A report that East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao paid the hotel bill for escaped rebel Major Alfredo Reinado is consistent with Gusmao’s attempts to rein in the conflict the had threatened civil war in East Timor earlier this year.

Gusmao paid the hotel bill as part of his request to Reinado that Reinado stay in one location, to ensure there was no further conflict. In the circumstances of that time, that arrangement was key to limiting the then escalating conflict between factions in the military and police.

The inference that Gusmao supported or otherwise had links with Reinado remain unsubstantiated and inconsistent with Gusmao’s public position on the conflict at that time. Such allegations, though, continue to be beaten up by misguided activists and journalists who appear to believe that support for East Timor means support for Fretilin means support for Alkatiri. This logic, though, does not follow.

Similarly, the inference that there was a link between the leader of the Democratic Party, Fernando de Araujo, and former pro-Indonesia militia leaders also remains unsubstantiated, and strongly denied by de Araujo, who spent eight years in Indonesian jails for his leading role in opposing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

It appears that, as with allegations against Gusmao, Alkatiri supporters are having difficulty with coming to terms with the fact that he was genuinely, widely and increasingly unpopular, even in his own party, Fretilin, made a number of poor decisions, and was ultimately encouraged to resign from office on that basis.

It is a pity that journalists who have otherwise reported honestly and fearlessly in the past have so transparently allowed their personal preferences and prejudices to color their reporting on East Timor’s recent troubles, confirming the old adage that one should never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW