Monday, March 27, 2006

Alkatiri forsees rapid pacification of ethnic tensions

“Dili, March 27 - Authorities expect to pacify tensions pitting East Timor's ethnic groups that led to rioting in Dili at the weekend within days, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said Monday. Authorities "will continue to manage the situation with calm", Alkatiri told Lusa, saying the government was encouraging people from the east who fled the capital to return home.

The country's top police officer, Superintendent Paulo Martins, said seven people, including two soldiers recently expelled from the army, had been arrested in the wake of rioting in Dili overnight Saturday. The violence directed at the capital's "lorosae" community, or easterners, had resulted in damage to 16 houses, stonings and assaults, Martins said.

Tensions between the "lorosae" and Dili's predominantly "loromonou" population, or westerners, began building last week after President Xanana Gusmão publicly criticized on Thursday the decision by Defense Minister Roque Rodrigues and army chief Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak to sack nearly 600 mostly "loromonou" soldiers - about one- third of the country's fledgling Self-Defense Force. Since mid-week, many easterners abandoned the capital fearing ethnic violence and bus links from Dili eastwards have been largely paralyzed. East-west ethnic and linguistic tensions have simmered since several hundred mostly "loromonou" soldiers held demonstrations around the presidential palace early last month to protest what they alleged was discrimination within the military. The 591 soldiers who were recently sacked had refused to report to barracks as ordered.”

Source: Lusa (from UNOTIL Public Information Office, Daily Media Review)

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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