Subject: AK: Peace Rally Could Be Turning Point


Dili, 14 Nov. (AKI) - The ongoing spontaneous peace rally by young East Timorese from various ethnic backgrounds, has given ground for hope in the tiny country where violence between security force factions and sporadic sectarian clashes, have left a trail of blood and 37 people dead in the last few months. In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said that the rally could be the turning point. "It seems that peace, not war, is breaking out in East Timo." Ramos-Horta told AKI on Tuesday

“I appeal to the people of East Timor, its leaders, including the government, parliament and the president, to work closely with the young and solve our country’s problems,” he added.

The peace march started on Sunday when East Timor celebrated the anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, that saw 257 young people killed by the then occupying Indonesian forces on November 12, 1991. It continued through Monday when the ‘peace demonstrators’ brought Dili’s traffic to a standstill. Smaller groups are still chanting for peace in front of the Parliament on Tuesday.

Jacinto de Elteti, a coordinator of the Loromonu youth groups said that the rally was intended to reunite the East Timorese.

Loromonu is the ethnic group mostly present in the west of the country. Tension between the Loromonu and the Lorosae ­ the main ethnic group of the eastern part of the country ­ has been indicated as one of the root causes of the past violence. The Lorosae accuse the Loromonu to have cooperated with Indonesia during the 24-year occupation.

“We do not want to fight again and suffer again; we do not want bloodsheds among us any more. As of today no one will discriminate and divide us. As of today no more violence amongst East Timorese,” de Elteti told AKI.

“We will continue our peace rally until our Lorosae’s brothers and sisters now living in refugee camps can return to their homes. It is time for us to live in peace, tranquility and harmony,” he added.

Roughly 70,000 Internally displaced people (IDPs) still live in makeshift camps around Dili. The number was 155,000 at the height of the clashes.

Alberto da Costa Belo, a representative of the Lorosae youth group, said the peace rally was a show of national unity.

“This rally is to show our nationalism to our leaders and to show that we are one people without regionalism,” he told AKI on Tuesday.

The rally has also gained the full support of the President of the East Timor Parliament, Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres.

“This peace rally is only about forgiveness. Therefore the national parliament, as representative of the people of East Timor, has voted to support it,” Guterres told AKI, outside Parliament House.

"I would encourage these youths to continue their rally until they get their objectives and bring the IDPs homes,” he added.

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