Subject: Portuguese Press on disorder

Portuguese Press Coverage of Timor Leste

9 Dec 2002

Correio da Manhã (circ. 136,668), Diário de Notícias (circ. 81,161) and Público (circ. 76,310) carry stories on Timor-Leste saying «Dili riots may have been planned.» According to UNMISET Chief Sharma Kamalesh’s communiqué, «the deadly riots in Dili appear to have been a planned attack against selected targets.»

East Timorese Foreign Affairs Minister, Ramos Horta, said that former integrationist militiamen fell under suspicion, adding that «They came from Indonesia and the attack against Alkatiri’s home had to be carefully planned a few days before.» In the meantime, Portuguese Deputy Prime Minister, José Luis Arnaut, guaranteed that he had received no complaints from the UN mission in Timor Leste on the actions of Portuguese peacekeepers in simultaneously helping to quell riots in Dili while protecting Portuguese nationals and installations.

Expresso (circ. 161,000) has a front-page lead and a one-page story on Timor-Leste saying «War between PSP and GNR allowed riot.» According to this weekly, both Portuguese police forces want to enlarge their role in Timor Leste. GNR, which is a military police, was highly praised by UNTAET during the transition period but now some voices are starting to oppose its presence there. PSP, a civil police, denied a clash between the two forces but reminded that «several UN resolutions indicate the Organization’s preference for civil police in peacekeeping missions. And GNR is military.»

Expresso also carries a story headlined «Reshuffle in Timor.» This weekly says «There is a growing number of high figures thinking that there is need to substitute the Internal Affairs Minister and the Minister of Justice, as well as Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri. Ramos Horta is seen as the natural successor, a solution that seems to please the Portuguese Government.

Diário de Notícias and Público have boxed interviews with UNHCHR, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, who took the opportunity to say that «GNR should return to Timor-Leste.» According to him, «a peaceful students’ demonstration was used by professional agitators to set off violence. (…) It is important to do a thorough evaluation and an inquiry about what happened, including the action of the new Timorese police, but maybe we have to rethink its training, emphasizing the human rights component and the need for restraint even in extreme situations like this one. (…) You do not form an anti-riot police in a few weeks. There were mistakes, we have to evaluate the possibility of bringing them back to the Police Academy to give them the adequate training.» These dailies also carry stories saying «Ten persons were arrested in Dili on charges of being members of the group responsible for Wednesday’s riots. But no one knows what really happened.»

As expected, the dailies also mention the donors’ conference opening. According to these dailies, a two-day donors’ conference got underway in the East Timorese capital with heavy security, following deadly rioting in Dili last week. The conference, involving some 250 delegates from donor nations and institutions, including the World Bank, opened with appeals from Timorese leaders for continued international understanding and support for the fledgling nation. The meeting is primarily aimed at assessing progress made during the first six months of independence.

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