Subject: UCAN: East Timor Catholic bishop calls for calm before inquiry commission findings release

UCAN: East Timor Catholic bishop calls for calm before inquiry commission findings release

10/12/2006

UCANews

DILI, East Timor (UCAN) ­ The bishop of Dili Catholic Diocese has called for calm in anticipation of the release of the findings of a commission investigating the destabilizing violence that occurred in East Timor during April and May.

"We should place peace and calm in our hearts to see the outcome of the inquiry commission, because it will be a positive step toward truth and justice," Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva said when he spoke with the media on Oct. 6.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry was set up June 8 at the request of then-foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who subsequently became prime minister after Mari Alkatiri resigned as head of the government. The commission was given a mandate to establish the facts surrounding the April 28-29 protests by soldiers, the May 25 killings of 9 police officers and the resultant gang warfare, looting and arson that claimed at least 21 lives in all. It also was to recommend measures to bring those responsible to justice.

Army protesters and their sympathizers had taken to the streets of the capital April 28-29 with calls for the reinstatement of 591 soldiers who had been dismissed by Alkatiri in February after they protested against alleged discrimination.

The findings were due for release on Oct. 8 but are still being translated into Indonesian, Portuguese and Tetum, the main languages used in Timor-Leste, or East Timor.

Bishop da Silva added that the results will probably be painful for some leaders, institutions and civil society, but must be welcomed as a way to rebuild human rights and justice in the country.

"I would like to ask all people of Timor-Leste to accept it with no violence," he appealed.

The vicar general of Dili diocese, Father Apolinario Aparicio Guteres, also said people should fully accept the outcome and the recommendations of the commission.

"I believe that the outcome will rebuild peace and justice, because justice must come from the truth, and this is what people are waiting for," Father Guteres told UCA News Oct. 9.

Jose Edmundo Caetano, a lawyer with the Commission for Peace and Justice of Dili Diocese, told UCA News Oct. 10 that he worries what will happen after the commission releases its reports. He urged the government to guarantee security, otherwise the situation could deteriorate. "There is a big possibility more violence could erupt. There could be some groups who are not content with the results and use violence to protest," he said.

The lawyer reported more people taking refuge in their home districts outside the capital as rumors of violence spread in the streets. "You never know what will happen in the future. Sometimes rumors are true. So it's better to save lives," he said.

Father Jose Soares, who serves at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili, says the big problem may be within the military.

"I think the number one potential for violence is the military. If some of the military officials are named responsible, I hope they can accept the responsibility. If not they may flee with their subordinates and launch a guerilla war which could endanger the nation," the priest told UCA News.

Political parties too could be a source of conflict if political leaders are cited in the report, he added. But he said that he believes the leaders of the country have the political maturity to take responsibility for the crisis.

"The leaders should be prepared if they are charged -- this is for the good of the nation," Father Soares stated.

A university student, Marcelo Dias, told UCA News Oct. 11 that he is awaiting the results of the report in order to see justice done. "Those involved in the chaos should be brought to court," he said.

Dias doubts the judicial system will be able to bring the guilty to justice, but he called for it to act courageously. "I think people would like to see East Timor's judicial system implement justice, otherwise they will implement their own justice, which may lead to violence."

Marcelo is optimistic about security, however, citing the presence of United Nations peacekeeping forces in the country.

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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (www.ucanews.com).


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