Subject: AP: Street Violence Greets New E Timor Leader

Also AU: Diggers use tear gas on E Timor rioters

Street Violence Greets New E Timor Leader

By Guido Goulart/AP Writer/Dili

August 07, 2007­Mobs torched government buildings and foreign aid offices Tuesday, as street violence triggered by the appointment of East Timor's new prime minister spread to the second-largest city, police and witnesses said. Six people were wounded.

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of youths, who also looted markets, threw rocks at police and set up roadblocks of burning tires.

President Jose Ramos-Horta handed the top government job to Xanana Gusmao o­n Monday to break a political logjam after no single party won a majority in June's parliamentary elections.

The former ruling party called the decision illegal and vowed to have it overturned in court, but an appeal for supporters to remain calm appeared to go unheeded.

Gangs rampaged in the capital, Dili, but the worst violence was in Baucau, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the east, where buildings housing the offices of international aid organizations and government agencies were set o­n fire, said police inspector, Pedro Belo. A market also was looted.

Six people were injured, including a young boy, said Liborio da Costa Alves, a doctor at the local hospital.

East Timor broke free from decades of Indonesian rule in 1999 in a UN-sponsored referendum. Three years later it became Asia's newest country, but the euphoria quickly evaporated amid the challenges of governing a divided and poverty-stricken nation.

Last year, a military mutiny sparked clashes between rival troops that led to gang violence, arson and looting. More than 35 people were killed and some 150,000 others fled their homes before the collapse of the government and the deployment of foreign peacekeepers.

The United Nations, which has been overseeing security since last year's spasm, condemned Tuesday's unrest and said perpetrators would be "treated as criminals and swiftly dealt with."

Authorities had been expecting violence after Monday's announcement and more than 3,000 foreign troops were placed o­n alert.

The former ruling Fretilin party won 21 seats in the 65-member Parliament, well short of a majority, but insisted it had the right to form the next government. Gusmao's party won 18, but formed a coalition that now comprises 37 seats.

"We will do everything we can to raise awareness among the people so they can combat through legal means this usurping of power," said Fretilin party head and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. "Fretilin will initiate multiple actions within the law to ensure respect for the Constitution."

Gusmao, who was the country's first president, is to be sworn in o­n Wednesday.

Neighboring Australia, which contributes most of the foreign soldiers to the peacekeeping force, congratulated the former freedom fighter.

"Gusmao has been a key figure in East Timor's recent history, and Australia looks forward to working with him and his government," said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. "I encourage all parties to work constructively to allow East Timor to address its challenges and move forward."

Gusmao is revered by many in East Timor for leading the armed resistance to Indonesian rule, but like Alkatiri his reputation has been tarnished by last year's violence. Both men have been accused of fueling divisions to further their political ambitions.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, faces major security, humanitarian and economic challenges. It has significant offshore oil and gas reserves, but unemployment in the nation of less than 1 million people hovers at around 50 percent.


The Australian

Diggers use tear gas on E Timor rioters

Mark Dodd | August 07, 2007

AUSTRALIAN troops fired tear gas at gangs in East Timor today after violence greeted Xanana Gusmao's appointment as prime minister.

In the country's second city Baucau, armed UN riot police were battling mobs of pro-Fretilin youths who had set fire to several government buildings, police sources said yesterday.

The situation across East Timor remained volatile last night, they said.

Armoured personnel carriers loaded with heavily armed Australian troops patrolled trouble spots across the city including a Fretilin controlled refugee camp near Dili airport.

UN police road blocks were thrown up around the city centre checking for illegal weapons.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday welcomed the appointment of a Gusmao-led government and appealed for East Timorese protestors to raise their concerns through parliament and not the streets.

The streets - rock throwing, shooting rifles and pistols - is not a way to deal with political disagreements and we would urge the East Timorese to respect the constitutional processes of the country and its institutions,” Mr Downer told Sky TV.

East Timor Defence Force soldiers were also assisting with security enforcement in the capital, a UN spokeswoman said yesterday.

They're (gangs of youths) throwing rocks at everyone. The situation is volatile.

We're seeing quite a bit of rock throwing around the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps and other parts of the city,” she said.

Violence flared one day after President Jose Ramos Horta's decision to appoint a Gusmao-led CNRT coalition, a decision Fretilin branded as unconstitutional.

Pro-Fretilin gangs torched houses in eastern Bacau and Dili including the country's main tax and customs office at Dili port.

Crack Portuguese riot police had secured the facility yesterday morning. Other police had established static security outside government buildings.

There were also reports of rock throwing near Dili airport this morning soon after the arrival of an Air North flight from Darwin.

The Aussie cops are out in all their gear clearing burning tyres off the (main airport) road.

I've seen four APC's (armoured personnel carriers) loaded with Australian troops heading west from the heliport.

There's broken glass strewn all over the road near the Leader store (on the airport road). The Customs building is totalled - it's still smouldering and there are GNR (Portugese riot police) standing outside at the port entrance,” said an Australian businessman on a drive around the capital yesterday.

Asking to be called by his first name “Bruce” he spoke by mobile phone to The Australian as he drove around the worst hit parts of the capital.

Tension had been building for the past week with Fretilin warning President Horta not to proceed and appoint a Gusmao-led government because it would be against the constitution.

But on Monday, President Horta moved to end a five-week political stalemate by appointing the former president and guerilla leader prime minister to lead a coalition of parties.

Fretilin, under former Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri won 21 seats in the June parliamentary elections, short of the 51 required to rule in their own right.

Its main rival, the CNRT Party led by Mr Gusmao, won 18 seats but secured support from minor parties that boosted its total to 37 seats in the 65-seat legislature.

Head of the UN in East Timor, Atul Khare, has welcomed the formation of the new government and warned Fretilin supporters against acts of violence.

A criminal act in the name of a political cause is still a criminal act, and will be dealt with firmly,” he said.

Back to August menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu