Hundreds Mourn Victim of East Timor Post-Poll Violence
Hundreds of mourners, many carrying flags of the opposition Fretilin party, marched in a funeral procession on Tuesday for a victim of East Timor’s post-election violence.
Thousands of people took to the streets to watch, while a number of shops closed early and riot police were out in force. The UN mission in the impoverished country says the latest bout of unrest is not a setback.
Angry demonstrations erupted in the capital Dili on Sunday, shortly after the party of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao — East Timor’s resistance hero — announced that Fretilin would be excluded from a government coalition.
Many marching behind the coffin of university student Armindo Pereira, whose fatal shooting Sunday in the village of Hera is under investigation, held signs blaming Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party.
“Victims of dictator Xanana!,” read a hand-scrawled banner with a crude cartoon portrait of the prime minister.
Police have confirmed they fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse mobs that gathered after the CNRT announced it would form a coalition with the Democratic Party (PD), which is part of the current government, and the smaller Frenti-Mudanca.
Fretilin secretary-general Mari Alkatiri said it was regrettable that the CNRT’s live broadcast of the announcement included “insults and denigration of Fretilin,” implying that had triggered the violence.
The United Nations sees the July 7 polls — and their aftermath — as the last big test that will decide whether its remaining 1,300 peacekeepers and other security staff can withdraw from the fledgling nation of 1.1 million at the end of the year.
Since winning formal independence in 2002, East Timor has suffered bouts of violence, including a bloody episode ahead of 2006 parliamentary elections which left 37 people dead and displaced tens of thousands.
The Court of Appeal on Tuesday confirmed the results of the July 7 polls, in which CNRT won 30 seats, Fretilin walked away with 25, PD got eight and Frenti-Mudanca received two.
CNRT’s win was three short of the majority needed in the 65-seat parliament to govern alone.
Following the end of Portuguese rule in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years. Some 183,000 people died from fighting, disease and starvation before the half-island state voted for independence in 1999.