Subject: LUSA: Shooting inflames Timor protesters

Also: Calm largely restored after mob ransacks Baucau police headquarters

The Age November 27, 2002

Shooting inflames Timor protesters

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

East Timorese security forces are preparing for a confrontation with anti-government demonstrators tomorrow, the 27th anniversary of the country's first declaration of independence.

Supporters of a radical nationalist movement, known by the acronym CPD-RDTL, are threatening to descend on the capital, inflamed by the police shooting on Monday of a demonstrator in Baucau, in the east of the country.

"We are concerned about people coming from outside", a senior UN source said. "Checkpoints have been set up outside Baucau. There is a potential for the shooting victim to become a martyr."

Calisto Soares, 25, was shot in the head by an East Timorese policeman and is critically ill in the military hospital in Dili. "If he dies it will be a family issue for us", his brother Ilidio Gusmao said. "But it will also be a national issue."

East Timor's 1975 independence proclamation was made 10 days before Indonesian troops landed in Dili, and this will be the first celebration since the country's UN-supervised independence on May 20 this year.

It has become a focus for discontent with the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri who said he would not tolerate disruptions.

Mr Alkatiri said that in attacking the Baucau police station armed with machetes, demonstrators protesting about police recruitment policies had "triggered the crisis".

The dissidents are mainly unemployed former guerrillas. Their leader is Antonio Aitahan Matak, 42, a tiny, dynamic man who has been marked by a period of imprisonment in Indonesian West Timor for his part in a 1983 uprising,

He considers that in favouring former exiles to form the new government, the UN ignored those who suffered during the Indonesian occupation.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is due in Dili today for Timor Sea talks.

25-11-2002 17:36:00. Notícia nº 4378838…

East Timor: Calm largely restored after mob ransacks Baucau police headquarters

Baucau, East Timor, Nov. 25 (Lusa) - A mob, including some former guerrilla fighters, ransacked police headquarters and damaged several vehicles in East Timor's second city, Baucau, Monday morning, before being routed by reinforced Timorese and UN police.

Unconfirmed reports said one person had been killed and several wounded in an exchange of gunfire.

In Dili the government convened an urgent meeting.

It dispatched a medical team and security reinforcements, including a 60-strong unit of Portuguese UN peacekeepers, to Baucau, 200 kms east of the capital.

It is the third time Portuguese peacekeeping troops have been called to assist in dealing with civil disturbances in Timor in the last two weeks, the chief-of-staff of the armed forces said in Lisbon.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, in comments to Lusa, said the Baucau attack and other recent incidents pitting mobs against police could "only be organized actions by a group or groups with some coordination".

"I'm worried, but I continue to say that the situation can and will be controlled", Alkatiri added.

He acknowledged the unrest could be linked to recent comments by Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato.

Lobato went public recently in support of new criteria for recruitment to the police force, saying priority should be given to former nationalist guerrillas, rather than to officers who gained experience under Indonesian occupation, a criteria which had been used in part by the transition UN administration.

By early afternoon, police in Baucau said order had been "largely restored".

"There was significant material damage", one officer told Lusa.

"Many vehicles and the (police headquarters) building were struck by the fury of the attackers", estimated to number between 200 and 300, some armed with guns, others with knives and machetes.

Sources said a number of former anti-Indonesian Falintil guerrillas had been spotted in the mob.

Contacted by Lusa, Portuguese teacher Cristiana Casimiro said she and her 21 other Portuguese colleagues in Baucau were safe.

Casimiro said police, expecting trouble, had warned them Sunday to remain at home.

Shops and government offices closed when the rampage erupted during the morning.

Tensions had been high, observers said, since a policeman was wounded by a machete blow Nov. 15 when police forcibly dismantled an improvised road toll barrier set up by an unidentified group near Baucau.

On Sunday, the home of a suspected leader of that group was burned down in an apparent revenge attack.


Copyright © 2001 Agência Lusa Todos os direitos reservados

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