Subject: AGE: Powerbrokers tied to Timor's gangs

The Age

Powerbrokers tied to Timor's gangs

Lindsay Murdoch, Dili October 31, 2006

GANGS responsible for East Timor's violence, political intimidation, extortion and crime have been linked to powerful Timorese figures with political ambitions and the country's main political parties.

A report says some of the gangs have infiltrated the security forces while one of the most feared groups has links to former pro-Indonesian militias and has supporters in Indonesian West Timor.

The report, commissioned by Australia's international development agency, AusAID, says many of the gangs appear to be led by former anti-Indonesian resistance fighters who have loyalties and enmities within factions of the security forces and political parties dating back to the independence struggle.

Many gangs have provocative names such as I'll Smash You, Beaten Black and Blue, Rambo and Crazy. Some members believe they have magical powers and that by injecting themselves with a medicine they become invincible and invisible, the report says.

Some of the gangs have taken the names of former militia groups that murdered an estimated 1200 people and destroyed most of the country's infrastructure after the East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999.

The report says that as many as 70 per cent of young Timorese men are involved in gangs disguised as martial arts groups.

"Chronic unemployment, which exceeds 50 per cent nationwide but is higher in Dili … means recruiting is easy from the legions of unemployed youth who feel socially, economically and politically excluded," says the report, obtained by The Age.

"It was these disaffected, marginalised youth who comprised the bulk of the rioting mobs."

But one of the report's key findings is that hundreds of small youth-based groups are "attempting, in different but positive ways, to engage and unify their communities".

Ending the gang violence "can only be achieved through a long process of dialogue and reconciliation, a dramatic improvement in the economy and a more efficient provision of basic social services", the report says.

It says a widely feared gang called Colimau 2000 may have a following in refugee camps in Indonesia. "There have also been allegations about the group having made contact with militia leaders in West Timor in order to plan a strategy to destabilise the country after UN peacekeepers leave; at least one source of this accusation is the Indonesian military commander in West Timor," says the report, which was completed last month.

It says other gangs "are affiliated with powerful individuals with political ambitions, or even opposition parties".

Melbourne researcher James Scambary and assistants Hippolito da Gama and Joao Barreto were commissioned by AusAid to research the gangs.

The gangs of East Timor

CPD-RDTL (Council for the Defence of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste): One of the best organised, this group has about 6600 members, with strongholds in Dili and the second-biggest city, Baucau. It believes the Fretilin Government is unrepresentative.

Colimau 2000: With a few hundred supporters, this gang rejects the Government's authority. Mainly made up of illiterate peasants and former guerilla fighters.

Sagrada Familia: Led by a former guerilla known as L-Sete, or L7, the group is based in Laga, a district of Baucau. L7 claims he has more than 5000 followers.

Kera Sakti: A martial arts gang, KS has about 6700 members. Believed to have endemic rivalries with other groups.

Korka: Possibly the biggest martial arts group, with up to 10,000 members.

Perguruan Silat Setia Hati: One of the biggest and most controversial gangs, it originated in Indonesia and is perceived to be close to the two main opposition parties.

Kung Fu Master: Claims it has about 7700 members. Its leader was killed in a gunfight in July.

Seven: Members believe they have magical powers.


'Anti-Australian' animosity

30 October 2006

Duration 03:50

Correspondent Lindsay Murdoch describes the animosity towards Australian troops stationed in East Timor to Debbie Cuthbertson. 

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