Subject: LUSA: Protesting soldiers dismiss Govt's inquiry initiative

27-04-2006 11:42:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-7940661 Temas:

East Timor: Protesting soldiers dismiss Govt's inquiry initiative

Dili, April 27 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, pressured by demonstrations by disgruntled troops, announced the creation Thursday of a top-level commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of regional discrimination that have divided East Timor's tiny army for months.

Although negotiated with the army dissidents, the government's move appeared, however, to have failed to demobilize hundreds of demonstrators, including many sacked soldiers, who have camped out in protest in Dili since Monday.

The protest leader, Lt. Gastão Salsinha, reacting to Alkatiri's inquiry initiative, said the demonstrations would continue beyond the original Friday cut-off date.

The goal of the demonstrations, which have involved as many as 2,000 people, was "not for the creation of a commission, but to get answers to demands", Lt. Salsinha told journalists after Alkatiri's announcement.

Given the demonstrators' hard-line reaction, it was not immediately clear if a previously agreed meeting would take place later Thursday between Salsinha and President Xanana Gusmão, Alkatiri and Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta.

The meeting was set to formalize agreement on creation of the commission of inquiry and on the government's commitment to pay salaries through June to nearly 600 soldiers dismissed from the army two months ago over earlier protests.

The prime minister, flanked by Gusmão, announced the creation of the commission at the presidential palace, saying the body would include representatives of the presidency, the government, parliament and the high court.

The influential Catholic Church and civil society organizations would also participate in the commission with "consultative members", Alkatiri said.

The crisis broke out in early February with demonstrations by mostly "loromonu" soldiers from western parts of the country denouncing what they claimed was systematic regional discrimination within the 1,600-strong Defense Force.

Alkatiri's announcement followed intense negotiations Tuesday with the army dissidents that were brokered by the foreign minister.



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