Thousands of protesters have converged on the capital of East Timor, calling for the removal of the government of Mari Alkatiri. He is blamed for sacking hundreds of striking soldiers last month and sparking widespread violence that left at least 30 people dead.
The protesters were addressed by President Xanana Gusmao. He said: “My burden now is to neutralise the unknown gangs of armed civilians looting and burning and threatening our people. We need to solve this problem first.” The crowd, who had been authorised to gather in Dili, later dispersed after a list of demands were handed over. One protest leader said: “We will follow Gusmao’s advice and allow the situation to normalise before we return to demand Alkatiri’s resignation.”
The embattled Prime Minister has so far resisted calls to quit, despite criticism over the handling of the crisis. Widespread looting has continued, despite the presence of hundreds of foreign peacekeepers. One of the buildings targeted was a Food and Agricultural Organisation warehouse. During the worst of the violence hundreds of buildings were torched, forcing thousands of residents to seek shelter in makeshift camps.