Subject: AFP: Clashes in Dili as ETimor ex-PM's supporters mass outside city

Also Call to investigate entire Timorese cabinet

Agence France Presse -- English

June 28, 2006 Wednesday 7:45 AM GMT

Clashes in Dili as ETimor ex-PM's supporters mass outside city

DILI, June 28 2006

Stone-throwing youths attacked refugee camps and torched dozens of homes in East Timor Wednesday, raising tensions as thousands of supporters of ex-premier Mari Alkatiri camped outside the capital Dili.

Multinational troops forced apart rival factions in the latest outbreak of violence across the city, which dampened hopes that Alkatiri's resignation Monday would end weeks of crisis in the impoverished nation.

The attacks appear to have been prompted by television pictures of thousands of supporters of a defiant Alkatiri at a rally just outside the capital calling for a march on Dili.

There had been hopes that his resignation under intense public pressure could end the factional fighting and bloodshed that has left at least 21 dead and driven nearly 150,000 from their homes.

But instead huts near the capital's airport were torched and youths hurled stones at a refugee camp nearby, in conflict fuelled by rivalry between the country's east and west.

A small group of youths blocked the main highway to the airport and hit passing trucks with sticks.

At least six people were being held by foreign peacekeepers for their role in the violence, and were guarded by soldiers with dogs, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Carlos Fernandes, 22, standing with a group of young men near burning huts near the airport said the attack was carried out in retaliation over the torching of their own homes.

"They gathered here before and broke our houses," he told AFP. "After the news last night, people became crazy. We don't like Alkatiri and we don't need him in our country."

People living near the airport said they would head back to refugee camps in fear of further violence if Alkatiri's supporters headed into the city.

"The situation is bad. It's much better for us to go back into the camps," said Abilio Fernandes, 29, who said he would take his wife and five children with him.

"There's about 1,000 people from here that are going back to the camps," he said.

Camp officials reported more people seeking sanctuary amid fears of a resurgence of violence between the two sides.

"The trouble is close," said Adriano de Jesus, the head of the largest refugee camp in Dili. "Once they come, finished, they will be killing each other."

Co-ordinators of the protest said many thousands of Alkatiri supporters had gathered but that because of the unrest they would not move into the city on Wednesday.

"To prevent violence, they will wait until tomorrow," said spokesman Julio Da Silva.

Tented camps are dotted throughout the capital Dili for those left homeless by the violence which broke out in April between factions of the military, and between the army and police, and degenerated into gang violence in Dili.

Alkatiri was blamed for sparking the unrest by sacking in March some 600 deserting soldiers -- or nearly half of the military -- who had complained about discrimination.

More than 2,200 foreign peacekeepers, mostly from Australia, were deployed to restore order and Alkatiri finally stepped down on Monday.

In an address to his supporters on Tuesday, Alkatiri told them to enter Dili, but peacefully, while railing against those who had burnt and looted their homes.

President Xanana Gusmao on Tuesday extended his emergency powers to give him sole control over the army for another 30 days in response to the crisis, and warned of fresh elections if a new government could not be formed.

His own supporters who had driven into the city at the weekend to protest against Alkatiri appeared to be leaving by the truckload on Wednesday.

Under the constitution, Alkatiri's Fretilin party will nominate a successor as it has a clear majority in parliament.

However a unifying candidate, Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel peace prize winner and an independent, is also widely tipped to be nominated for the office.



The Australian (Australia)

June 28, 2006 Wednesday

Call to investigate entire Timorese cabinet

Mark Dodd

ALL members of the Alkatiri cabinet should be investigated over possible corruption and making misleading comments about the political crisis, according to a prominent East Timorese opposition leader.

Former political prisoner Fernando de Araujo, head of the Democratic Party, accused high-profile minister Jose Ramos Horta of attempting to cover up the truth over responsibility for the bloody street protests in Dili on April 27 and 28.

At least five people were killed and dozens injured when security forces opened fire on protesters supporting 595 army rebels.

The violence quickly spread, causing widespread panic in the capital. Thousands fled to the hills and others sought shelter in churches and embassy grounds as rival gangs fought in the streets and looted shops and homes.

Emboldened by massive opposition street rallies demanding Mari Alkatiri's overthrow, Mr Araujo said ''sufficient evidence'' existed to arrest the outgoing prime minister and the president of the national parliament, Francisco Guterres (aka Lu'Olo), for their alleged involvement in arming pro-government civilian groups. Last week, East Timorese prosecutors backed by Australian special forces arrested former interior minister Rogerio Lobato and charged him with conspiring to arm former Falintil guerillas.

Prosector-General Longuinos Monteiro has confirmed that Dr Alkatiri will be questioned this week over possible involvement in the illegal arming of civilians.

''I think all the people close to Alkatiri and Lobato should be investigated. (Investment Minister) Jose Teixeira and Ramos Horta, they are part of the cabinet. In particular, Horta tried to hide the number of victims. They should be investigated,'' Mr de Araujo told The Australian yesterday. He is regarded as among a new generation of East Timorese political leaders, distinct from the ''exile group'' that includes Mr Ramos Horta, Dr Alkatiri, Mr Lobato and Roque Rodrigues, the former defence minister sacked for his failure to prevent army violence.

Attempts to contact Mr Teixeira and Mr Ramos Horta for comment were unsuccessful.

Holding seven seats, the Democratic Party is East Timor's second biggest party after Fretilin, which won 55 of the 88 seats in the country's Constituent Assembly at the 2001 elections.



26 June, 2006 EAST TIMOR Prime Minister Alkatiri resigns

The decision, announced during a press conference, is held to be a crucial step towards resolving the serious political crisis that has rocked the country for some two months. The people have greeted the news with “tears of hope” and have started to hope again.

Dili (AsiaNews) ­ The Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri, has stepped down. The premier himself broke the news, saying he wanted to put an end of the political and institutional crisis that has rocked the young nation for the past two months. People greeted the news, eagerly awaited for weeks, with “tears of joy”.

"Regretting the prevailing situation in the country and considering that the highest interests are those of the nation, I declare I am ready to resign from my position as prime minister," Alkatiri announced in a press conference.

A Salesian sister in Comoro, on the outskirts of Dili, told AsiaNews “many people can be seen crying” among those displaced from their homes to seek shelter from clashes that erupted last month between armed rival gangs in the capital. “The joy here is huge,” she said, “now we have high hopes that the situation will return to normal.” Since unrest broke out in Dili, Salesian houses and schools opened their doors to more than 40,000 displaced people, without taking churches into account In all, around 100,000 people fled the capital, heading for villages and safer places.

The crisis started in April, after Alkatiri’s decision to sack 600 soldiers ­ 40% of the forces ­ from the army for “going on strike” to lament ethnic-based discrimination. The rebel soldiers clashed with loyalist soldiers and then fled to the hills. Rival gangs later took over the streets in the absence of the armed forces. The situation took a turn for the worse this month when the premier was charged with recruiting death squads to eliminate his opponents and with ordering the ex-Internal Affairs Minister, Rogerio Lobato, to distribute arms to civilian militias. Lobato has been charged and is under house arrest.

Despite huge pressure to leave his post, exerted by the people, the army and by the influential Catholic Church, Alkatiri was impassive. Yesterday Fretilin ­ the majority party which the premier belongs to ­ lent him its support, thus going against the position taken by the President, Xanana Gusmao, who had asked it to indicate a new leader. The central committee of Fretilin said removing the leader would amount to an anti-constitutional move and go against the principles of democracy.

Two ministers resigned in protest shortly afterwards: the popular Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister, Jose Ramos Horta and the Communications Minister, Ovidio Amaral. On 22 June, the head of state himself threatened to step down if Alkatiri did not resign. 

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