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Timor Leste President takes control amidst crisis

Updated On: Jun 02, 2006

East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao assumed control of the defence and security forces on Tue (30 May) appealing for unity as foreign peacekeepers appeared to take control.

In his tour of the city and a visit to the police headquarters to win back the loyalty of the police, he said “This is a time where the country needs unity, not fighting. Let us unite for one larger interest that is common concern to us all, that is the stability in East Timor, especially in Dili, so as to reduce the suffering of the people.”

Besides ending the violence he also urges the people to forgive and move on. “Let us forget what has happened, the violence that has taken place. It is our duty to forgive each other and rebuild this nation that we all love, from the ashes,” he added.

The violence is the worst since 1999 has led to more street battles and lootings requiring foreign peacekeepers from AustraliaNew Zealand and Malaysia to curb the crisis. Much of the antagonism is between East Timorese from the “east” which is perceived to be pro-independence and those from the “west” believed to be sympathetic to Indonesia.

During the emergency meetings, a decision was made by the Cabinet to dismiss Defence Minister Rogerio Lobato and Cabinet member Joao Saldanha. There were also demands from the rebel leaders and calls from many to sack Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Clearly dissatisfied, Major Alfredo Reinado said that “President Xanana Gusmao made a mistake on Tuesday by assuming emergency powers but not sacking Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.”

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has grown unpopular in the four years in office with both its citizens and foreign powers especially the US and Australia since Timorindependence in 2002. This is due to his style of leadership and decisions which did not endear him to many Western governments i.e. hiring nearly 500 Cuban doctors, refusal to take loans from World Bank amongst others.

With increasing internal problems and reports of tensions between Mr Gusmao and Mr Alkatiri, it has been said that Timor Leste’s problems are primarily internal and will require an internal solution.

Sources:

Timor Leste’s rebel leader rejects deal (Straits Times, 1 June 2006)

The challenge in Timor Leste (Straits Times, 31 May 2006)

Emergency powers for Timor Leste President (Straits Times, 31 May 2006)

What triggered the turmoil? (Straits Times, 31 May 2006)

Arson, looting continues in Dili (Bangkok Post, 1 June 2006)

Xanana urges East Timorese to forgive (Jakarta Post, 1 June 2006)

TNI evacuates 1,286 Indonesians from Timor Leste (Jakarta Post, 31 May 2006)

Gusmao asks Dili’s police for loyalty (The Age, Australia1 June 2006)

Timor president appeals for loyalty, national unity (Reuters, 1 June 2006)

Gusmao asks Dili police for loyalty (The Australian, 1 June 2006)

Annan urges E.Timorese to unit (CNN, 1 June 2006)