East Timorese police said yesterday one person had been killed in demonstrations that erupted after the ruling party announced that opposition party Fretilin would be excluded from a coalition government.
Police confirmed that they fired warning shots and used tear gas to disperse mobs that gathered on Sunday evening in the capital Dili, only minutes after a live broadcast from the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party conference.
“We have received information that one [person] has been killed in Hera,” a village just outside Dili, National Police commander Longinhos Monteiro said, adding that the circumstances were being investigated.
He said about 64 vehicles, including five owned by police, were damaged in and around Dili.
“A couple of people have been injured and seven houses have been burned,” around the impoverished half-island nation of 1.1 million people, he added.
At Sunday’s conference Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s CNRT party announced it was inviting the Democratic Party, which is part of the current government and the smaller -Frente-Mudanca into a coalition.
The UN sees the polls and their aftermath as the last big test that will decide whether its remaining 1,300 peacekeepers and other security staff can withdraw.
If a government is formed without any major violence the UN peacekeeping force plans to withdraw before the end of the year.
“We are not treating it [the violence] as a major security incident,” said Sandra McGuire, communications chief for the UN’s Integrated Mission in East Timor.
“The unrest was contained by the National Police itself so that’s an indication of their ability to cope,” she said, adding that UN peacekeepers had played a “supporting role” in dealing with the violence.
CNRT’s decision to team up with the two smaller parties will keep the left-wing Fretilin, which was the second most popular party with 25 seats, in opposition for another five years.
Fretilin Secretary-General Mari Alkatiri condemned the violence, but said it was regrettable the CNRT live broadcast included “insults and denigration of Fretilin.”
“How avoidable it would all have been had such a spectacle not taken place to arouse emotions of some of our population via live TV and radio broadcast,” he said.
Formal negotiations to strike up a coalition are likely to begin once the Timorese Court of Appeal announces the final election results this week.
The July 7 vote was a key test for the fragile democracy, which celebrated a decade of formal independence in May.