Subject: RT/AFP: East Timor's Gusmao sworn in under shadow of violence


East Timor's Gusmao sworn in under shadow of violence

By Tito Belo

Wednesday, August 8, 2007; 4:28 AM

DILI (Reuters) - Independence hero and former president Xanana Gusmao was sworn in as East Timor's prime minister on Wednesday as simmering violence continued in some districts loyal to the former ruling party.

Breaking a deadlock after parliamentary polls more than a month ago, President Jose Ramos-Horta on Monday appointed Gusmao's coalition to govern after no single party won a majority.

Ramos-Horta's decision sparked violent protests by supporters of the former ruling party, Fretilin, which claims the right to govern and has branded the president's move as unconstitutional.

Gusmao took his oath at a ceremony in the capital, Dili.

"I will serve the nation based on laws and the constitution with all my capacity for the people, prosperity, consolidating independence and national unity," the bearded fighter-turned-politician said as he placed his hand on the constitution.

The new government consists of 12 ministers. Fretilin's Jose Luis Guterres, a former foreign minister, was appointed deputy prime minister.

Police said fresh violence broke out in the district of Baucau and Viqueque on Wednesday.

A Fretilin supporter in Baucau was shot and wounded by a gunman believed to be a backer of the new prime minister, local police chief Pedro Belo told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Fretilin supporters attacked at least 15 houses in Viqueque, national police operations chief Mateus Fernandes said.

"We have difficulty because we have limited numbers of personnel," Fernandes said by telephone.

He said 45 people were arrested in Baucau.

There were no reports of violence in the capital, where youths burned tires and vandalized buildings a day earlier.

Factional bloodshed broke out in the impoverished country of about 1 million people last year, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The mayhem, during which 37 people were killed, was triggered by the previous government's decision to sack 600 soldiers.

Fretilin won 21 seats in the 65-member parliament in the June poll, while the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) took 18 seats. Gusmao founded CNRT earlier this year.

Fretilin, which spearheaded the fight against Indonesia's 24-year rule, claimed the right to form a government because it won most votes in the polls. But CNRT declared a coalition with smaller parties to form a majority.

Fretilin has threatened to boycott parliament and the government if Gusmao's coalition takes power.

Gusmao, who battled Indonesian forces in the hills for years before being captured, appears to have become increasingly frustrated by the pace of progress under Fretilin since independence five years ago.


Gusmao sworn in as East Timor PM

Published: Wednesday August 8, 2007

Former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao pledged to unite East Timor as he was sworn in Wednesday as the young country's new prime minister at a ceremony boycotted by the previous ruling party.

The independence hero and his new government take charge of an impoverished nation scarred by more than a year of tension and political uncertainty since deadly unrest in the capital, Dili.

"I swear to God, to the people, and on my honour, that I will fulfill with loyalty the functions that have been invested in me," he said in Portuguese as President Jose Ramos-Horta administered the oath.

"I will abide by and enforce the constitution and the laws, and will dedicate all my energy to the defence and consolidation of independence and national unity."

In a speech after the ceremony he promised to reform the nation, a former Portuguese colony, saying "this mandate clearly shows the political wishes of all Timorese to introduce changes."

Portuguese guards, part of an international security presence deployed in the wake of last year's unrest, patrolled outside the presidential palace as lawmakers, diplomats, clergy and senior UN officials attended inside.

Jose Luis Guterres, a former foreign minister and a member of a breakaway faction of the previously ruling Fretilin, was named as deputy prime minister, with 12 other ministers making up the cabinet.

Ramos-Horta on Monday invited Gusmao's coalition to form a government after inconclusive polls on June 30. The coalition has 37 seats in the 65-seat parliament.

Fretilin won the most votes in the election but not the absolute majority required to govern. It insists it should have been asked to lead and plans to fight the decision in the courts.

East Timor's constitution was ambiguous on who should rule following the polls, but gives Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate, the authority to choose.

The announcement triggered sporadic, low-level violence in Dili and other towns in the tiny, half-island nation.

Angry youths hurled rocks, set up road blocks and torched buildings in the capital and two other towns, but some 3,000 international peacekeepers and UN police have managed to rein in the unrest.

Fretilin's Mari Alkatiri, who stepped down as prime minister after violence last year, promised Tuesday to ask his supporters to quell the trouble.

In a statement Wednesday his party reiterated that it "strongly opposes all violent responses".

About 100 Fretilin supporters held a brief protest Wednesday outside the main government offices as the new cabinet members arrived, and the rest of Dili was reported to be largely calm.

The head of the emergency ward at Dili's main hospital said four people had been brought in with injuries from violence in the past two days, including a woman on Wednesday injured by a rubber bullet.

International forces were sent to East Timor after clashes between military and police factions, and youth gangs, in April and May last year.

At least 37 people were killed and some 150,000 others forced from their homes. An estimated 100,000 people, about 10 percent of the population, still shelter in camps, too afraid to return or with no homes to go back to.

The crisis is one of many facing Gusmao's new government, with unemployment hovering at near 50 percent, thousands of disaffected youth threatening social stability, and weak health and education systems.

East Timor voted for independence in a UN-backed referendum in 1999 and became the world's newest nation in 2002. It had previously been ruled by Indonesia for 24 years.

The former Fretilin government was criticised for spending too little on infrastructure and initiatives to pull the oil- and gas-rich nation out of desperate poverty.


SBS WORLD NEWS AUSTRALIA (6:30 bulletin, 07/08/2007)


Violence is spreading in East Timor tonight. Security forces have used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds of Fretilin supporters angry at the appointment of former president Xanana Gusmao as the country's new prime minister. Protesters have attacked Australian troops and burnt down buildings in the capital, Dili. They have also gone on the rampage in the Fretilin stronghold of Baucau.

Fretilin supporters vented their anger in Dili last night. Government buildings were the target. Customs House and all the records it contained went up in flames - another setback for a country still trying to find its feet. There were more protests today. Demonstrators waving Fretilin flags rallied outside a refugee camp near Dili's international airport. They believe the June election has been stolen from them.

MARI ALKATIRI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER: Fretilin was the most voted party in the election, the major single party. The President should really invite Fretilin to form the government. What we have been already been informed is that Fretilin is going to...CNRT. This is completely illegal and against our constitution.

President Ramos Horta has appealed to both Fretilin and an emerging anti-Fretilin alliance to come together to form a national unity government. By yesterday it had become clear those efforts had failed. The President then used his power to appoint Xanana Gusmao.

MAX STAHL, JOURNALIST: Clearly, the alliance had the majority of parliament led by Xanana, which has 65% of the vote behind it, and the Parliament seats behind it was the only viable option and ultimately if they couldn't form the national unity government, I don't think the President had any option.

Today, Xanana Gusmao was meeting Mari Alkatiri to discuss the handover of power. The big question is whether they're able to reach some agreement to stop the country descending into anarchy.

MAX STAHL: It's going to be another very difficult and important step in the process of this new nation.

Preparations are under way for Xanana Gusmao to be sworn in as prime minister tomorrow.



Alison Cooper, the UN spokeswoman in East Timor, joined us on the line to discuss the situation there in the wake of the today's unrest.

MARY KOSTAKIDIS: What's the situation like there now?

ALISON COOPER, UN SPOKESWOMAN: The situation in Dili and elsewhere in the country is volatile at the moment. We characterise the violence as sporadic and isolated. In Dili today we've seen various incidents of rock throwing, of roadblocks being set up whereby people will put anything from old burnt-out cars to burning tyres on the road, and there has also been fighting amongst people.

MARY KOSTAKIDIS: I would like your view on the attack on Australian troops today. Would it be fair to say Fretilin and their supporters don't really see Australians as being independent in all of this?

ALISON COOPER: I think it would be a little bit unfair to say that. I assume the attack being referred to within your report was the attack that happened at the airport IDP camp this morning. I was actually out there with a lot of the journalists and some of the UN staff as well as the UN peacekeepers and there were rocks being thrown. It wasn't specifically at the Australian forces, though. The people from within the camp and near the camp were just throwing rocks off into the distance. It may have looked as if it was that the Australian forces because it was the Australian forces that took the tanks into clear the area but what we have seen there this morning and what we have seen in other rock attacks over the past 24 hours isn't specifically targeted or aimed at Australians - it's aimed and targeted at all the different security factions and sections trying to hold the peace at the moment - that's United Nations police officers that represent 40 different countries, it's the national police of Timor, Leste, it's the international stabilisation forces, which includes the Australian and New Zealand soldiers and at times it's the national defence force of Timor. The rock throwing is generic against a lot of people, not just specifically the Australian forces.

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