Subject: RT: Darkness brings fear in East Timor

Also: U.N. official raises concerns over violence in E. Timor; Sporadic incidents mar otherwise 'tranquil' Dili - GNR commander

Darkness brings fear in East Timor

Thu 17 Aug 2006 3:54 AM ET

By Jerry Norton

DILI, Aug 17 (Reuters) - During the day, Fernanda Gomez stands at her tiny roadside kiosk selling canned goods and sundries in front of the blackened remains of burned-out houses in her village near Dili.

At night, the 25-year-old mother of two retreats to a refugee camp near the city's airport.

"It's difficult to return home in the evening," she tells Reuters, because people were still fighting.

Nearly three months after an international force of soldiers and police arrived in this tiny country -- which had been racked by violence for weeks -- calm has returned during the day.

But some Timorese say in their home neighbourhoods night still belongs to gangs who fight one another with stones and homemade weapons, looting and harassing those brave enough to stay.

Such fears are sometimes exaggerated, Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta told reporters on Thursday.

"Here we deal with a traumatised society. There is a collective problem that goes back many, many years," and even rumours or youth with fireworks scare people away, he said.

East Timor suffered decades of conflict and brutality in 24 years of Indonesian rule that ended with a 1999 vote for independence marked by bloodshed and chaos.

Justified or not, many Timorese remain worried.

"The situation is not safe in the evening. Last night, there were people throwing rocks at each other... so we don't feel good to sleep at our house," says Jubelina Gusmao, 36, at the small jewellery store she owns in Dili.

Her shop was closed for two months during the height of the violence, which was sparked by protests from sacked soldiers.

The protests spiralled into fighting that split East Timor's own security forces, and brought the deaths of more than 20 people as well as widespread burning and looting. More than 100,000 of the country's one million people fled their homes for camps.

EAST-WEST DIVIDE

Why things got out of control is a matter of debate but differences between the eastern and western regions of the tiny country half the size of Belgium are most often cited.

Holding a fidgety grandchild in one arm and setting down a water jug with the other, Pasquela Pereia tells Reuters:

"We don't feel safe to go home because the people from the western part during the night are still looking for the people from (the east) to fight against them and ask them to move out from the village."

Some from the west say easterners did not help in the independence struggle against Indonesian forces.

Pereia, at 45 already a grandmother of 12, says her home in a village amidst banana trees and rice paddies was burned even though she is from the east and her husband is from the west.

Jobs are scarce in East Timor, and the country is full of young men with little to do who make up most of the gangs.

More than a dozen unemployed youths materialised when this correspondent stopped to ask questions near Tasitolu village, but they said they banded together to protect their homes.

"During the day it's O.K. but during the night we have to organise ourselves to control our village," says one, Janurio Braz, 25. He says Malaysian troops from the international force are visible during the day but stay in their camps after dark.

Similar complaints are heard over and over about the 2,000-plus foreign troops and police led by Australia and also comprising forces from Portugal and New Zealand.

"...police and the military better not stay in just one place, but have to stay in each village and walk in the evening so people can feel safe," says Carla Carvalho dos Santos, 22.

Business is slow at the hardware store where she works because people are too worried to repair and rebuild, she says.

Steve Lancaster, commander of the international forces' near 600-strong police component, said this week plans were almost set to begin returning East Timorese police to Dili streets, after they were removed because some took sides in the fighting.

But it could be weeks or months before a significant Timorese police presence will bolster international forces.

Ramos-Horta said a new mission of 1,600 international police the U.N. Security Council is expected to approve would make a big difference, enabling creation of "permanent 24-hour police posts in some of the more sensitive areas of the city".

The government believes a variety of measures will get a majority of people out of camps by the end of September, he said.

Meanwhile, Timorese like Fernanda Gomez remain scared.

"We are the innocent people. We don't know anything. We have to save ourselves and our children and family because we're afraid," she says.

---

Friday August 18, 10:15 PM

U.N. official raises concerns over violence in E. Timor

(Kyodo) _ The chief of the United Nations office in East Timor, UNOTIL, expressed concern Friday over the security situation, particularly in the capital Dili, which has been deteriorating over the last few days, and in refugee camps that have become targets of violent action by unidentified groups.

Speaking at a press conference, Sukehiro Hasegawa appealed to the international forces in the country to increase security in Dili and in the camps of internally displaced people scattered around the capital.

"It is necessary for the police officers to be able to reach these camps to maintain minimum law and order in the camps as well as around the camps," Hasegawa said.

He also proposed establishment of police stations at selected places.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 displaced people, of an estimated 8,000, who were been seeking refuge at UNOTIL compounds left the camps early Friday after being attacked by unidentified groups around 5 a.m.

Peter Fry, the U.N. Security Advisor in Dili, told reporters the attackers not only threw stones but also launched Molotov cocktails into one camp.

--

East Timor: Sporadic incidents mar otherwise 'tranquil' Dili - GNR commander

Dili, Aug. 17 (Lusa) - Portuguese paramilitary police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of youths that surrounded and stoned a patrol vehicle in the East Timorese capital, GNR Capt.

Gonçalo Carvalho said Thursday.

The commander of the 127-strong Republican National Guard (GNR) force told a new conference that no injuries occurred during the incident Wednesday.

Capt. Carvalho said the GNR had been called to intervene in 55 separate incidents during the past week, including the arrest for theft of three youths.

Communal gangs were "increasingly organized", he said, adding, however, that the deployment of international peacekeepers in Dili since late May had returned the city to "a climate of tranquility, allowing all activities to take place with normality".

The situation would "improve significantly", Capt. Garvalho said, with the expected arrival within weeks of an UN-mandated police and military force.

Portugal, he added, was "ready to integrate" the future UN force, whose approval by the Security Council was expected on Friday.

Capt. Carvalho also said that GNR personnel were taking part in communal "reconciliation" programs and that the contingent's emergency medical team was participating in actions both in and outside Dili.

SAS/JCS.

Lusa


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