East Timor hero Xanana Gusmao calls for restraint after campaign violence

Xanana Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party said 18 of its supporters in Vikeke district were injured over the weekend and two vehicles damaged in an attack by members of rival faction Fretilin. (AP)
Updated 07 May 2018
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East Timor hero Xanana Gusmao calls for restraint after campaign violence

VIKEKE, East Timor: East Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao is calling on supporters not to be provoked after campaigning for elections this week was marred by violence.
Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party said 18 of its supporters in Vikeke district were injured over the weekend and two vehicles damaged in an attack by members of rival faction Fretilin.
The parliamentary elections next Saturday are the second in less than a year for East Timor after the Fretilin-led minority government collapsed in January.
After the alleged attack last Saturday, Gusmao said Fretilin was a party of violence that should be shut down but also urged his supporters to show restraint.
“I ask all of you not to respond to provocation from other parties’ members,” he said. “When you return home, you should keep your own security and do not serve violence.”
Jorge Ribeiro, a local official with Gusmao’s party, said police and soldiers who responded to the violence have not arrested anyone. Vikeke’s police commander Antonio Mauluto said the incident is being investigated. Mari Alkatari, secretary-general of Fretilin, did not immediately respond to phone calls or text messages seeking comment.
The election pits a loose grouping of Fretilin and one minor party against a formal alliance of three parties led by Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, who together voted against Fretilin’s policy program and budget, resulting in the new election.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter century. It gained independence after a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999 but reprisals by the Indonesian military devastated the East Timorese half of the island of Timor.
Today, the country of 1.3 million people still faces grim poverty. Leaders including Gusmao, who was East Timor’s first president, from 2002 to 2007, and prime minister from 2007 to 2015, have focused on big-ticket infrastructure projects to develop the economy, funding them from a dwindling supply of former oil riches, but progress is slow.
Presidential and parliamentary elections last year were the first held without UN supervision.


Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

Updated 16 min 47 sec ago
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Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

  • Rakhine has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and security forces
  • ‘We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons’
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Myanmar’s army said Friday it killed 13 ethnic Rakhine fighters in counterstrikes after the well-armed group carried out deadly attacks on police posts earlier this month.
Rakhine state has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan Army (AA) — insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists — and security forces.
Many of the battles are taking place in the same region from which more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after August 2017 when the army launched a crackdown the UN deemed ethnic cleansing.
The AA are a more formidable force than the fighters claiming to represent the Rohingya and have inflicted historically higher death tolls on the military.
On January 4, also Myanmar’s independence day, the AA launched pre-dawn raids that killed 13 police officers and wounded nine before the army stepped in, setting off violence that has displaced thousands.
But the army hit back, killing the same number of AA rebels in total in operations from January 5-16.
“We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons,” Major General Tun Tun Nyi said in a rare press conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
“Some officers and soldiers from our side were killed,” he added, without releasing the figures.
Myanmar’s military almost never provides statistics on casualties suffered in fighting against the country’s myriad ethnic armed groups.
The army called a temporary cease-fire against different insurgents in northern Myanmar last month but Rakhine state was excluded from the move because of the AA and the Rohingya militant group, which is called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The troubled state is a complex patchwork of Rakhine, Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities that intercommunal violence has largely driven apart.
Most of the Rohingya in the northern part of the state have been pushed into Bangladesh, where they refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety and citizenship.
The United Nations has called for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide as a result of the operations but they reject the accusation.
The fighting with AA rebels complicates an already fraught repatriation process for the Rohingya.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun blamed the AA insurgents for the police post attacks earlier this month and accused them of “stabbing from the back.”