Electoral unrest continues in Timor-Leste as UN police, partners deploy
United Nations police officers in Timor-Leste, together with their international and national colleagues, have been fully deployed to put a stop to the violence that has erupted in the small South-East Asian country following the appointment of a new government.
In the past 24 hours, at least seven buildings in Baucau, east of the capital Dili, including three government facilities, three non-governmental organization (NGO) offices and one court, were set on fire, as were seven private houses in nearby Viqueque. Two UN Police officers were injured, one seriously, and 45 people have been arrested.
Other violence has included widespread stoning damaging buildings and vehicles, at least 25 of them belonging to the UN.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Atul Khare today again strongly condemned the violence, noting that it “is regrettably being committed” by people claiming allegiance to the former ruling party, Fretilin.
“It is essential that the message of non-violence be communicated strongly and repeatedly until it is respected by all,” Mr. Khare said, recalling that Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri had strongly condemned all acts of violence and assured him in a meeting yesterday that the party would take all possible steps to calm the situation.
With UN police officers, national police and the International Security Forces (ISF) fully deployed, about 225 tear gas shells along with rubber bullets were fired to disperse the groups involved. An additional formed police platoon is being sent to Baucau today as reinforcement.
Mr. Khare will travel to Baucau and Viqueque on Saturday with President José Ramos-Horta to assure the population that the State is acting to quickly re-establish peace. Elsewhere in Timor-Leste the situation remains volatile but under control, with isolated and sporadic incidents of violence being reported.
The UN enhanced its peacekeeping and policing roles in the country, which it helped to shepherd to independence from Indonesia in 2002, after violence attributed to differences between eastern and western regions broke out in April and May last year, killing at least 37 people and forcing 155,000 others, 15 per cent of the population, to flee their homes.
The new Government led by former president Xanana Gusmão was sworn in today after the 30 June legislative elections failed to produce a single outright winner.