Alfredo Reinado's widow misses her rebel
Paige Taylor | October 03, 2009
MARIA Reinado struggles daily with her memories of a husband and father who was unfaithful and never met their fourth child because he "loved his country too much".
"Sometimes I hate him so much," Ms Reinado said through tears at her rented unit in Perth this week.
But in her first interview, the widow of East Timor's police commander-turned-rebel chief Alfredo Reinado told The Weekend Australian she still loved and missed the tormented man who rejected overtures of peace and died in a hail of bullets.
The 41-year-old was killed on February 11 last year at the home of Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta, ending a headline-grabbing 10 months on the run.
Mr Ramos Horta was almost killed in the gunfight, and documents obtained by The Australian in July showed the Australian Federal Police believed political figures could have lured Reinado to the President's compound to be assassinated, saying it might have been a "successful trap to finally silence Reinado".
His death was something Ms Reinado had been fearing and preparing for since May 2006 when, pregnant with their daughter Tiffany, she fled from the violence with their three children to make a home in Perth.
But Ms Reinado still cannot quite believe that the boyish man who courted her at her 15th birthday party in her mother's loungeroom in Dili is the same angry soldier who led 600 other rebels away from the main ranks of the East Timorese army in March 2006.
"He could be a rebel for all those people, but he's my husband -- you know, he's a man, he's a wonderful father," Ms Reinado said.
She said Reinado was a calm young man who always seemed to know what to do.
But their 14-year marriage was controversial and estranged Ms Reinado from her stepfather and by default from her mother -- her family was from the neighbouring Indonesian island of Flores, and her stepfather had wanted her to marry an academic from Java.
And Reinado, the proud advocate of his people, was chastised for taking an Indonesian bride.
"When they knew I am an Indonesian, they even told Alfredo, they said: 'Oh, don't you feel ashamed, we kicked the Indonesians out from East Timor and look at you -- you are married to one'," she said.
"It was so hurtful."
Ms Reinado said she did not believe her husband carried a hatred of Indonesia, but he was traumatised to the end by what the Indonesian army did to him after capturing him as a child and making him work as a porter.
She said he was later "adopted" by an Indonesian family whose abuse included tethering him to a table.
"He told me about that -- every time he talks to me about that he's in tears, but he's trying not to show his tears to me," Ms Reinado said.
"And I said, 'You know, it's OK if you want to talk, you can talk', and he was just like 'It's hurting me'.
"I say, 'You have to let it out sometimes', so we hug and sometimes he talks about his past, about how bad that was when the Indonesians mistreated him. Even his adopted family sometimes hit him and tied him under the table."
Ms Reinado said she believed the treatment had affected Reinado deeply, and shaped the man he became.
"It was so bad -- sometimes he got angry because of what they did to him, and sometimes he realised that because of all those things he's been through, it makes him what he is now, he's become stronger."
Ms Reinado and the four children -- Billy, 15, Donovan, 12, Tiffany, 5, and Felicity, 2, whom Reinado never met because he was by then in hiding in the hills above Dili -- were granted visas to live in Australia after Reinado's death.
Ms Reinado said money was tight but life was good in Perth. The children attended Catholic school and they were comfortable in their two-bedroom unit in Perth's northeast.
She regretted not having friends in the Timorese community, particularly given that she and Reinado had lived briefly in Perth in the 1990s when Billy was little.
"As soon as Alfredo was involved in these political things, everyone was scared," she said.
In the months before Reinado's death, the couple were in regular mobile phone contact but argued about what Ms Reinado suspected were his infidelities.
She said she never trusted the woman later revealed to be his lover, Angelita Pires.
"She's saying Alfredo was going to leave me and all these things ... I think she's a snake," she said. "She spoke with me twice, if I'm not mistaken, by saying 'Mrs Reinado, I'm Alfredo's lawyer' and I say 'How's my husband?', she say 'Oh, he's doing fine, don't you worry, I'll look after him'."
Ms Reinado said that three days before Reinado was killed, he had sought to assure her about his rumoured lovers by telling her: "You know, I don't really like them."
Ms Reinado said it was an important conversation, and he seemed happy when she told him she still loved him.
"In a way, sometimes I think it is meant to be that he died, so he can rest in peace," she said.
"No more hiding, no more sleeping in the bush."