Yudhoyono as a "good friend", Gusmao expressed his appreciation 
for the significant transformation taking place in Indonesian 
politics and also noted that the crimes committed in East Timor 
by Indonesians were the acts of a previous regime.  The 
President stated that pushing Indonesia too far in seeking 
punishment of those involved in the 1999 atrocities could be 
DILI 00000203  003.2 OF 004 
detrimental to bilateral relations.  He did note a positive 
progression in President Yuhoyono's thinking on the issue of 
accountability.  When the TFC was first proposed in early 2005, 
President Gusmao said it was clear that the Commission was 
largely intended by the Indonesian side to be a quick exercise 
aimed at improving Indonesia's image with the international 
community.  Since that time, the Indonesian President has become 
more committed to the bilateral project and agrees with 
President Gusmao that an assessment of the current process and a 
one-year extension of the TFC's mandate should be approved by 
both governments.  While admittedly sympathetic to the 
challenges President Yudhoyono faces, President Gusmao stated 
that East Timor will not continue participating in the TFC if 
the Commission's work is diverted from genuine truth-seeking 
¶9. (C) Referring to a bilateral summit between the two 
Presidents that took place in January, President Gusmao 
mentioned a discussion with then-TNI Chief of Staff Sutarto in 
which the General stated that he recognizes the TNI's actions in 
East Timor were wrong, but reminded the President that the TNI 
was then operating under the Soeharto-era doctrine of 
maintaining national integrity at any cost.  The General 
continued by stating that the TNI needs to develop a new 
doctrine in line with the current needs of the country, but has 
not yet done so.   President Gusmao reported that he informed 
Sutarto that the "TNI needs to say these lessons [learned in 
East Timor] were bad." Gusmao later asserted that the entire 
government of Indonesia must recognize what took place in East 
¶10. (S) The President played down the importance of the TFC's 
ability to recommend amnesty by stating that outsiders need to 
understand the entire TFC process in context rather than 
focusing on any one aspect.  Gusmao said it had been necessary 
to include the possibility of recommending amnesty in order to 
secure Indonesia's commitment to the Commission.  He noted, 
however, that the Timorese parliament would have to approve any 
such recommendation for amnesty, a step that is highly unlikely 
given the fact that an amnesty bill for minor crimes was 
rejected in 2002.  President Gusmao said he recently expressed 
this view to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise 
Arbor, in hopes of securing some form of UN assistance for the 
TFC.  The President posed no objection to DAS John's suggestion 
that the investigative component of the Serious Crimes Unit 
(SCU) should be revived in order to complete unfinished 
investigations into the murders and other grave crimes committed 
into 1999, in part so that the TFC would have a complete 
evidentiary record from which to draw its conclusions. 
¶11. (C) President Gusmao concluded the portion of the meeting on 
accountability by stating that the recent events in Dili have 
highlighted the necessity that the Timorese people must also 
learn from the various accountability processes that the lessons 
learned during the 24 year occupation were wrong and cannot not 
be repeated among Timorese.  The recent CAVR report revealed a 
significant amount of Timorese-on-Timorese violent acts 
committed during the Indonesian era.  In order for democracy to 
mature in East Timor, President Gusmao stated that such internal 
violence must be prevented. 
¶12. (S) Comment:  During the meeting President Gusmao appeared 
to be doing his best to be his usual self: calm, thoughtful, and 
candid, with a tendency to find the humorous or ironic side of 
serious matters.  Yet his mood throughout the discussion was one 
of deep sadness. Once or twice during the meeting he paused to 
wipe away tears.  At one point, having discussed what he 
regarded as the misbehavior of F-FDTL and his own failure to 
convince them to take a forgiving attitude toward their 
ex-colleagues who had led the demonstration, he said slowly and 
quietly, "I have lost my guerrillas." 
¶12. (S) Comment continued:  What remains of F-FDTL is indeed now 
far more closely aligned with the Prime Minister, who backed up 
the military leadership's decision to dismiss the 595 
petitioners, than with the President, who opposed the decision. 
It would be a serious mistake, however, to conclude that the 
President has now lost his authority within Timorese society. 
This authority was never based on the probability that men with 
guns would follow his orders.  Rather, his immense popularity 
DILI 00000203  004.2 OF 004 
and moral authority is based on his personal qualities and on 
his long history as the undisputed leader of the independence 
movement.  Recent events have almost certainly solidified the 
President's standing with the people of East Timor and further 
weakened the popularity of the Alkatiri government.  It is worth 
noting that Prime Minister Alkatiri --- an effective public 
speaker with a healthy self-regard who in his own way is doing 
his best to stabilize the situation --- asked President Gusmao 
to give an address to calm the nation rather than giving the 
address himself.  End comment. 
¶13.  (U) DAS John has cleared this message.