18 July 2012

East Timor president calls for security forces to restore order after post-election violence

BY GUIDO GOULART, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JULY 16, 2012 - DILI, East Timor - East Timor's president called on security forces to restore peace and order Monday as violence persisted over the runner-up in this month's election being excluded from a new coalition government.

One person was killed and four policemen were injured in clashes Sunday in the capital, Dili, and the district town of Viqueque, said police chief Longuinhos Monteiro. On Monday, witnesses said they heard gunshots in a Dili neighbourhood and that protesters there were burning tires.

The violence started shortly after Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said his party would set up a coalition with the Democratic Party and Frenti-Mudanca, excluding the Fretilin party from the government.

President Taur Matan Ruak met with the leaders of the four main parties as the unrest continued Monday and said at a news conference he was preoccupied with the violence and appealed to people to bring peace, stability and harmony back to the country.

"Violence is not (the best) way in the democracy. We all condemned the violence and there is no justification at all," said Ruak, a former guerrilla fighter who took office May 20, replacing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.

Ruak said he was confident to leave Tuesday for Mozambique to attend the conference of Portuguese-speaking countries, given the people's solidarity to maintain peace and harmony.

The Supreme Court of Appeals officially endorsed the results of the July 7 parliamentary polls Monday. Gusmao's National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, or CNRT party, won 30 seats in the 65-member assembly.

It was seeking to form a coalition with the Democratic Party and Frente-Mudance, which claimed 10 seats between them. Second-place Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin party, won 25 seats.

Monteiro said 16 protesters were arrested in violence that started early Saturday when protesters pelted and damaged Annur mosque, the biggest Muslim place of worship in the predominantly Catholic nation.

East Timor was a Portuguese colony for three centuries before a brutal Indonesian occupation that left more than 170,000 dead. It voted overwhelmingly for independence in 1999. Withdrawing soldiers and proxy militias went on a rampage, killing another 1,500 people and destroying much of the infrastructure.

The international community quickly deployed U.N. peacekeepers and poured in billions of dollars. But gang violence and splits in the army and police have turned deadly several times and, six years ago, led to the collapse of the government.

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