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Timor-Leste: UN backs traditional dialogue process in resolving violent dispute

Timor-Leste: UN backs traditional dialogue process in resolving violent dispute

Timorese police officer
An argument between two martial arts groups in Timor-Leste that escalated into violence, resulting in the death of an off-duty police officer and the burning of 67 houses, has been resolved by a day-long traditional peace-building dialogue backed by the United Nations.

The so-called Simu Malu, requested by the local community and attended by hundreds of people, was facilitated by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in the village of Tashilin, which bore the brunt of the violence.

“Today, here in Tashilin, the Simu Malu has helped everyone understand that violence is detrimental to all and that problems can be resolved in a peaceful manner,” UNDP Programme Officer José Belo said of the event that took place on 9 September in Covalima district in the south-west of the small South-East Asian country that the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.

The meeting saw members of the martial arts groups and other concerned members stand up in front of the extended community and explain their point of view, culminating in official statements being prepared, read aloud by each group, then exchanged as a formal declaration of truce and as a show of commitment to work together to resolve existing problems and restore lasting peace in the area.

“This dialogue will help recreate good relations so that conflict will not happen again like in the past,” village chief Alexandre Pereira said. “For the future we have to create unity and to contribute to peace and stability so that people can safely go about their daily lives.”

UNDP supports the Department of Peace Building and Social Cohesion in Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Social Solidarity through technical support and capacity building.

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), set up in 2006 to succeed earlier missions after an outbreak of deadly violence, will maintain up to 1,280 police personnel to support the country’s police force until after the 2012 elections, when the mission is planning to withdraw.