|Subject: Quiet returns to East Timor's
capital after deadly riots by ex-soldiers
Quiet returns to East Timor's capital after deadly riots by ex-soldiers
DILI, East Timor_Calm returned to East Timor's capital Saturday after a day of rioting by ex-soldiers led to the death of four people and injured dozens more.
Hundreds of dismissed soldiers burned cars and shops in Dili Friday, the deadline of their threat to wage a guerrilla war if the government failed to resolve their dispute with the military leadership.
The soldiers were fired last month for going on strike to protest what they called unjust working conditions and have held near-daily rallies demanding that their grievances be heard.
Police fired tear gas after demonstrators started setting cars on fire, including one in front of the offices of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.
"Now the situation in Dili is under control, thanks to good cooperation between police and the defense force," Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta told journalists at a news conference. He said "perpetrators of the burning and violence would be arrested and put on trial."
Two ex-soldiers were shot dead and six others were arrested during violence in a residential area, while two civilians were killed in the clashes.
Hospital director Antonio Caleres said 46 people, including four policemen, were treated in hospital. On Saturday, some were still in serious condition, he said, including the deputy chief of a police rapid reaction unit, who was stabbed in the stomach with a dagger.
Nearly 600 soldiers _ a third of East Timor's armed forces _ were dismissed in March after a monthlong strike.
Troops on the streets after riots in East Timor
at Apr 29, 4:08 AM ET
DILI (AFP) - Troops have fanned out across the East Timorese capital Dili, a day after a violent protest left two dead, as the president called for calm and urged thousands who fled their homes to return.
Police commissioner Paulo Martins told reporters that 34 people had also been injured in the unrest, which saw rioters wielding planks and steel pipes smash windows outside Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's office building.
The rioters, who were originally marching in support of some 591 soldiers who were sacked last month after deserting their barracks, also burned at least five cars.
Martins said about 100 homes were vandalised in Dili's Tacitolu area while a market was also badly damaged.
"Police have arrested seven rioters and they have been taken for questioning, while the rest of them are still hiding in the surrounding hills of Dili," he told reporters after meeting President Xanana Gusmao.
Hundreds of soldiers meanwhile were deployed across the capital at strategic locations, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
The streets of Dili were largely deserted with most public transport not operating though a few taxis still sought fares. Shops and markets mostly remained shuttered but the airport was operating under tight security.
Gusmao toured the city with local media and saw about 50 houses torched in Tacitolu.
The AFP correspondent said one corpse was seen at Tacitolu but no further information about the circumstances of the death was immediately available.
"With sadness, I apologize to the people because they had to flee their homes because the situation ran out of control yesterday (Friday)," the popular president told several thousand refugees sheltering at Dom Bosco seminary.
"But now, I ask that all be prepared to return home calmly because I have already talked with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the situation has returned to normal," he said.
"I also call on the youth to remain calm and rebuild peace in this country."
Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader who fought against the Indonesians during their 24-year occupation of the tiny nation, also said that the incident was a lesson for the nation's political leaders.
"If there is an internal problem, it should be immediately settled, and not allowed to drag on," he said.
Gusmao also encouraged several hundred refugees outside the US embassy to return home.
A US embassy official told AFP on condition of anonymity that only some staff members and their immediate families were being sheltered inside.
Several thousand protestors took to the streets Friday for the third rally in a week supporting the sacked soldiers.
East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta blamed the unrest on "groups that wanted to take advantage of the situation, some them linked to the opposition" and said the soldiers themselves were not involved.
Gastao Salsinha, the most senior of the dismissed soldiers, has said that the troops, mainly from East Timor's 10 western districts, deserted because they were being passed over for promotion in favour of those from the east.
Ramos-Horta said earlier this month the government was setting up a panel to review the complaints of the soldiers, who had made up about a third of East Timor's fledgling army.
He said the men may be reinstated but only on a case-by-case basis.
East Timor became the world's youngest nation in May 2002, after a UN-backed referendum that handed the former Portuguese colony independence from Indonesia. It is Asia's poorest nation.
East Timor government blames violence on disgruntled youths
Text of report by Radio Australia on 29 April
[Newsreader] Calm is returning to the East Timorese capital, Dili, after a night of rioting. Soldiers and police are now patrolling the city to prevent further violence. Eric Campbell reports from Dili:
[Campbell] Dili resembled a war zone today, with truckloads of military police armed with heavy machine guns touring the city. Several houses were destroyed in the rioting, but the foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said the situation was under control.
[Ramos Horta] The real problem has been more of panicking than the actual fighting that took place.
[Campbell] The government has blamed the violence on unemployed youths linked to a radical political movement called (?Kelima Duaribu). The youths joined a protest by disgruntled former soldiers but broke away from the main march to attack homes and government offices.
Source: Radio Australia, Melbourne, in English 0800 gmt 29 Apr 06
REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DE TIMOR-LESTE
MINISTÉRIO DOS NEGÓCIOS ESTRANGEIROS E COOPERAÇÃO
29 April 2006
For immediate release
DÍLI RETURNING TO NORMAL LIFE
Statement issued by Timor-Leste’s Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr José Ramos-Horta
“Life in Timor-Leste’s capital Dili is returning to normality after a joint operation by FDTL (Armed Forces of Timor-Leste) and PNTL (National Police of Timor-Leste) quelled the chaos and destruction carried out by a group of young hooligans linked to Colimau Dua Ribuh, a notoriously disruptive fringe group.
Before brought under control, the group of Colimau-backed rampaging youths had torched an estimated 100 houses and shops in the poor suburb of Taci-Tolu, other property in the suburbs of Taibessi and Comoro, and had earlier set fire to four cars and two motorbikes parked outside Palácio do Governo building, which they pelted with rocks, iron bars and bats.
These thugs, at the direction of Colimau leader Osório Reki, had hijacked the peaceful demonstration that disaffected members of FDTL were carrying out opposite the Palacio do Governo. The leader of the ex-FDTL members, Gastão Salsinha, a humble, decent man, but lacking political knowledge, had lost control of the young hooligans.
This group of youths who had joined the 200 ex-FDTL members at the demonstration site were urged to attack the government building. Efforts by the few ex-soldiers to halt the rampaging youths failed. Police, keeping a watch on the demonstrators, decided to withdraw when it was believed that some of the thugs carried weapons and hand grenades. In fact, one policeman was shot in the leg.
Three other policeman were injured one of whom is in critical condition after suffering machete hits to his head. In total, at the end of the day yesterday, 32 civilians were also wounded in the violence.
They then moved towards the west of Dili where they hit hard at the most disadvantaged fellow Timorese in Taci-Tolu, Taibessi and Comoro.
There are two confirmed dead whose identity is still unknown but unconfirmed reports indicate they were killed by shop owners when protecting their shops from vandalism and theft. Later reports seem to confirm three more dead have been identified. They were members of the gangs who were shot dead by defence forces after attempting an ambush in which they fired guns and threw two hand grenades (one did not explode) at the FDTL between 6 and 7 pm yesterday, Friday, April 28.
Immediately after the rampage I visited the affected areas. In talks with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri I was assured that the Government will look at compensating the victims to help rebuild their businesses, their houses, their lives.
The situation and the uncontrolled rumours, obviously caused the population in some areas to fear the worse and panic. They sought refuge at Dom Bosco College , at the airport and at some embassies.
I continued to visit the affected areas throughout the night and was able to encourage many to return to their homes.
I observed first hand throughout the afternoon and evening yesterday the situation on the ground and was able to personally observe the foreign diplomatic corps’quarters to ensure that they were properly protected.
I regret that I wasn’t able to see proper police protection as I had recommended to our police agencies. I have been assured that there will be a unit of the Rapid Intervention Unit of Police will be on patrol at the embassies’ row as of tonight. I intend to verify this in person.
To the others, who chose to stay for the night, after discussions with both Prime Minister Alkatiri and Interior Minister Rogério Lobato, the government offered some emergency aid in the form of food, water and medical help.
This afternoon, together with FDTL Chief of Staff, Colonel Lere, and Police Commissioner Paulo Martins, we gave a detailed briefing on the situation to the diplomatic corps.
Once again, on behalf of the Government of Timor-Leste, I assured the foreign diplomatic corps, foreigners and the public in general that Timor-Leste’s law enforcement agencies will continue to observe the utmost restraint and at the same time remain vigilant and in readiness to ensure the safety of diplomats, their relatives and staff, as well as all residing or visiting foreigners, and the population in general.
In their detailed account of their law enforcement operations, the two officers revealed the arrest of a number of suspects in the rampage and the continuation of their efforts to bring the guilty to justice. As of 10am today (Saturday, April 29), some 10 suspects had been detained, including some ex-FDTL members.
It is my understanding that while the disaffected soldiers did not participate in the rampage directed at the Palácio do Governo ( in fact they tried to stop the youths from doing it), there are indications that some may have been involved in crimes against people and property when they reached the poor suburbs west of Dili.
The Government remains firmly determined that the Investigation Commission start its work as soon as Tuesday, May 02, 2006. Even though the Commission has been given three months to complete the process, the Prime Minister has asked for the Commission to make its best endeavors to complete the investigation and present its conclusions and recommendations in one month.
The Government has appointed Senior Minister and Minister of State Administration, Dr Ana Pessoa, and Vice-Minister for the Interior, Alcino Barris, as its representatives to serve in the Investigation Commission. Both met the enthusiastic approval of the leader of the disaffected soldiers, Gastão Salsinha, and his co-leaders. H.E. President Xanana Gusmão is expected to nominate his representatives, as well as are the National Parliament and the Judiciary. Prime Minister Alkatiri has asked the Bishops of Dili and Baucau as well as the NGO Forum to nominate elements to act as advisors/observers.
It is my hope that Mr Salsinha and his band of ex-FDTL members, present themselves to police to clear their names of yesterday’s destructive actions and can play a constructive part in the investigation process. I met with him and some of his colleagues and I believe they have genuine grievances. Only their full participation will help establish an army we all will be proud of.
Meanwhile, life in Dili is returning to normal with street vendors starting to appear in the streets of the capital, restaurants are open and doing near normal trade and the clean up of the mess left out after the destructive behavior of young thugs and hooligans is being cleared.” - ENDS
For further information please contact: Chris Santos Assessor de Imprensa/Media Advisor Cabinet Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Tel: +670 729 7099