Call for calm in East Timor

JOYCE MORGAN IN DILI
Last updated 00:01 17/07/2012
POLITICAL LEADERS MET: East Timor President Taur Matan Ruak.
Reuters
POLITICAL LEADERS MET: East Timor President Taur Matan Ruak.

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East Timor's president has called for calm after a night of violence in the capital, Dili, which left one man dead, dozens of vehicles destroyed and has raised questions about the planned withdrawal of UN peacekeepers.

President Taur Matan Ruak met the leaders of all political parties, including Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and opposition Fretilin leader Mr Mari Alkatiri, yesterday to discuss the situation.

He asked the leaders to ensure their supporters remained calm. He said he did not plan to cancel his departure today for a conference in Mozambique in the wake of the disturbances.

The violence erupted on Sunday, hours after Gusmao's party opted to exclude Fretilin from the new coalition government.

Fretilin now faces a further five years in opposition with two minor parties expected to join with Gusmao's CNRT (National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction) to form a government.

The election and its aftermath have been seen as a key test of whether the 1300 peacekeepers would depart later this year.

The death occurred about 14 kilometres from Dili, at 8am yesterday.

The police chief Longuinhos Monteiro could not confirm how the man had been killed. Police were still investigating the death.

He denied the violence, which also left 15 people injured and destroyed 60 vehicles and seven houses, was politically motivated.

Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri rejected this. He said the trouble was sparked by public criticism of Fretilin made at Sunday’s special conference in Dili of Mr Gusmao’s CNRT at which the coalition with the minor parties was announced.

Mr Alkatiri has demanded an apology.

He acknowledged Mr Gusmao’s party had the right to exclude Fretilin from the new government following elections earlier this month.

Mr Alkatiri said Fretilin would to co-operate with the new government but denied his party was responsible for the violence.

The ballot left Mr Gusmao’s party with 30 seats in the 65-seat parliament, three seats short of being able to govern in its own right.

Mr Gusmao has invited PD (Democratic Party) and Frenti-Mudanca to join the government rather than form an all party national unity government as some key figures had advocated over the past week.

There was a strong police presence on Dili’s streets yesterday.

- with Mouzhino Lopes

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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