More than 1000 march against premier in Dili

The protestors came by bus and motorcycle to call for the resignation of Alkatiri. They threatened to boycott any initiatives taken by Parliament until their request is heeded.

Dili (AsiaNews) – More than 1,000 protesters swarmed into Dili today to call for the resignation of the premier, who insists on staying put. According to local sources, all the protestors came from the western part of the island, the place of origin of 600 soldiers sacked by the controversial Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, in April. It was this decision of Alkatiri that paved the way for current unrest.

The protestors arrived in Dili by motorcycle, bus, and truck. On the outskirts of the capital, they were stopped by Malaysian troops belonging to an international force that intervened to restore security on the island. After an hour of negotiations, the motorcade was allowed to drive through the city, escorted by foreign troops.

The marchers shouted slogans like "Down with Alkatiri", waving banners against the prime minister. Reaching the government officers, the leader of the rally, Augusto Araujo Taro, met the Timorese President, Xanana Gusmao and submitted the protestors' requests to him. They have threatened to boycott any initiative taken by Parliament while Alkatiri was still in his post.

Despite strong pressure from the population, from members of his government and also from the influential local Church, the premier, held responsible for the crisis, refuses to step down. He has described the unrest as an organized plot by his opponents to bring down his government. Last week, a statement by the premier indicated Indonesia as one of the actors in the conspiracy against him. After Jakarta's critical response, Alkatiri quickly backed down. The head of the Indonesian State has insisted the crisis in East Timor is a domestic matter.

At least 30 people have been killed and 100,000 people forced to flee their homes in recent violence in the former Portuguese colony. UN officials said displaced people have taken shelter in some 50 makeshift camps, nearly all set up in Dili and its surroundings.

This week, the UN special envoy for East Timor, Ian Martin, will refer the young state's plight to the Security Council. The United Nations will then decide what measures to take.