Subject: UCAN: Local Bishops Discuss Security, Unemployment With Visiting U.N. Delegation

ET03942.1474 December 5, 2007 58 EM-lines (605 words)

EAST TIMOR Local Bishops Discuss Security, Unemployment With Visiting U.N. Delegation

DILI (UCAN) -- The Catholic bishops heading East Timor's two dioceses expressed concern about displaced and unemployed people to a visiting delegation from the United Nations Security Council.

The delegation, comprising ambassadors from six nations, on discussed the current situation in Timor Leste (East Timor) with Bishops Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili and Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau. They met on Nov. 28 at the Dili diocesan office.

The U.N. delegation was in the world's newest country to ask its leaders for advice on how to improve its security situation, Bishop da Silva told UCA News after the meeting.

Timor Leste, which became an independent nation in 2002, has been wracked by violence, especially during the past 18 months, despite the presence of a U.N. peacekeeping mission. The current mission has permission to remain until February 2008.

Bishop da Silva said he told the delegation that the Church's priority is to aid those still living in refugee camps. "Their condition needs special attention from all of us, and for that the U.N. presence in the country is still needed to support our government," he advised.

He also suggested the government needs help in creating employment. "Providing jobs for the young," he pointed out, "can minimize the possibility of problems." Much of the recent violence was committed by youth gangs.

Bishop do Nascimento saw the visit as extremely important, because it enabled the delegates to see the living conditions of the people.

He told UCA News that among concerns he and Bishop da Silva discussed with the delegates were internally displaced people; conflicts between "easterners" and "westerners," and among political parties; and the issue of Major Alfredo Alves Reinado and his supporters.

Major Reinado, the former military police chief, abandoned his headquarters in May 2006 in a show of dissatisfaction after the former government sacked 599 soldiers, mostly from the western part of the country, from the country's 1,400-man army.

Reinado then led his followers to attack a military base near Dili.

Afterward, riots broke out in Dili between groups claiming to advocate the causes of "easterners" and "westerners." More than 20 people died and 150,000 fled their homes, most ending up in makeshift refugee camps. About 2,500 troops from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal were called in to help stabilize the country.

These forces apprehended Reinado in June 2006, and he was detained at the prison in Dili. However, he escaped after three months and remains the most wanted person in the country.

Bishop do Nascimento noted that while the country wants support from the United Nations, which he feels "is really concerned about our challenges," it is the Timor Leste people who "have to solve our own problems, not the U.N. or other countries."

Prior to the meeting with the Church leaders, the delegation comprising diplomats from China, Indonesia, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa and the United States met with Timor Leste's political leaders and visited refugees.

Dumisani Kumalo, who headed the delegation, told media on Nov. 28 that it came to observe the situation closely, support Timor Leste's people and government, and evaluate the work of the United Nations here.

"Our general impression is that this country is doing very well and that security appears to be very good, but this country still needs a lot of international assistance," said Kumalo, South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations.

Timor Leste has a population of about 1 million, more than 90 percent of whom are Catholics. Although the former Portuguese colony has significant offshore oil and gas reserves, it faces major security, humanitarian and economic challenges, including an unemployment rate of 50 percent.

END


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