Subject: RT: Giving jobs to East Timor deserters urgent - ICG

Giving jobs to East Timor deserters urgent - ICG 10 Oct 2006 11:58:00 GMT Source: Reuters

By Ahmad Pathoni

JAKARTA, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Giving jobs to some 600 military rebels whose dismissal triggered deadly violence in East Timor this year is crucial to resolving a crisis there, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report on Tuesday.

The ICG said the critical situation that began with widespread violence in May was not over and the release of a United Nations inquiry into the violence, due this month, was potentially divisive and could lead to fresh trouble.

A series of protests dissolved into chaos and violence, mostly in and around East Timor's capital of Dili, in May after then-prime minister Mari Alkatiri sacked 600 mutinous members of the young country's 1,400-strong army.

"Leaving close to 600 soldiers outside the system is a time bomb, even if they are mostly disarmed," said the ICG, a Brussels-based conflict prevention group.

The leaders of the violence should certainly not be allowed to return to the security forces but either military or civilian jobs needed to be found for others who were not involved, the report said.

An estimated 100,000 people were displaced in the violence, which led to the deployment of a 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force before a degree of order was finally restored.

Even after it arrived, there have been sporadic outbreaks of arson, and clashes between gangs of youths.

The roots of the violence are complex, with elements of political and regional rivalries involved.

Prime Minister Alkatiri resigned under pressure in June. He was replaced by Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and East Timor's representative abroad during its struggle to break free of an Indonesian occupation that lasted from 1975 to 1999.

Ramos-Horta was seen as acceptable to the international community as well as many in Alkatiri's Fretilin party.

The ICG said the upcoming report of the U.N. inquiry into the violence was expected to name those responsible and recommend prosecutions and would be "explosive" because it would cover the most sensitive cases, including the killings of unarmed police by soldiers.

"The U.N., the government, security forces and community leaders all need to have responses ready, including proposals for prosecutions that will ensure fair and reasonably speedy trials," the report said. Charismatic President Xanana Gusmao and rival former prime minister Mari Alkatiri may need to consider forgoing any role in the 2007 elections to resolve the political impasse and allow new leaders to emerge, the ICG said.

A Portuguese colony for hundreds of years before the Indonesian occupation, East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world in income terms but has considerable oil and natural gas resources that are just beginning to be exploited.


East Timor's leaders advised to sit out 2007 elections to help keep peace

The Associated Press

Published: October 10, 2006

DILI, East Timor Violence could return to East Timor ahead of general elections next year, a conflict-prevention group warned Tuesday, recommending that the country's president and former prime minister sit out the polls to help reduce tensions.

Asia's newest nation is still in political limbo after rival armed factions clashed in the streets of the capital in April and May, killing more than 30 people and sending 150,000 others fleeing from their homes.

Foreign troops were deployed to restore order and a transitional government was installed until new polls could be held, but no one has yet been brought to justice for the bloodshed.

Much depends on an assessment by a U.N. Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, which will name individuals it deems responsible, though it has no authority to prosecute. The findings were supposed to be released Saturday, but publication has been delayed until later this month amid fears it could trigger more unrest.

In its latest evaluation of the situation in East Timor, the International Crisis Group, or ICG, advised President Xanana Gusmao and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri "to think the unthinkable ­ foregoing any role in the 2007 elections so new leaders can emerge."

Foreign efforts to help Dili create independent institutions and overcome divisions in the military and police will fail "unless the two are willing to get past mutual distrust and discuss how to overcome the security forces' polarization," the think tank said.

East Timor's brief lapse into chaos was sparked by Alkatiri's decision in March to fire 600 soldiers, or around a third of the army, who accused the military leadership of discrimination. But it goes back much further to allegiances formed when East Timor was under Indonesian rule.

The ICG said Gusmao's public comments had soured the atmosphere by drawing "on wells of bitterness and personal betrayal." His power struggle with Alkatiri and intervention has made it "almost impossible to get members of the political elite into the same room, let alone work out a common strategy for resolving the crisis," it said.

At the peak of the violence, police and army factions fought gunbattles in the street as gangs roamed Dili burning and looting and hunting down perceived opponents with machetes.

An estimated 100,000 people remain displaced, half of them in the capital of the world's poorest nation, measured per capita.

The ICG report, "Resolution of the Crisis in Timor Leste," says that internal divisions pose the gravest threat to elections and that "the most important guarantor against violence might be for the more controversial figures in the capital to sit this election out voluntarily."

It does not make any recommendations on the role of Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who emerged from the crisis as the head of the transitional government.

Calm returned shortly after the arrival of foreign peacekeepers, but underlying problems have not been resolved and a long-term U.N. peace force is seen as key to maintaining order.

East Timor broke from 24 years of brutal Indonesian rule in 1999 in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.

Its future, the ICG said, lies in the hands of less than a dozen key players whose political will and creativity is needed to put East Timor, once a U.N. success story in nation building, back on track.

Back to October menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu