Subject: AFP: E Timor's youth unite for peace rally

Monday, November 13, 2006. 5:06pm (AEDT)

E Timor's youth unite for peace rally

Hundreds of East Timorese youths, including members of rival gangs who fought each other in the streets of the capital earlier this year, have held a rally to promote unity and peace.

After gathering in front of the seaside government office in downtown Dili, they drove through the streets in a convoy of scores of motorcycles and other vehicles calling for unity.

The convoy was heavily escorted by United Nations security forces from Australia and Malaysia.

Pedro Perreira, who took part in the rally, says it was a spontaneous rally and not organised by political parties or other organisations.

"This action is aimed at showing our leaders that it is time for the youths of Timor Leste (East Timor) to be united again," Mr Perreira said.

The youths waved national flags and some carried a large banner saying: "Let us enter peace. Long live a single East Timor."

Many taking part also shouted insults at the country's leadership in the local Tetum language, calling them "stupid."

"Only the leaders disunited the youth," was one of the shouts frequently heard from the convoy.

The participants included students, members of rival gangs divided by origin from the east or west of the country and youths from camps for those displaced by the violence earlier this year.

Dili remained quiet with most shops closed.

The tiny nation of 1 million was rocked in April and May by violence in between security force factions, as well as street gangs, which left 37 people dead.

The bloodshed forced the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led peacekeepers to restore calm.

Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.


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