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East Timor violence turns fatal

July 16, 2012

Violence has erupted in East Timor after the country's ruling party announced it would form a government without the left-wing Fretilin party, which had emerged as the second-largest party in polls on July 7.

Image: AP

East Timorese police confirmed on Monday that one person had been killed in demonstrations that erupted after Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao announced that his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party would exclude the opposition Fretilin party from the new government.

"The conference decided the CNRT should invite the Democratic Party and Frente-Mudanca to discuss the issue of establishing a coalition government," CNRT party Secretary General Dionisio Babo Soares said.

"We were convinced the option we chose was the best for the stability of the government," he added.

The Democratic Party is already part of the present government.

The CNRT won 30 parliament seats in elections that took place on July 7, three short of the 33 needed for an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament. Fretilin came up as the second largest party in elections, securing 25 seats.

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao (C) chats with his party officials after a news conference in Dili
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is a resistance heroImage: Reuters

Fretilin supporters reacted angrily to the announcement and held demonstrations around three suburbs of the capital Dili.

"We have received information that one person has been killed in Hera," a village just outside the capital, National Police commander Longinhos Monteiro said. He also confirmed that about 64 vehicles, including police vans, had been damaged around Dili.

Mari Alkatiri, Fretilin's secretary general, condemned the violence, but said it was a reaction to the "insults and denigration of Fretilin" during the CNRT's live broadcast.

"How avoidable it would all have been had such a spectacle not taken place to arouse emotions of some of our population via live TV and radio broadcast," he said.

East Timorese political parties are likely to begin formal talks to strike up a coalition this week after the announcement of the final election results.

Peacekeeping mission

East Timor's parliamentary elections and their aftermath will also determine the fate of the United Nation's peacekeeping mission in the country. If East Timor is able to form a government without major violence, the UN peacekeeping force may withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

East Timorese voters line up at a polling station during the presidential election in Dili
A peaceful transfer of power is crucial for East Timor's futureImage: AP

Although observers said that the violence had put a question mark on the ability of the East Timorese security forces to maintain peace in the country without international help, the UN said the incident was not alarming.

"We're not treating it (the violence) as a major security incident," said Sandra McGuire, communications chief for the UN's Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT).

"The unrest was contained by the national police itself so that is an indication of their ability to cope," she said, adding that UN peacekeepers had only played a “supporting role.”

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony for three centuries, voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to end 24 years of Indonesian occupation that left more than 170,000 people dead.

shs / act (AFP, AP)