East Timor (Timor-Leste)

▪ 2009

Area:
14,919 sq km (5,760 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.) 1,078,000
Capital:
Dili
Chief of state:
President José Ramos-Horta
Head of government:
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão

      East Timor was plunged into a political crisis in 2008 when Pres. José Ramos-Horta was shot in the back twice outside his home in Dili on February 11. He and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão were both targeted in assassination attempts on that day, but Gusmão escaped injury. Ramos-Horta was evacuated to Darwin, Australia, for medical treatment. He returned home in April.

      Maj. Alfredo Reinado, leader of a band of disaffected soldiers known as “the petitioners,” was said to have been responsible for the attack. Reinado, who was living under an agreement to give him freedom from prosecution for earlier offenses, was killed by the president's security guards during the incident; consequently, motives were hard to determine, and uncertainty remained. At Reinado's funeral there were demonstrations of grief from his supporters and family members, who shouted “Viva” at his grave site. The attack led to a security crisis that threatened East Timor's precarious grip on parliamentary democracy. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd responded strongly, saying that decisions would be made in the region by the ballot box and not the gun. Rudd flew to Dili to reassure the East Timorese that Australian troops would remain in that country for as long as they were invited to do so by East Timor's government.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2008

Area:
14,919 sq km (5,760 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.) 1,155,000
Capital:
Dili
Chief of state:
Presidents Xanana Gusmão and, from May 20, José Ramos-Horta
Head of government:
Prime Ministers José Ramos-Horta, Estanislau da Conceição da Silva from May 19, and, from August 8, Xanana Gusmão

      Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta won East Timor's presidential runoff election in May 2007. Ramos-Horta, corecipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Peace, was sworn in as president on May 20.

      The general elections in late June resulted in widespread violence and arson. Fretilin, the ruling party, won the most seats with 29% of the vote, but the Fretilin leader, former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, refused to contemplate governing in any deal made with the party of former president Xanana Gusmão. To break the deadlock Ramos-Horta swore in Gusmão as prime minister, even though Gusmão's party had polled only 23% of the vote and had won fewer seats than Fretilin. Explaining his decision, which Fretilin considered illegal and unconstitutional, Ramos-Horta said that he was forced to appoint Gusmão because attempts to form a government of national unity, which the president considered essential for national security, had failed.

      Two days of rioting followed in which dozens of buildings and cars were set on fire. UN police counted 142 houses destroyed in the worst-hit towns between Viqueque and Bancau, Fretilin's strongest support base. Australian peacekeeping soldiers reported that youths hurling rocks were causing mayhem and that the troops were confronted with the worst violence they had faced in months. President Ramos-Horta subsequently met with the leaders of both major parties and appealed for calm.

A.R.G. Griffiths

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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