Subject: Alkatiri agrees to investigation; Settle differences without violence

Also Settle differences without violence, E Timor leaders told

The Sydney Morning Herald

Alkatiri agrees to investigation of start of mayhem

Lindsay Murdoch in Dili June 8, 2006

EAST TIMOR'S Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, has agreed to an international investigation into his handling of the country's crisis, including claims that he ordered the shooting of unarmed civilian demonstrators, the United Nations has said.

Mr Alkatiri would have no option but to resign if a UN-backed investigation found that he issued the order.

The UN's special representative in Dili, Sukehiro Hasegawa, said yesterday that Mr Alkatiri had agreed to the investigation because "he is very transparent and he insists that the truth should be known".

Dr Hasegawa acknowledged the UN had reduced its presence in East Timor too quickly and ignored warnings the security situation remained "fragile and fluid".

In remarks likely to embarrass Canberra, he said the Security Council was "too optimistic" about East Timor's future. "It was the perception of the international community that everything was fine," Dr Hasegawa told London's Financial Times. "And we said [from the ground] the situation remained fragile and fluid." Australia argued strongly at the UN for a reduction in the UN presence in East Timor to a small administrative group.

And Ian Martin, a special envoy in Dili for the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said it was the "member states" of the UN that had been "most insistent on the downsizing of the UN presence" in East Timor.

"The underlying issues [in East Timor] were known but not enough was done to address them," Mr Martin said.

Diplomats and observers in Dili say the investigation will prolong political uncertainty when an estimated 100,000 people in camps in Dili need to be persuaded to return to home to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

Mr Alkatiri denies responsibility for a violent demonstration in Dili on April 28, when an unknown number of civilians were shot. He claims unnamed political forces have been trying to topple the Government through violence.

Rebel soldiers in mountains outside Dili are refusing to surrender weapons or return while Mr Alkatiri remains in power.

Dr Hasegawa said in an ABC interview yesterday that rebel commanders he met in mountain bases this week were "very firm in maintaining their demands that the Prime Minister resign before they can enter into any negotiations for reconciliation".

Protesters from the west who went to Dili on Tuesday called for Mr Alkatiri's government to be dissolved and elections called.

Before leaving for New York, Dr Hasegawa told the ABC Mr Alkatiri had insisted he has a "legitimate right to remain in power". Mr Alkatiri has agreed to investigators looking into what happened in Dili in April and May, when at least 20 people died.

Dr Hasegawa will recommend that the Security Council approve a UN-mandated police force for the country. He is also expected to discuss the setting up of an investigation into Mr Alkatiri. A decision on sending more police could be made within days.

Australia has led calls for more international police to help stop violence, with its troops struggling to stop mobs burning houses, looting and attacking rivals.

Mr Martin, who also left for New York yesterday, said the UN would stay with East Timor "through this crisis and beyond".

Dili was subdued yesterday, but gangs ransacked several homes before setting them alight.


The Australian

Settle differences without violence, E Timor leaders told 
Dennis Shanahan and Patrick Walters 08jun06

AUSTRALIA has warned East Timor's leaders their political divisions must be resolved peacefully and constitutionally.

Tensions between President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri have stoked the unrest in East Timor and have been of deep concern to Canberra.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson told Mr Gusmao and Dr Alkatiri in Dili yesterday that Australia would never interfere in the internal politics of East Timor, but wanted the tensions resolved.

Dr Nelson is the second minister in a week to speak out about the differences between the President and Prime Minister and the threat this poses to security in East Timor. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer raised the issue in Dili last week.

"The important thing from the Australian government position is that any political differences in Timor Leste be resolved legally and constitutionally," Dr Nelson said after the meeting.

"The Australian Government would not be setting any sort of artificial deadline."

Dr Nelson said the security situation in Dili had improved and the task was moving from peacemaking for the military to peacekeeping by police.

He told East Timorese leaders, including Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, that Canberra wanted Dili to seek more military and police contributions from regional neighbours. Dr Nelson praised the work of the Australians, New Zealanders and Malaysians, but said more forces were needed from other countries.

It is understood Canberra is keen for the involvement of troops and police from Singapore and South Korea.

Australian troops serving in East Timor will receive a tax-free allowance of $78.60 a day in addition to salary and allowances.

The 2500 personnel deployed on Operation Astute are engaged in "non-warlike" operations, according to the conditions of service announced yesterday. "This decision reflects Defence's current assessment that the situation in Timor Leste, while unstable, does not meet conditions that would warrant a higher classification," Dr Nelson said.

All Australian Defence Force servicemen and women deployed for 91 days or more will have all ADF income treated as tax-free. They will qualify for the Australian Service Medal with the clasp "Timor Leste".

Back to June menu
May menu      
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu