I had a very interesting couple of days last week. On Wednesday a friend from Darwin called me and told me to be on ‘standby’ for a job coming up over the next few days. I was to go up near Gleno on short notice and photograph, hopefully, the surrender of Gastao Salsinha and the rest of his men. At about 8.30pm on Thursday night a couple of PNTL cars pulled up outside my house and I got in one of the cars for quite a hair-raising drive through the night up into the hills. After a few heavily manned and heavily armed check-points we got to a house in Gleno at about midnight. Around the house were about 40 or so PNTL, a whole bunch of 4-wheel drive vehicles and a lot of weapons. Inside the house were the Prosecutor, an experienced negotiator and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. Oh yeah, and a recently surrendered ‘rebel’. We had a chat, drank the Scotch and all went to bed around 1am’ish.
At 4am it was up and at ‘em. Our large convoy set off into the hills and arrived at our destination around 6am. I’m not allowed to say where it was but it was absolutely stunning. The buildings were traditional Timorese, the views were breath-taking and the people in the tiny village were lovely. Remember, around 40 or so heavily armed men had just roared into their village early in the morning. The people there made coffee for all of us with freshly baked rolls.
Written messages were sent from the Prosecutor up to Salsinha and back again by runner, it was a very slow process. Around about 3pm we were told that the man would not surrender today. The Prosecutor got on his satellite ‘phone, called acting President ‘Lasama’ and told him that Parliament should not wait up as the main guest would not be arriving that day.
I traveled back to Dili with the Swiss negotiator and I must say he was very saddened by the day’s results or lack thereof. I agree with him. I feel now that the f-FDTL will be unleashed to hunt down Salsinha and the rest of his men. I have heard that there are up to 350 f-FDTL in the area and they were all issued with up to 300 rounds each two weeks ago in a ceremony in the stadium. I also noticed today our Timorese navy boat heading west past Dili. I remember in June 2006 this same boat opened fire on Alfredo Reinado and his men at Tibar. For those of you that remember this was the same vessel that Alfredo originally commanded! Oh the irony.
And I didn't get the picture.......
Our intrepid Navy heads west