UCAN: Bishop says East Timor church welcomes new
PM’s offer to work with gov’t for peace
DILI, East Timor (UCAN) – Bishop Alberto Ricardo
da Silva of Dili has hailed East Timor’s new
prime minister for inviting the Catholic Church
to help his government work for peace and development.
On Aug. 8, just after a ceremony at which
Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmao was sworn in as prime
minister, Bishop da Silva told UCA News he
welcomes Gusmao’s invitation and has promised to
collaborate with the new government.
The bishop also noted that Gusmao promised to
give financial help to the church in the
Catholic-majority country, “and the church welcomes it.”
The new prime minister, a former leader of the
resistance against Indonesian occupation, pledged
in his speech to unify the country, which remains
divided a year after a military mutiny led to
sectarian clashes and gang warfare.
In Portuguese, 61-year-old Gusmao promised to
work with civil society as well as church and
other religious institutions to bring peace to the nation.
He said the government “invites the Catholic
Church” to help “change violent mentalities, and
to help create a culture of peace, tolerance and
freedom by educating Timorese, working for human
development and reducing poverty.”
Gusmao also said his government, which will run
the country until 2012, will provide financial
assistance to the Catholic Church to support its own work.
Bishop da Silva said he expects the new
government to pursue dialogue with Major Alfredo
Alves Reinado, a former military police chief, and with others.
Reinado and his followers, now fugitives,
attacked a military base near Dili in May 2006
after riots erupted in the capital, leaving more
than 20 people dead and 100,000 homeless. Reinado
was apprehended a month later, but escaped from prison after three months.
According to the bishop, another priority for
Gusmao’s government is to send home all who were
displaced by the unrest and still live in makeshift camps.
The violence has not ceased in East Timor, locally known as Timor Leste.
Just after President Jose Ramos-Horta announced
that he had chosen Gusmao to become prime
minister on Aug. 5, Fretilin party supporters
began throwing rocks and blocked roads with burning tires on many Dili streets.
Fretilin won the most votes in the June national
election, but its 21 seats in the 65-member
parliament were far short of the majority needed
to govern. Gusmao’s party picked up just 18
seats, but it later formed an alliance with three
other parties to form a parliament majority.
Fretilin’s leaders are still demanding the right to form the government.
Media have cited a police spokesman saying
sporadic violence has occurred in parts of Dili
as well as in Baucau, a town considered a
Fretilin stronghold, 122 kilometers (about 75
miles) east of Dili. According to the spokesman,
a foreign-aid agency and a district court were
among several buildings set on fire.
A United Nations spokesman has told media that
four U.N. officers were among those injured in
attacks “regrettably” being committed by Fretilin supporters.
International media say that as of Aug. 10, as
many as 4,000 people fled their homes and about
600 houses have been torched in Baucau and in
Viqueque, 183 kilometers (about 115 miles) east
of Dili, since Gusmao’s appointment was announced.