The president of East Timor has made an appeal for loyalty and national unity after days of unrest. Xanana Gusmao has been touring security facilities in the wake of violent rampages by rival gangs loosely allied to fired soldiers. Relative calm has now returned after the president assumed emergency powers.
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is accused of triggering the crisis by sacking 600 striking soldiers last month. He maintains he has not been sidelined. He said: “I’m not assistant to the president, I am the Prime Minister and the constitution gives me competence to deal with this issue. But, in a very specific situation of crisis, it is better that the whole state gets together and try to resolve the problem.”
East Timorese children have gathered outside the Government Palace, calling for peace. At least 20 people have been killed, thousands displaced and dozens of homes burnt. It was the worst violence in East Timor since its bloody break from Indonesia in 1999.
An international peacekeeping force of 2,500 has been charged with disarming all police and soldiers, and has taken full responsibility for security. The force is made up of Portuguese, Malaysian, Australian and New Zealand personnel.