Subject: RT: Violence hits Timor campaign as candidate urges unity

Also Timorese disillusioned after independence: Gusmao

Violence hits Timor campaign as candidate urges unity

04 Apr 2007 11:02:29 GMT

Source: Reuters

By Ahmad Pathoni

DILI, April 4 (Reuters) - A former East Timorese independence fighter jailed by Indonesia for six years pledged on Wednesday to unite his conflict-torn country and bring justice to its people, as the final day of election campaigning was marred by violence.

Fernando de Araujo, whose nom de guerre was La Sama, is among eight candidates running in Monday's presidential poll.

By the standards of the tiny country's chaotic history, the election campaign has been relatively peaceful, but on Wednesday rock-throwing clashes between supporters of various candidates left some 30 people in need of medical treatment in the capital Dili, according to Reuters eyewitnesses and hospital staff.

Several victims had bleeding head injuries and a nurse said at least one person had been wounded by an arrow.

U.N. police said in a statement "the situation in and around Dili has mostly been calm" but noted two incidents, one brought under control when officers fired two warning shots and another in which five people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

However, a rally for De Araujo -- at 44 the youngest among the candidates and considered by some to be a strong contender -- went peacefully.

"La Sama has a good chance of winning. He appeals to young voters who are disappointed with the failure of the older generation," political analyst Julio Thomas told Reuters.

The candidate with the highest profile, however, is Jose Ramos-Horta, who succeeded Alkatiri as prime minister and won a Nobel Peace Prize during the struggle against Indonesia.

About 2,000 people turned up at a Dili soccer field, waving De Araujo pictures and blue flags of the Democratic Party he founded. "I believe the young generation of Timor Leste will unite again," De Araujo told his supporters, who chanted "Viva La Sama".

NEW GENERATION

"It's time for young people to replace the old ones, who have brought only chaos to this country," said supporter Leo da Costa, his bare chest emblazoned with the Democratic Party's initials painted in yellow.

De Araujo, whose campaign theme is "It's time for a son of the poor to lead the country," said he would create a legal system free from discrimination.

"The current judiciary is trash. Law must not discriminate. It must not only punish people who steal chickens but also those who distribute weapons illegally," said De Araujo, standing on a truck and wearing a colourful traditional scarf around his neck. He did not mention any names.

Former East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was accused of giving weapons to supporters to kill political opponents during last year's wave of violence which prompted the government to invite in foreign troops to restore order.

The charges against Alkatiri were dropped earlier this year after authorities said there was not enough evidence.

East Timor became independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. stewardship. It has rich energy resources but has only begun to tap them and most of the country's one million people remain among the world's poorest.

De Araujo spent six years in a Jakarta prison, from 1992 to 1998, for campaigning for East Timor's independence.

He continued his studies after being released and graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2001.

---

Timorese disillusioned after independence: Gusmao

04 Apr 2007 07:35:45 GMT

Reuters

By Ahmad Pathoni

DILI, April 4 (Reuters) - The people of East Timor are fed up waiting for economic improvement, five years after the tiny state became a nation, President Xanana Gusmao said on Wednesday.

East Timor, which broke away from Indonesian rule in 1999, will vote for a new president to replace Gusmao on Monday.

The young country remains under the shadow of the violence that broke out last year, displacing more than 100,000 people and requiring the dispatch of foreign troops to end the chaos.

"People feel that they are sick of waiting, waiting for something good," Gusmao told foreign correspondents in the capital, Dili.

"We used to promise people jobs, the creation of jobs. But they don't see light at the end of the tunnel," said Gusmao, who appeared relaxed with the sleeves rolled up on his blue shirt.

The charismatic independence hero is not seeking re-election in the April 9 election, but has said he would like to become prime minister, a role that wields real power rather than the largely ceremonial president's post.

East Timor became independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. stewardship.

Pro-Jakarta militiamen went on a violent rampage following the 1999 vote for independence, destroying infrastructure and killing about 1,000 people, according to the United Nations.

East Timor again descended into chaos last May after the government sacked 600 rebellious soldiers who complained of discrimination. More than 30 people died in this violence.

Since then, gang clashes have occurred sporadically.

Security was tight in Dili ahead of Monday's vote, and U.N. police and heavily armed Australian soldiers patrolled the streets to prevent violence during the two-week campaign period which will end on Wednesday.

Streets are deserted and dark after 7 p.m.

Gusmao said that $1 billion earned from East Timor's oil resources should have been spent on education and health, as well as creating jobs, instead of just sitting in a U.S. bank account.

"The money is being kept in a bank in New York while people are suffering," he said.

Gusmao said the government was to blame for the current predicament because it had failed to provide clear direction.

"Of course we used to justify our lack of capability during all these years by saying that we have a problem of human resources, we have a problem of money ... but what I can see is we don't have something that gives us the confidence that we're going in the right direction," he said.

Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader who once said he would rather be a pumpkin farmer, said he was confident that with a clear development plan East Timor could fare much better in 10 or 15 years.

He cited more prosperous neighbours such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as good development examples but said that economic progress should not come at the expense of human rights.

"Of course we are a very small country with a small population of less than one million, maybe in 10 years it will be 1.2 million, but still small and we can do something good."


Back to April menu 
March    
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu