Tuesday, May 30, 2006
President Xanana Gusmão has taken special security powers in a bid to quell the violence raging in East Timor. The period of emergency rule, which would last 30 days, was imposed to “prevent violence and avoid further fatalities” and lead to “rapid reestablishment of public order.”
Gusmão, a popular former guerilla leader, will take sole control of the army and police and also the management of the 1,300 strong Australian-led peacekeeping force on the troubled island.
At least 27 people have been killed, criminal documents reported stolen, and looting widespread in the East Timorese capital, Dili during the present period of unrest.
The Australian military commander in East Timor, Brigadier Michael Slater has called the mobs “gutless thugs.”
The decision to give emergency powers to President Gusmão was taken in “close collaboration” with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Mr Alkatiri was unable to stop the rioting that followed the government’s decision in March to lay-off 600 soldiers when they refused to work, complaining of discrimination.
As the disorder grew during April and May, East Timor appealed for international assistance. Justice Minister Domingos Sarmento said that Portugal had offered to provide East Timor with 120 security personnel by the weekend.