Bloomberg - Ramos-Horta Raid Brought East Timor Close to Breakdown, UN Says
- Ramos-Horta Raid Brought East Timor Close to Breakdown, UN Says
By Michael Heath- 21 February 2008
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- A rebel attempt to kill East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao brought the Southeast Asian to the brink of breakdown, the United Nations said.
``What some feared might have deteriorated into a destabilizing crisis did not transpire, with the institutions of state and citizens showing strong resilience,'' Jean-Marie Guehenno, head of UN peacekeeping operations, said yesterday.
East Timor must immediately address the grievances of the rebels and tackle the issue of internally displaced people to avoid renewed unrest, Guehenno told a Security Council debate, according to a statement on the UN's Web site.
Renegade soldiers shot Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and fired on Gusmao's motorcade in coordinated attacks Feb. 11. The president, 58, who suffered bullet wounds to his chest, back and liver, was transported to an Australian hospital, while Gusmao escaped unscathed. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, a former major, was killed in the attack.
Arrest warrants have been issued against 17 people suspected of involvement and East Timorese police and international troops are hunting for rebels in the hills near the capital, Dili.
East Timor, which lies on an island shared with Indonesia about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Australia, declared a state of emergency after the attacks. Under the decree, a nighttime curfew is in place and gatherings and rallies banned.
``In taking these measures, the government and the Parliament have acted with restraint and due respect for the constitution and human rights,'' Guehenno said.
East Timor's government yesterday asked Fernando Lasama de Araujo, the acting president, to extend the state of emergency, which is due to expire tomorrow, by 30 days.
Australian-led peacekeepers and UN police were deployed to East Timor in May 2006 after fighting between security force factions killed 37 people and forced 155,000 others to flee. About 100,000 people remain displaced in East Timor, said Guehenno, who visited a camp for displaced people in December.
Reinado's troops had refused to lay down their arms and retreated to a jungle hideout in the mountains. He had been on the run since escaping from prison with about 50 followers in August 2006.
An FBI team arrived in East Timor two days ago to help investigate who organized the assassination attempts.
The three agents, who will work under the prosecutor- general, were invited by East Timor's government to help gather evidence to build a case against the plotters.
Ramos-Horta, who was put into an induced coma when he arrived at the hospital in Darwin, Australia, regained consciousness yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@... .