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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07DILI182
2007-05-08 04:35:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Dili
Cable title:  

FRETILIN UNDER FIRE FOR CAMPAIGN IRREGULARITIES

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  TT 
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VZCZCXRO8253
PP RUEHPB
DE RUEHDT #0182/01 1280435
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 080435Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3504
INFO RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 2867
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0945
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0895
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1004
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0830
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0746
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0689
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0543
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DILI 000182 

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TOKYO FOR HANS KLEMM
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/7/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM TT
SUBJECT: FRETILIN UNDER FIRE FOR CAMPAIGN IRREGULARITIES

DILI 00000182 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth S. Wharton, Political/Economic Officer,
U.S. Embassy, Dili, East Timor, Department of Defense.

REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)



C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DILI 000182

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS
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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/7/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM TT
SUBJECT: FRETILIN UNDER FIRE FOR CAMPAIGN IRREGULARITIES

DILI 00000182 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth S. Wharton, Political/Economic Officer,
U.S. Embassy, Dili, East Timor, Department of Defense.

REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)




1. (C) Summary: East Timor's ruling Fretilin party has come
under increasing scrutiny in relation to allegations of illegal
campaign activities in advance of the May 9 presidential runoff.
While some are likely exaggerated for the purpose of campaign
rhetoric, others appear to be much more solidly grounded. Of
particular note is an April 28 incident in western district of
Ermera in which International Stabilization Force (ISF) members
discovered a cache of traditional weapons and bundles of cash
apparently prepared for payoffs in a vehicle enroute to a
campaign rally. More serious is the emergence in recent weeks
of increasingly substantiated instances of illicit and
politically motivated deliveries of government rice, for which
the Minister of Labor and others are reported to be under
current investigation. In addition, accusations of Fretilin
supporters engaging in a mix of attempted vote buying,
intimidation, and disinformation have become commonplace.
Accusations that Fretilin uses intimidation, money politics, and
state resources to secure political support have been
long-standing, but clear evidence of the kind we are now seeing
has been hard to obtain. That these are coming to light now may
be due to the large international security presence making it
harder to keep such activities below the radar screen. It could
also be an indication that Fretilin is increasingly cognizant of
its electoral vulnerability and beginning to take more desperate
measures in a bid to reverse the trend. However, it should also
be noted that opposition presidential candidate Prime Minister
Jose Ramos-Horta is playing a prominent role in raising these
issues and may be using his internal access to government
information to highlight issues that paint Fretilin in a bad
light. Post notes that despite such measures, Fretilin likely
will find it more difficult to undermine the legitimacy of the

elections. End summary.

Money intercepted

--------------


2. (C) Allegations of Fretilin misconduct have been a prominent
feature in recent media reports. The top issue in local news
last week was an incident in the western district of Ermera in
which the ISF apparently stumbled upon an influence-peddling
scheme. On the evening of April 28, ISF members operating a
vehicular checkpoint in Ermera district stopped a vehicle en
route to a Fretilin rally in Aifu. A large quantity of
traditional weapons and one possibly improvised firearm were
confiscated from the vehicle. Numerous rolls of money, totaling
approximately $5,000, with the names of several local area
village chiefs were discovered and seized as well. Upon
questioning, the driver freely admitted to ISF members that the
money was to be used to bribe the local chiefs. Moments later,
a known Fretilin militant leader named Antonio da Costa arrived
on the scene and asked to take possession of the money, claiming
that it was his and offering no further explanation. Shortly
thereafter Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento, who was in the
car directly preceding the vehicle in question, returned to the
checkpoint and stated to ISF that he was to take possession of
the money, and that it was to be used for "development projects"
in Ermera. (Note: It is our understanding that Sarmento has
been mostly absent from his post over the last month while he
campaigns for Fretilin presidential candidate Francisco "Lu'Olo"
Guterres.) The money is currently being held as evidence of
possible influence-peddling in relation to the May 9
presidential runoff election, and UN Police (UNPOL) has
submitted cases against Sarmento and Vice Interior Minister Jose
Agostino "Somoco" Sequeira to the Prosecutor General for
investigation.


3. (C) Fretilin Secretary General and ex-Prime Minister Mari
Alkatiri contacted ISF Commander Brigadier Mal Rerden several
times after the money seizure in an attempt to have it returned
to Fretilin, but Rerden refused to discuss matter with Alkatiri

DILI 00000182 002.2 OF 003


since the latter no longer holds an official role in the State.
Minister of State Administration Ana Pessoa, in a casual
conversation at a reception a few days later during which there
was no direct reference to the Ermera incident, remarked on the
need for the government to employ unusual means to ensure
decentralization of funds in light of the lack of nationwide
electronic funds transfer capability. However, public
statements by Fretilin later belied the initial claims by the
Minister of Justice directly and Ana Pessoa indirectly that the
money was for legitimate government distribution. Fretilin, in
response, has gone on a public relations offensive. In a highly
tense press conference on May 2, Fretilin members characterized
the money as legitimate campaign funds that were being
distributed to party representatives to fund legitimate local
campaign activities. In light of this, they declared that they
would bring defamation charges against both Prime Minister Jose
Ramos-Horta and the local newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae in
response to a press article the previous day.

Food for politics

--------------


4. (C) Perhaps more serious than the Ermera incident is the
increasing evidence that rice distribution is being used toward
political ends on a widespread basis. The most high profile
example of this was a large supply of rice which was delivered
to the leader of a Fretilin-affiliated martial arts group, and
then distributed in the western district Qbonaro. The story
of rice from the Ministry of Labor being delivered to the leader
of the Korka martial arts group, which has been formally
affiliated with Fretilin for several years, broke in the local
media on April 23. Minister of Labor Arsenio Bano was quoted as
explaining that the delivery was actually intended for the
community in the Balibo area of Bobonaro district. However,
most observers believe that he has not adequately explained why
such a distribution needed to be carried out by Korka rather
than through normal distribution means. Moreover, while it has
been confirmed that the rice did indeed go to Bobonaro district,
the pattern of irregular storage, transport and distribution
exhibited by the original transfer to Korka has reportedly
continued. Additionally, ISF officials are reporting that more
than four times the amount of rice that has been officially
documented for transport to Bobonaro district has actually been
shipped there by the Fretilin-dominated government. And there
have been numerous credible allegations that the distribution
has gone beyond the purely irregular and has in fact been
carried out explicitly to support Fretilin campaigning.


5. (C) The investigation into the Korka rice distribution
indicates a possibly more widespread practice of utilizing rice
distribution for votes, as well as illegal selling of rice for
profit. In addition to the Korka / Bobonaro case, there are a
number of other allegations surfacing regarding the political
use of rice deliveries, and it appears that the Korka case may
simply be the most prominent at the moment. For example, the
police chief in Viqueque, Gaspar Soares, who is overtly
pro-Fretilin and is under investigation for his alleged
involvement in an attack on Ramos-Horta supporters, is also
alleged to be involved in rice distribution to party supporters.
The use of government rice as a campaign tool has also been
reported in Dili, where one Embassy staff member confirmed these
activities in his own neighborhood, in which community members
were required to show their voter identification cards in order
to receive rice handouts.


6. (C) Overall, there appears now to be a network of rice
distribution that has been established without any involvement
of or consultation with the humanitarian community or the UN.
The UN and humanitarian organizations have expressed concern
about this development, noting that the rice being distributed
in Bobonaro was marked as humanitarian. Some in the World Food
Program and in other humanitarian relief organizations are
worried that the distribution could be thus linked to them, and
have expressed concerns that this may pose negative long-term
security implications for them in light of the potential
volatility of food security issues. The UN's Joint Mission
Analysis Center (JMAC) is currently carrying out an internal

DILI 00000182 003.2 OF 003


investigation regarding the scale and nature of this illicit
rice distribution. It is possible that UNPOL also may have
referred cases to the Prosecutor General, although this is not
yet confirmed.


7. (C) Comment: The Ermera and rice controversies are occurring
against a backdrop of multiplying reports of Fretilin supporters
engaging in a mix of attempted vote buying, intimidation, and
disinformation. Accusations that Fretilin uses intimidation,
money politics, and state resources to secure political support
have been long-standing, but clear evidence of the kind we are
now seeing is typically hard to come by. That these are coming
to light now at least in part may, be due to the large
international security presence making it harder to keep such
activities below the radar screen. It could also be an
indication that Fretilin is increasingly cognizant of its
electoral vulnerability and is beginning to take more desperate
measures in a bid to reverse the trend. It should also be noted
that opposition presidential candidate Prime Minister Jose
Ramos-Horta is playing a prominent role in raising these issues
and may be using his internal access to government information
to highlight issues that paint Fretilin in a bad light.
Certainly he has been one of the main voices bringing these
issues into public view. Nonetheless, the activities being
uncovered cannot be dismissed as pure campaign rhetoric. Post
notes that despite such measures, Fretilin is finding it more
difficult to undermine the legitimacy of the elections.
Although not perfect, the electoral systems in place and the
transparency of the process remain strong. Additionally, the
Timorese electorate has demonstrated a consistent ability to
vote its conscience regardless of pressures. End comment.
NAGY