Subject: LUSA: Inquiry commission opens hearings on soldiers' grievances

East Timor: Inquiry commission opens hearings on soldiers' grievances

Dili, Feb. 10 (Lusa) - An inquiry commission began hearings Friday on the complaints of hundreds of East Timorese soldiers who went AWOL to protest alleged discrimination and ill-treatment by commanders.

A military source told Lusa the hearings were taking place at the army instruction center at Metinaro, located some 40 kilometers outside, Dili, where they held their unauthorized, day-long protests Wednesday at the presidential palace.

President Xanana Gusmão, who twice met with the 400 unarmed demonstrators, defused the crises by promising no reprisals if the troops returned to barracks and pledging an inquiry into their grievances by a commission of army officers and lawmakers.

The demonstrators alleged discrimination in promotions and ill- treatment by commanders.

The protest, which involved about one-quarter of East Timor's fledgling Self-Defense Force, came in the wake of a written petition sent to the president several weeks ago.

As supreme commander of the defense force, Gusmão had been expected to deal with the simmering unrest and related military issues on March 9 at a scheduled meeting on the Superior Council of Defense and Security.

The newly independent country's fledgling military still lacks a disciplinary code and strategic defense concept, as well as definitive installations and equipment.



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