Timor-Leste: UN envoy decries political attacks, hails government response

Timor-Leste: UN envoy decries political attacks, hails government response

Security forces search vehicles at a check point in Dili
A senior United Nations envoy today decried attempts on the life of the President of Timor-Leste, who was wounded yesterday in a shooting, and the Prime Minister, who escaped a separate attack on his motorcade, while praising the maintenance of calm in the country.

A senior United Nations envoy today decried attempts on the life of the President of Timor-Leste, who was wounded yesterday in a shooting, and the Prime Minister, who escaped a separate attack on his motorcade, while praising the maintenance of calm in the country.

“I left New York within hours of hearing the terrible news that President José Ramos-Horta had been injured in a shooting incident early yesterday morning and that Prime Minister [Xanana] Gusmao had also been attacked,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative, Atul Khare, who had been headed to UN Headquarters to brief the Security Council before reversing course and returning to the country, which the UN helped shepherd to independence in 2002.

Mr. Ramos-Horta is in a serious condition in hospital in Australia after earlier undergoing surgery following the shooting at his home. The Prime Minister was not injured in a separate attack on his motorcade, but the fugitive leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in fighting, according to the UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

“I am deeply disturbed by yesterday's violence,” said Mr. Khare, “but I am also very impressed by the calm manner in which the country has reacted to these events,” he added, noting that investigations are underway.

He praised the conduct of the Government, Parliament and the opposition, while welcoming the fact that State institutions have continued to perform their functions, and leaders have adhered to the Constitution in this time of crisis. “It is a positive sign and a point that I will be conveying to Dr. Ramos-Horta at the earliest available opportunity.”

Mr. Khare said the President “plays a crucial role in leading this country on its path to development, and in enhancing its culture of democratic governance” and voiced hope for his recovery.

Mr. Reinado had been the target of investigations by the UN Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste, set up to examine the deadly violence that erupted in the tiny nation in April-May 2006. It found the Major and his group were reasonably suspected of committing crimes during the fighting.

The 2006 crisis, attributed in part to differences between Timor-Leste's eastern and western regions, began in April with the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the overall armed forces. Ensuing violence claimed at least 37 lives and drive 155,000 people, or about 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes. The Security Council created UNMIT in August that year to help restore stability.