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In bid to halt post-election violence in Timor-Leste, UN convenes party leaders

In bid to halt post-election violence in Timor-Leste, UN convenes party leaders

In an effort to end political violence in Timor-Leste, the top United Nations envoy in the small South-East Asian country today brought all political parties together at a meeting where he underscored their earlier agreement to ensure a meaningful role for the opposition and for the opposition to make constructive contributions to parliament.

The 16 party leaders strongly condemned the violence, which has included the burning of houses and government buildings, the vandalizing of schools and the stoning of cars.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Atul Khare voiced satisfaction that the former governing party FRETILIN clearly reiterated that it would not abandon the parliament.

Mr. Khare has said the violence, which erupted after the announcement of a new Government on Monday, was “regrettably” being committed by people who claim an allegiance to FRETILIN.

He pledged UN support for government efforts to ensure that the security situation improves and that humanitarian aid is provided to mitigate the effects of the violence in the eastern districts of the country, which the world body helped shepherd to independence from Indonesia in 2002.

UN police officers and their international and national counterparts have been fully deployed to try to end the violence following the announcement of the new Government led by former president Xanana Gusmão.

Today’s meeting was the seventh convened by the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) with the aim of providing a space for frank and honest exchanges of information between all the parties that contested the 30 June parliamentary elections, which failed to produce a single outright winner. The party leaders stated that violence should not be used as a mechanism to voice discontent about the formation of the new Government, Mr. Khare noted.

UN police reported that the security situation remained volatile, particularly in Viqueque and Baucau districts to the east of Dili, the capital. They confirmed that 142 houses had been burnt in the two districts since the unrest began. Yesterday in Viqueque there were numerous cases of arson, fighting, stone throwing, and illegal road blocks. In Baucau, there were also several cases of arson and stone throwing. Police made four arrests.

In Dili yesterday, there were several reports of rock throwing and fighting, most of which occurred at night. Police arrested 17 people over the course of the day.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced strong condemnation of the vandalization of schools, learning spaces, and play areas in recent days. “UNICEF is absolutely concerned that children are once again the ones who suffer,” the agency’s country representative Shui-Meng Ng said.

“We urge the adults to consider the future of all their children before they continue their destruction of public properties and create further unrest. Without a safe environment, and without proper classrooms or learning spaces, all your children will be adversely impacted.”

The UN enhanced its peacekeeping and policing roles in Timor-Leste 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.