Subject: AFP: Officials, analysts see provocateurs behind E. Timor violence

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse December 8, 2002

Officials, analysts see provocateurs behind East Timor violence


East Timor, still grappling with chronic unemployment and poverty six months after independence fuelled unrealistically high hopes, was according to one analyst "a dry field into which someone threw a match."

United Nations and government officials are investigating who threw the match which sparked off a day of rioting, arson and looting last Wednesday.

The violence -- in which two people died and 25 were injured -- was the worst since Indonesian troops and their militia proxies withdrew in 1999, trashing much of the country as they left. It caught UN peacekeepers and local police off guard.

"We all become complacent," said Colin Stewart, a former head of political affairs with the previous UN administration.

"There had been nothing like this in three years although there were many peaceful demonstrations. Nobody was expecting this."

Stewart said that while the police and military were not geared up to cope, "1,500 very agitated people would have been a major challenge to any police force."

Government and UN officials and some analysts agree the violence was far more than a simple student protest against police which got out of control.

UN special representative Kamalesh Sharma said Friday it "appeared to be part of a planned attack against selected targets throughout Dili."

Internal Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato has blamed people linked to a group called CDP-RDTL and called the violence a plot to overthrow the government.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said former pro-Jakarta militias were involved although he did not suggest they were acting under Indonesia's orders.

CDP-RDTL (whose initials in Portuguese stand for the Popular Defence Committee - Democratic Republic of East Timor) is a fringe group made up of disaffected former members of Fretilin, which spearheaded the fight for independence against Indonesia and is now the ruling party.

The group believes that only the original independence declaration made on November 28, 1975 -- nine days before Indonesia invaded -- is valid and that all subsequent political developments are unconstitutional.

"There is circumstantial evidence they played a role but I'm not confident to say you can blame it all on them," said one analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said no one could claim to know exactly what the violence was all about.

"But it had very little to do with the students. They were the spark and other people with other agendas got on the bandwagon."

The analyst said some political figures had been very vocal in criticising the newly created police force, especially over recruitment.

Many former guerrillas from the independence war have been turned down for the force at a time when a government job -- or any job -- is highly sought after.

"People for their own self-interest are trying to gain political positions. One local leader who is trying to replace the chief of police was seen to be involved in these events," the analyst said.

High unemployment, approaching 80 percent for young people, and continuing poverty was a contributing factor.

But the analyst said there were "clearly provocateurs in the crowd directing them to certain places like (Prime Minister) Mari Alkatiri's house," which was set ablaze.

He and other residents said most East Timorese appeared ashamed of the violence.

"This was a minority that for short-sighted or selfish reasons did a lot of damage to the country," the analyst said.

Investors might pull out, donors would be discouraged, many foreigners would be less eager to come in and the democratic government had been shaken, he said.

"In the eyes of the world everyone had high hopes for this country. This is a pretty big bump on the road."

Another long-term observer said a climate of uncertainty contributed to the unrest. He said the resignation last month of Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, "a massively respected figure, created a great sense of insecurity."

"I don't know if it was disaffected students or someone behind them," the observer said. "There seems to be a lot of conflict between sections of youth and the police."

Another "very sore point" was the recruitment of the new police force, with some former policemen during Indonesian rule getting priority over former guerrillas.

"I think there would have been a lot of factors involved," said Australian NGO worker John Rouw.

"It is a lot about disaffected youth, unemployment, dissatisfaction with a lack of jobs after independence -- excessive expectations that have not been met."

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