Subject: Ongoing instability in East Timor

Green Left Weekly

Ongoing instability in East Timor

Ruth Ratcliffe

31 October 2008

“They’ve been trying to solve problems by using only money, but not to solve the political problems through political means, that they’ve failed”, Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri, told Radio Australia on October 26.

“The government has failed at all levels, and they’re trying to blame others for their own mistakes”, Alkatiri continued.

Six years after becoming an independent nation, a recent Oxfam report revealed that in parts of East Timor up to 90% of families aren’t confident of getting enough to eat each day.

Fretilin, the main opposition party, won more seats than any other party in last year’s elections. However, a coalition led by Xanana Gusmao’s party, the National Congress for Timorese Resistance, was formed thatlocked out Fretilin.

Now Fretilin is organising a “peace march”, which will submit a petition to the government stating its concerns. A date for the rally has not yet been set.

Rumours of potential violence erupting at the rally have been circulating, connected to an unsigned pamphlet alleging discrimination against Timorese from the impoverished western region and calling for protests if an easterner is appointed to the post of police commander in November.

Tomas Freitas, an activist from the NGO Luta Hamutuk in Dili, told Green Left Weekly, “Fretilin as a party, has made it clear that they will mobilise their militants, and members will come down to Dili soon”.

Freitas continued “there are rumours ­ for example that the national police will break into two groups and one group will sign the petition. However the commander of police in Dili district has said to the public, that the police would not tolerate any kind of violence from the rally.

“Also the Bishop of Baucau has criticised Fretilin regarding this rally. The situation is very unstable.”

On October 12, AAP reported that the government was enforcing a ban on off-duty police officers taking their guns home. President Jose Ramos-Horta stated that he would not accept a protest “criticising the legitimacy of the government”.

Alkatiri has rejected media speculation that Fretilin is behind the pamphlet, telling Radio Australia, “Fretilin has nothing to do with this kind of issue”.

“Xanana has to be blamed for this kind of ‘east and west’ in Timor Leste. He was the one in 2006 to divide the country into east and west, Xanana himself.”

Alkatiri told Radio Australia it was Fretilin’s democratic right to hold the march, just as it is the government’s right to have those responsible for violence arrested.

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