Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gusmao accused over Dili violence

The Australian

Gusmao accused over Dili violence
Mark Dodd
October 18, 2006

A UN inquiry into the causes of deadly violence in East Timor earlier this year has accused President Xanana Gusmao of inflaming tensions which brought the country to the brink of civil war.
The long-awaited UN report has also recommended former prime minister Mari Alkatiri face a criminal investigation over alleged weapons offences.

It found that Dr Alkatiri was aware of allegations of illegal weapons distribution by his interior minister but failed to use his authority to act against the transfer to armed loyalist civilian militia.

"The prime minister failed to use his firm authority to denounce the transfer of weapons to civilians," the report found.

"No further steps were taken by him to address the issue."

It also recommended further investigation to determine whether Dr Alkatiri "bears any criminal responsibility with respect to weapons offences".

The report, released yesterday, also directly implicates a former interior and defence minister and the country's army and police commanders over the illegal distribution of weapons and arming of civilians.

The 80-page report into the violence, which erupted in April and May, was compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It accused Mr Gusmao of making unnecessarily provocative public speeches that inflamed an already volatile political environment.

"The commission considers that the President should have shown more restraint and respect for institutional channels by exhausting available mechanisms, such as the Superior Council for Defence and Security, before making a public address to the nation," the report said.

"Similarly, the commission notes that by intervening personally with Major (Alfredo) Reinado, the President did not consult and co-operate with the F-FDTL (army) command, thereby increasing tension between the Office of the President and F-FDTL."

Major Reinado remains at large after breaking out of Dili's Becora jail with 56 other inmates on August 30.

The UN report said much of the violence could be attributed to the weakness of the rule of law in the country.

"While recognising that Timor Leste (East Timor) is a fledgling democracy with developing institutions, it is the view of the commission that the crisis which occurred in Timor Leste can be explained largely by the frailty of state institutions and the weakness of rule of law," the report found.

The commission said the Alkatiri government failed to follow legislative procedures in calling out the army to deal with unrest caused by scores of army deserters angered by ethnic divisions within the defence force.

A protest rally in Dili on April 28 to support 600 dismissed soldiers turned into mob violence that left five dead and more than 20,000 people displaced. Ethnic gang violence confined to the capital Dili continued and the death toll climbed to more than 25 by the time an Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived in late May to restore law and order.

The report blamed F-FDTL commander Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak for failing to prevent a confrontation between the army and police that led to the fatal shooting by soldiers of nine unarmed police officers on May 25. It found that army and police weapons were illegally distributed to civilians.

Alkatiri declined immediate comment, but President Gusmao and Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta issued a statement appealing to parties "not to take advantage of the substance of the report".

They called for "maturity and reasoning ... with the firm objective of calming the animosities of the people".

An emergency cabinet meeting will be convened to consider the commission's conclusions.

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