The findings of the UN report on the recent violence in East Timor has surprised few, but it may help to settle allegations that have been flying about since Mari Alkatiri resigned as prime minister.

While a number of individuals are named by the report as having responsibility for the violence, what comes through most clearly is institutional failure and poor decision making.

The report found that President Xanana Gusmao made provocative statements during the crisis and should not have directly communicated with rebel troops. But there was no evidence to support claims that he was directly implicated in the events. The report found that rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado and his men did, however, commit criminal acts.

The UN report also found that then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri did not directly distribute weapons illegally to civilians, but had knowledge of the distribution and failed to act on it.

The report also found that Alkatiri in particular bore responsibility for calling out troops to confront protesters on 28 April, which led to the fatal shooting of five protesters and the wounding of many others. However, the report also found that claims of 60 more being killed on the outskirts of Dili were unfounded.

Senior figures were directly implicated in the distribution of weapons. Police commander General Paulo Martins both illegally distributed weapons within the police, while sacked Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, Defense Minister Roque Rodrigues and Defence Force chief Taur Matan Ruak also illegally armed civilians.

A number of charges against these individuals have been recommended by
the report. The report provides further impetus to a recent International Crisis Group report that recommended that Gusmao and Alkatiri retire from politics and allow a new, untainted and hopefully more competent generation of political leaders to come through.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey