Subject: Never sacrifice people for certain political ambition

Bahasa Indonesia Original (RTF file, opens in new window)

Joint Statement of Civil Society Organizations in Timor Lorosa'e

Never Sacrifice People for Political Ambition

As civil society organizations in East Timor working for freedom and true democracy in this country, we are concerned about and condemn the violent incidents on 3 and 4 December, 2002.

We were shocked by the arson and looting of some shops, offices and private houses in Dili on 4 December. During these incidents, two people died and 26 were injured.

The violence that day began with attacks on the National Parliament building and East Timor Police Service (ETPS) headquarters, followed by rampaging and looting. It appeared to be spontaneous mass anger, provoked by the fatal shooting of a student from the 28 November High School during the turmoil, after which the group attacked the National Parliament building while the Parliament was in session. But careful observation indicates that this arson and looting was systematic and directed.

The incident on 4 December cannot be separated from an incident a day before, when students of 28 November High School clashed with ETPS officers. The students challenged the police because they believed that officers acted arbitrarily in arresting a student accused of a criminal act. On 3 December, some students and their teachers came to the National Parliament to resolve this dispute. The next morning, in accordance with an agreement they had made with the Parliament, students and some teachers returned to the Parliament building. Many people had been waiting outside the building, and they joined the high school delegation. Some of these people then incited students to attack the parliament - smashing windows by throwing stones. One Parliament member was injured on the head by a thrown stone.

After attacking the National Parliament building, the growing crowd, now including High School students and other unidentified youth, ran to ETPS headquarters. During the turmoil, a High School student was killed by a bullet. The crowd believed that the bullet was fired by police officers guarding their headquarters. After this fatal event, some in the crowd, who did not appear to be high school students, abused ETPS officers. They shouted accusations, including that many former anti-independence militias were in the police force. Some also shouted "Oust Mari Alkatiri!" "Paul (Head of ETPS) resign!" "Rogerio (Minister for Internal Affairs) stay!" These people continued to incite the crowd.

President Xanana Gusmão went into the middle of the crowd, eventually succeeding in inviting some students from the high school and university into the Parliament building. But others were incited to go to the nearby Hello Mister supermarket. They burned the supermarket, and then looted the Lorosa'e Dili Hotel (former Hotel Resende). Some others went eastward, burning a government vehicle in front of the Harvey Norman store and throwing stones at cars parked in front of the Landmark and Dili Cold Storage supermarkets.

Then the mob which had attacked the Lorosa'e Dili Hotel quickly went to the Colmera neighborhood, some walking and others riding motorbikes. In Colmera, they burned the Gloria garment shop and shops next to it, and looted the Border Control Service storehouse. After Colmera, the mob, now no more than 50 people, went to the An-Nur mosque in Kampung Alor. They burned houses at the left part of the mosque compound, in front of the mosque. Some of the arsonists arrived in a truck, bring the total to around 100.

From the An-Nur mosque, the mob went west. In Comoro, they burned a house owned by one of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's brothers, next to the Super Wok restaurant. The mob continued westward to the Micro Finance Institution of East Timor, where they threw stones. Following this, the mob was ordered "To Mari Alkatiri house!" The mob hurried to Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's home, in the Pantai Kelapa area. They burned a government vehicle parked near the Prime Minister's house. Upon arriving in front of the house, some youth shouted, "Get out police, get out police!" "We just want to burn the house!" Some others threw stones at the house. After a period no response from inside, some youths went into the yard and took out two motorbikes, which were burned in the middle of the street. At the same time, some others broke in to destroy the house. A youth on a motorbike provided a plastic container of gasoline; others used this to burn the house. Some people ordered those burning the house not to burn the Fretilin flag and not to take any goods from the house.

After burning down the Prime Minister's home, the mob turned south, toward a house owned by PM Alkatiri's young brother, a hundred meters away. They burned this house and another, also owned by PM Alkatiri's young brother but rented to a foreigner. Then the mob moved down Bebonuk street to Delta Comoro, where they dispersed.

All of this destruction occurred without the presence of security officers to prevent it. From the morning onward, there appeared to be almost no police officers, neither ETPS nor UN Police, in the entire city.

After the Parliament building was attacked, the riot police officers in front of Lorosa'e Dili Hotel withdrew, although the area in front of ETPS headquarters was already very tense. During the later rampaging, neither the ETPS nor PKF took any security measures. Some trucks of PKF troops were seen, but they secured only a few places. They passed places where rampaging was underway, but just passed by, doing nothing to stop it.

The security of East Timor is still under the authority of the United Nations. According to UN Security Council Resolution 1410(2002), which establishes the UN Mission in Support of East Timor (UNMISET), the UNMISET mandate includes (2(b)) "to provide law enforcement and public security and to assist in the development of a new law enforcement agency in East Timor, the East Timor Police Service (ETPS)" and (2(c)), "to contribute to the maintenance of the external and internal security of East Timor." East Timor's Police Service, according to an UNMISET-ETPS-Donor Joint Assessment Mission last week, is "currently operating under the executive authority of UNPOL."

The 4 December rampage was not random. Some people incited the crowd with words attacking Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, shouting that the government was responsible for the murder of the youth, that the youth was a fighter for freedom in East Timor. After many people were enraged by these words, they were directed to certain targets for destruction, looting and burning. After one target was destroyed, the crowd was directed to another, and so on until the list was finished.

From our observations in the field, "actors" can be put into four categories: · Those who incited the crowd and directed them to destroy certain targets. These people also supplied gasoline for arson. Most are 20-30 years old. Some have long hair, others have short hair. Some rode motorbikes. · Those who directed the rampage. Some of them had swords hidden under long-sleeved shirts. · People who threw stones and burned buildings. Many of them are teenagers. Possibly they were the ones incited. · Those who looted shops after the rampage. Most probably, these are people incited or who came to watch, but then took the opportunity to steal goods.

The rampaging on 4 December, 2002, reminds us of criminal acts done by anti-independence bandits in 1999, together with their Indonesian military patrons. We find it ironic that the people of East Timor, who are rebuilding our societal and national life from scorched-earth ruins, have had to experience violence again.

We observe that the violence was systematic, and therefore conclude that the rampage was planned to achieve a particular purpose. The purpose is apparently not to take goods, because the prime actors are not the ones who looted. Based on the selection of targets, we believe that the purpose is politics, to disturb the economy of East Timor and to discredit the leader of the present government.

Based what we know so far, we conclude that: 

1. The violence on 4 December, 2002 was systematic. 

2. This violence has a political motive. 

3. Many youth were exploited to implement this the violence without knowing its plan and purpose. 

4. Security officers' failure to carry out their responsibilities made the violence possible. This is not only the fault of ETPS, because security is currently the responsibility of the United Nations, specifically UNMISET and its UN Police and UN Peace-Keeping Force.

In order to achieve a democratic, secure, peaceful and stable nation, we urge: 

1. The United Nations to better meet their responsibility for security, including taking measures against security personnel who failed to performing their duties. 

2. Political elites and anyone with political interests not to use criminal, -barbaric or anti-democratic manners for own aims. 

3. Young people to refuse to be used as tools for interests who seek to undermine the struggles for which East Timor has sacrificed blood, tears and materials. 

4. The authorities to thoroughly and completely investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the violence on 4 December 2002, while respecting human rights principles.

Dili, East Timor 
7 December 2002

Marito Araújo 
Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (AMKV) 
Association of Men Against Violence

Miguel Mane-Telu 
Concelho Nacional de Juventude de Timor Leste (CNJTL) 
National Council of East Timorese Youth

Takahashi Shigehito 
East Timor Desk - Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ)

Abdullah H. Sagran 
Centro da Comunidade Islâmica de Timor Leste (CENCISTIL) 
Islamic Community Center of East Timor

José Jaquelino Gusmão 
Centro do Desenvolvimento da Economia Popular (CDEP) 
Center for Development and Popular Economy

Maria Manuela Leong Pereira 
Forum Komunikasi Perempuan Timor Lorosa'e (Fokupers) 
Communication Forum for East Timorese Women

Demetrio Amaral 
Fundação Haburas Haburas (Green) Foundation

Eugenio Lemos Hadomi 
Sustenabilidade Agricultura Timor Leste (HASATIL) 
East Timor Sustainable Agriculture

Nelson Belo 
Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP)

Konsellu Solidaridade Universitario Timor Lorosa'e (KSUTL) 
East Timor University Solidarity Council

Mericio Akara 
La'o Hamutuk East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis

Leonito Ribeiro 
Lembaga Bantuan Hukum "Tane Timor" 
Legal Aid Association

Tome Xavier Jeronimo 
Pacific Asia Resource Centre (PARC)

José Luís de Oliveira 
Perkumpulan HAK Association for Rights, Law and Justice

Nuno Rodriguez 
Sah'e Institute for Liberation

Virgílio Guterres Silva 
Timor Lorosa'e Journalists' Association (TLJA)

Joaquim Costa 
Warga Desa Kolmera 
Community of Colmera Neighborhood

see also LH: Disorder in East Timor: The International Community Must Accept Responsibility

see also news reports and analysis of unrest

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