|Subject: AFP: ETimor premier pledges
solution for thousands of displaced
Also RT: E Timor wants foreign troops to stay; Lusa: East Timor: PM Ramos Horta lists priorities, upbeat on near-term economy
ETimor premier pledges solution for thousands of displaced
by Nelson da Cruz
DILI, Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) - East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta pledged Thursday that his government would work to hasten the return or relocation of more than 90,000 people still languishing in temporary shelters.
Ramos-Horta also promised to improve security in the tiny nation shaken by violence in April and May.
Speaking to the parliament to mark his 100th day of government, Ramos-Horta said there was still "a considerable number of displaced people", citing reports from early last month that showed more than 70,000 living in camps in the districts and 23,000 in camps in the capital, Dili.
They fled their homes during violence in April and May that followed the dismissal of about a third of the country's fledgling military forces, who had deserted citing discrimination among the ranks.
The prime minister said a government priority initiative was to "facilitate the return of IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Dili to their homes, or relocate them," and "create a secure environment for all".
"An effort has been made to guarantee security in the camps as well, as in the country; but this is a hard task that requires a constant reinforcement of all the tasks that can lead to the consolidation of the institutions of defense and police," the prime minister said.
The two issues were "the most important strategy of reconciliation" in East Timor, said Ramos-Horta.
Since violence hit Dili in May, residents of the camps have endured intimidation and attacks by roaming gangs of youths and have complained the government has not done enough to ensure their security.
The United Nations agreed last month to send more than 1,600 international police to fully restore stability. They join over 3,000 Australian-led international peacekeepers deployed there since May.
Ramos-Horta also pointed out the violence among youth gangs that recently rocked Dili was backed by "motives more criminal than political".
"The government believes that these criminal organisations are being supported by other people with clear objectives, determined to undermine the authority of the state," the prime minister said without further elaboration.
Ramos-Horta said his government had agreed to rebuild or replace houses damaged or destroyed during the April-May violence, which resulted in more than 60 IDP camps across Dili.
President Xanana Gusmao, along with the country's influential Catholic community and military and police leaderships, were "searching constantly for a solution for the crisis, trying to return peace and tranquility" to East Timorese, the premier said.
He said his main task as premier and defense minister was to "try to heal the open wounds within" East Timor's military and police forces.
Separate lengthy talks between Gusmao and the country's military and police leaderships earlier this week were evidence of this effort, Ramos-Horta said.
"Dialogue is the way for reconciliation," the premier added.
East Timor, one of Asia's poorest nations, descended into chaos after initial street protest by the dismissed soldiers quickly degenerated into street violence involving gangs of youths.
E Timor wants foreign troops to stay
From correspondents in Dili November 09, 2006
EAST Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said today the worst period of violence in his country was over, but asked Australian and New Zealand troops to stay to keep peace.
Australia led a force of 3200 foreign peacekeepers to East Timor in late May after the tiny country descended into chaos following the sacking of 600 mutinous soldiers.
Fighting that pitted East Timor's police and military against one another spiralled into rioting and looting in the streets of the capital, Dili, leaving about 30 people dead and 150,000 displaced.
There are currently about 1000 Australian troops in East Timor.
"The worst moments have passed and police authorities are now better equipped," Ramos Horta said in a speech marking 100 days of his premiership.
But he said the presence of foreign troops was in the best interest of East Timor because they were already familiar with the country and people.
"The Australian and New Zealand military forces are going to continue in Timor-Leste to collaborate with the UNPOL (United Nations police) operations," he said.
The United Nations has agreed to send 1600 international police to East Timor and proposed a military force of 350 troops under its command.
The Prime Minister said he acknowledged concerns in Parliament about the command arrangements between international troops and UN police.
"We are negotiating a trilateral accord with the United Nations and Australia, its intention to regulate the functions of the military forces and establish a high level coordination mechanism in which all parties are represented," he said.
Sporadic violence has continued in East Timor and last month fighting flared in Dili between armed youths, killing up to four people and briefly shutting down the main airport.
The territory of around a million people voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975.
09-11-2006 11:59:00 GMT East Timor: PM Ramos Horta lists priorities, upbeat on near-term economy
Dili, Nov. 9 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta laid out his government's priorities Thursday in a speech to the East Timorese parliament, underlining that reconciliation and tolerance were fundamental for pulling the country out of its recent descent into violence and instability.
Reporting on his first 100 days in office, Ramos Horta listed his immediate priorities as returning tens of thousands of displaced to their homes, rebuilding houses destroyed in arson attacks, re- activating the shattered army and security forces, and improved implementation of budgeted programs.
Other priorities, he told the legislature, were preparations for presidential and legislative elections expected in the first half of next year and the ratification by parliament of oil and gas exploration accords with neighboring Australia.
A political independent, Ramos Horta pointed out that his cabinet "continues to be a FRETILIN government", a reference to the dominant party, some of whose senior leaders have been implicated in the wave of violence six months ago.
He praised FRETLIIN's leadership, saying it had avoided the country's "slide into civil war" and made "special reference" to his "friend" and predecessor as prime minister, FRETILIN's top leader, Mari Alkatiri, who was forced to resign in June in the wake of the crisis.
Alkatiri, who departed Dili Wednseday for medical exams in Portugal, is under investigation on suspicion of having armed civilians, allegations he denies.
Ramos Horta said the security situation had evolved "positively" in recent days, though the atmosphere in the capital "remains tense".
He attributed the most recent flareups to "groups of organized youths, acting more out of criminal motivation than political concerns".
On the foreign relations front, Ramos Horta said he would visit former colonial ruler Portugal next year and that negotiations with Lisbon on a new three-year aid package were advancing "favorably".
As to neighboring Australia, he said his cabinet would soon ask parliament to ratify the bilateral accords on hydrocarbon resources in the Sea of Timor.
Three-way talks were also underway with Canberra and the United Nations on maintaining some 1,000 Australian and New Zealand peacekeepers in East Timor, alongside a UN police force, including Portuguese units, that is expected to number about 1,600 by year's end.
Despite international estimates that the recent crisis could prune some 6% to 7% from the economy this year, Ramos Horta said prospects were good for 16% growth in 2007 if "stabilization measures" and domestic "tolerance and reconciliation give results".
Backing his upbeat forecast, he pointed to increased economic activity generated by the UN presence, planned public investment in infrastructure, and the planned start of the US-financed Millennium Challenge Account, worth some US$400 million. (Lusa)