Subject: UNWire: Annan Appeals For Calm Following Riots
Dec. 5, 2002
EAST TIMOR: Annan Appeals For Calm Following Riots; Up To Five Dead close window
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has joined others in appealing for calm in East Timor, where unrest involving student protesters has left at least two and as many as five dead, after disturbances intensified yesterday, requiring U.N. peacekeepers to be mobilized to restore order in the capital, Dili (U.N. release, Dec. 4).
The Security Council endorsed Annan's call yesterday, expressing its support for the government and the U.N. Mission of Support in East Timor's efforts to restore law and order to the country (U.N. release, Dec. 4).
The violence broke out yesterday when around 500 students took to the streets to protest the arrest of a student Tuesday. The violence flared further after police allegedly shot one of the student protesters, sending the protesters on a rampage across the city.
Reuters reports that a tense calm has returned to Dili, albeit under the heavy guard of U.N. peacekeepers and Timorese police forces (Reuters/MSNBC.com, Dec. 5). According to LUSA Agencia de Noticias, the city is practically deserted, with most shops and cafes closed (Dec. 5, UN Wire translation). Last night, streets were reportedly empty, except for security forces on patrol to protect embassies and shops (Reuters/MSNBC.com).
Timorese television is continuing to send messages from Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao appealing for calm (LUSA). Alkatiri's house was among several buildings burned down yesterday (UN Wire, Dec. 4).
Following a reportedly tense discussion, the leadership of Fretilin, the country's dominant and ruling political party, called for calm and asked people to refrain from showing any signs of force on the street, despite calls from some Fretilin members for a demonstration (LUSA II, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation). Despite such calls, many Dili residents, including some government officials who asked not to be named, feared more disturbances today, and UNMISET and local authorities were reportedly asking everyone to remain in their houses until late morning to allow local authorities to clean up and prepare for any further disturbances (LUSA III, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation).
Only one incident had been reported by the middle of the day today, according to LUSA, which reported that police fired warning shots to disperse a small group of people.
Alkatiri Promises Swift Investigation Into Disturbances
Speaking at a news conference today, Alkatiri said that two youths were killed and four were seriously wounded in yesterday's clashes. Approximately 80 rioters were detained, Alkatiri said, adding that an independent commission has been set up to report on the violence within 72 hours (LUSA IV, Dec. 5). Judicial authorities, parliamentarians, Inspector General Mariano Lopes da Cruz and representatives of the nongovernmental organization Yayasan Hak will form the commission, Alkatiri said (LUSA V, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation).
The government wants to find out who is responsible for the violence and try them "immediately," Alkatiri added, saying it does not matter whether they are found to be "civilians, police or soldiers." Alkatiri also said that the government has requested that Australia send a forensic team to determine whether the dead protesters were shot by police, noting that there are "suspicions" that unknown agitators "used arms" to spark the violence (LUSA IV, Dec. 5).
Government Official Points Blame At United Nations
While it is unclear who is behind the violence, a senior government official has blamed the United Nations for failing to do enough to prevent yesterday's events. "The government doesn't have the power to mobilize the peacekeeping force ... the international police, because it is the United Nations that has the responsibility for the security and to command the peacekeeping force and the police," said Jose Guterres, Alkatiri's chief of staff (Australian Broadcasting Corp., Dec. 5).
Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz also leveled criticism at the United Nations today, blaming "bureaucracy" for delaying the visit of a unit that was to train Timorese police in anti-riot actions (LUSA VI, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation).
Nobel Laureate Says Riots Show Dissatisfaction Of Populace
According to Roman Catholic Bishop and independence activist Carlos Ximenes Belo, who recently announced his retirement, the latest violence in East Timor is the result of the dissatisfaction of people "who have taken advantage of the situation ... to show their anger for the lack of norms, regulations in social life, politics and economics." Belo also said he is sure groups with an interest in undermining certain government figures are behind the events (LUSA VII, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation).
The Jornal de Noticias says in a commentary today that the latest incidents in Dili are only the most recent in a series of violent disturbances across the country and show the need for firm measures to establish law and order, the proper functioning of the courts and the recruitment of security officials. "Insecurity is rising among a population that lived ... extreme acts of violence," the Portuguese daily says, adding that there are "not enough policemen or courts to protect public order and establish the order of the state across the whole of its territory."
"The revival of Timorese society is going to take time," the newspaper says (Jornal de Noticias, Dec. 5, UN Wire translation).
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