Subject: AU: Timor clashes meant to destabilise: defence head


Timor clashes meant to destabilise: defence head

Patrick Walters, National security editor October 27, 2006

EAST Timor's defence chief says the latest violence in Dili is politically motivated and has called for a fresh parliamentary probe into armed clashes earlier this year between members of the country's security forces.

Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak said this week's violence was designed to destabilise the Government and to "make it unviable".

Australian peacekeepers and UN police remained on alert in Dili last night after a fresh outbreak of violence left two people dead.

While the streets of Dili were relatively calm yesterday, with only one reported stabbing and sporadic rock-throwing near the airport, the mood in the capital remained tense.

Observers in Dili agreed there were worrying signs that clashes between rival gangs were orchestrated, with the reappearance of high-velocity weapons, including semi-automatic rifles.

"We are looking at a change in the security environment. Most people get the sense this activity is orchestrated and that frightens them," one diplomatic source told The Australian.

Brigadier Ruak travelled to Baucau on Tuesday to discuss the UN report with his commanders.

He said yesterday the army wanted a parliamentary commission to be established to determine the "objectives, the strategies and the intellectual and moral authors" behind the April-May clashes and hold them accountable.

A UN report into the clashes found that Mari Alkatiri, who stepped down as prime minister in June, should face a criminal investigation for failing to act to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of civilians.

It named East Timor's former interior and defence ministers, and police and defence force commanders, for acting illegally in allowing the distribution of guns to civilians.

But the UN report was also critical of President Xanana Gusmao, observing that he did not consult and co-operate with the F-FDTL (defence force) command, "thereby increasing tension between the Office of the President and F-FDTL".

One person has died of gunshot wounds to the head and another of machete wounds since fighting erupted at a refugee camp near Dili's main airport on Tuesday. An Australian civilian was also injured in the clashes.

Defence spokesmen said yesterday they had no evidence that an armed Timorese man who approached an Australian patrol on Wednesday had been wounded. An Australian soldier then fired four shots his way.

UN police commissioner Antero Lopes said yesterday the situation in Dili had returned to normal. "We have re-established normal operations, with adequate security measures 24 hours out of 24," he said.

The violence had forced the closure of the airport, which was reopened early yesterday.

East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, in Rome, said the violence had caused him "great concern, disappointment and sadness, and heartache".

"Once again we see our people fighting each other, resulting in pointless deaths," he said.

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