Subject: RT: East Timor to crack down on gang violence

East Timor to crack down on gang violence

By Tito Belo

DILI, May 22 (Reuters) - East Timor's interim prime minister vowed on Tuesday to crack down on gang violence that has destabilised the tiny nation, but said street fighting after this month's presidential election was not politically motivated.

Estanislau da Silva replaced Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta who was elected president after sweeping a run-off with nearly 70 percent of the votes. He will be in charge until a new prime minister is elected in parliamentary polls on June 30.

"We will not let criminals roam free. Those involved in criminal activities should be arrested and brought to justice," da Silva told reporters after meeting the nation's defence forces commander Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak.

"The government will take strong steps to end the violence so that the people can live in peace and they can trust the state institutions."

Da Silva said gang violence mostly involved drunken youngsters and had nothing to do with politics in East Timor, where clashes break out sporadically and fighters are often armed with machetes and poisonous steel darts.

Ramos-Horta, who spent years abroad as a spokesman for East Timor's struggle for independence from Indonesian occupation, was installed as president on Sunday.

His victory has raised hopes of greater stability in a nation still struggling to heal divisions five years after it won independence from Indonesia.

Da Silva also said the government has stepped up security for next month's legislative elections.

He said the government had had discussions with international forces and U.N. police on strengthening security during the June 30 elections.

Fourteen political parties will take part in the legislative elections and campaigning will be held from May 29 to June 28.

Despite recent outbreaks of violence and simmering political tensions, last month's run-off went off peacefully.

Divisions in East Timor's security forces led to riots last year that spun into deadly violence in which some 30 people died. Foreign troops were sent in to quell the violence.

Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1975 after long-time colonial power Portugal had set it free.

East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in a violence-marred referendum in 1999. It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.


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