Subject: Timorese gangs paid to kill

Courier Mail

Timorese gangs paid to kill

Marianne Kearney

October 09, 2007 12:00am

EAST Timorese youths have been paid to kill people during periods of political unrest, a Catholic priest has alleged.

Father Martinho Gusmao has told The Courier-Mail that provocateurs have a graded scale of fees for for rock throwing, burning houses and murder.

His information comes from hearing the confessions of dozens of youths.

"According to estimations, they say if they throw a stone, they will get $20, if they burn a house: $50, if they kill a person: $100," Fr Gusmao says.

"I think this is very terrible."

The Dili-based priest says he has a strong suspicion who has been paying the youths but refuses to name names.

Young men were paid before and after the June national elections to commit acts of violence, he adds.

Confessions relating to such acts were still being made as recently as last week.

"They come to talk to us, they want to have counselling because they feel guilty," said the priest, who is also a member of the church's Justice and Peace Commission. There were outbreaks of rioting surrounding the June polls in which no single party won enough votes to form a government.

After much negotiating Xanana Gusmao formed a coalition government with smaller parties. However Fretilin, the former ruling party, initially argued that the new government was unconstitutional as Fretilin was the largest vote-winner.

While Fr Gusmao would not point a finger at who might still be stirring up unrest, Miguel Manetelo, the newly appointed State Secretary for Youth and Sports, does not hold back.

"In Timor Leste, many youths if they receive some money from someone, some groups or some political parties, they make trouble and violence," he says. "It's because they don't have work, so it's very easy to politicise them."

Mr Manetelo says political parties have been manipulating the youths to create unrest.

Unemployed young men loiter on Dili's hot and dusty streets and jump out at passing cars waving mobile phone card top-ups.

Unruly youths are much feared. Taxi drivers say guarding their beaten up sedans is their first priority, and most refuse to drive after 5pm.

"If I drive at night, I never know when I'll be hit, maybe there'll be someone down this road, or jump out here," said one driver

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