UN troops, police called in to quell deadly melee in Timor-Leste capital

UN troops, police called in to quell deadly melee in Timor-Leste capital

United Nations peacekeepers and police were called in to restore order in Dili, Timor-Leste, today following a violent demonstration involving more than 600 people that left one student dead and a Timorese parliamentarian injured.

Offices at Parliament and the Prime Minister’s residence were vandalized, while some stores and hotels in the capital were the targets of arson and looting, according to a UN spokesman in New York. At least 20 people suffered injuries in the disturbance and police have detained more than 30 others. By the end of the day, the situation had once again become calm.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the Timorese political leadership to pursue its efforts to restore calm, and stressed that the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) will continue to provide support as required, the spokesman said.

For their part, members of the Security Council called on all parties “to show restraint and return to calm,” Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, the current President of the 15-nation body, said in a press statement. They also expressed their support to the Government of Timor-Leste and to the efforts of UNMISET in helping to restore law and order.

Meanwhile in Dili, the UN’s top envoy there, Kamalesh Sharma, voiced his concern at the injuries and loss of life, as well as damage to the Parliament and the Government’s main office building. He said that UNMISET remained “fully prepared” to exercise its mandated role of assisting the Timor-Leste Government in maintaining peace and security.

According to UNMISET officials, the incident apparently began when a group of students arrived at the Parliament this morning for an appointment to discusses yesterday’s street violence with the country’s lawmakers.

Some of the group apparently grew restless, and at some point a Parliamentarian, Antonio Cardoso, Head of the Education Committee, went out to the front of the building to talk with the students who were assembled in the street. He was then apparently hit with a stone and sustained an injury to the head.

The situation subsequently deteriorated, resulting in gunshot injuries to two students and significant material damage to both the Parliament and to GPA, the Timor-Leste Government’s principal administrative building.

One of the two injured students later died. The other injured student and Mr. Cardoso, along with two police officers who were hurt in the clash, were transported to a hospital. The student who sustained a fatal injury was also carried to a hospital.