Timor-Leste Situation Report
Wednesday June 28th, 2006
This was prepared by a small collective of people working inside and outside Timor-Leste to develop a counter analysis to that presented daily in the Australian media.
Despite the presence of several thousand international security personnel, the security situation in Timor-Leste remains very serious. This is preventing the resumption of a peaceful and democratic process to resolve the crisis within the framework of the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Some key points are:
· Groups of people/protestors are moving freely around Dili, intimidating FRETILIN members and supporters; attacking and burning houses of FRETILIN members; abusing and insulting members of the FRETILIN leadership; using inflammatory language to incite people to attack their leaders and militants. Some people say the protestors and the violent gangs are separate groups, but when the protest leaders drive around Dili, they allow anyone to jump onto their trucks and join in the protest. Some of the people on the trucks then undertake other actions at night, attacking and threatening people. And the violent abusive nature of the protesters slogans eg communist, terrorist, thief, are easily interpreted by poor, angry and semi-literate youth as a license to attack FRETILN leaders and supporters.
· The protest has continued, despite the fact that Dr Alkatiri agreed on Monday that he would resign, to prevent the President from resigning, and to facilitate a political solution to the crisis. Some protest leaders now are calling on the President to dissolve the democratically-elected Parliament, and pass all power into his own hands until an election can be held, a totally unconstitutional move.
· It is also worth noting that when the President, the Foreign Minister or leaders of the various minority opposition parties address the protests and give them encouragement, this is seen positively; but when FRETILIN’s leaders address their own militants and supporters, this is seen as inciting violence – despite the fact that the main message of FRETILIN’s leaders has consistently been the need for things to be done within the rule of law.
· The most recent violence, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, was a direct response to the footage on Timor TV of the FRETILIN rally of 18,000 people at Hera, outside Dili. Note that this rally was six times larger than anything to date organised by the opposition parties. Immediately the TV report finished, FRETILIN members began receiving threatening text messages. Within an hour fires were being lit, in FRETILIN members houses which had been left vacant as a result of attacks several weeks ago, and at the end of the lane behind Dr Alkatiri’s house.
· Today’s violence extended to RTTL, Radio-Television-Timor-Leste, which was attacked. This prevented the evening news going to air tonight, which, if events had gone according to plan, would have included FRETILIN’s entry into Dili to assert its democratic mandate to govern
· In fact, the entry into Dili, along a route negotiated with the international security forces, with their full cooperation, and in keeping with a permit obtained legally to hold this demonstration, had to be postponed, because violence broke out in one of the suburbs it was to pass through. The delay in securing the route meant the decision was made, by FRETILIN leaders in consultation with the security forces, to postpone the rally until tomorrow.
· The most serious threat to security however, and to the peaceful and democratic resolution of the political situation, is the continued presence outside Dili of several armed and irregular groups of defectors from PNTL, the national police force, and from the army and other irregular units. People here understand that there are still large numbers of automatic weapons, diverted from the regular forces or taken from the PNTL armoury, which are unaccounted for. Until all these groups and their weapons are brought into secure custody, anyone associated with the government of Dr Alkatiri is in extreme danger, especially if they act in a public way to attempt to mobilise support among FRETILIN members and sympathisers. This is helping to neutralise FRETILIN’s capacity to defend itself politically.
· At tomorrows rally, FRETILIN militants and supporters will deliver their proposals to the president, for a resolution of the crisis which, while leaving room for negotiation among all state institutions, other political parties, the Church, and civil society, respects their democratic mandate to govern and carry forward their program until the next election, as set out in the Budget already prepared by Dr Alkatiri’s Council of Ministers, which included the Foreign Minister and several non-FRETILIN members.
· The question then will be: Will the President decide to continue to work with the National Parliament and the Party which holds 55 of its 88 seats; or will he, following the call of some Opposition leaders, the protestors and other miscellaneous disaffected individuals, move to dissolve the Parliament, concentrating the power to govern the republic in himself and a Prime Minister and Ministerial Council of his choosing, thus completing the coup d’etat which the FRETILIN leadership has identified as the outcome towards which a range of different local and international actors have been pushing events over the recent months, and perhaps much longer.