Timor-Leste Flash Appeal 2006
1.1 Summary of the Crisis
On 8 February 2006, approximately 300 members of the Timor-Leste armed forces (F-FDTL) demonstrated in front of the Office of the President, demanding a response to their petition of 15 January concerning alleged discrimination in promotion policies and ill-treatment, in particular of the members from the western areas of the country. In mid-March, the situation culminated in the mass dismissal of 594 soldiers, representing almost 40% of the armed forces.
Between 24 and 26 April the ‘594 Group’ held demonstrations near the Palacio do Governo, in which between 1,000 and 2,000 demonstrators were said to have participated. After the first day, the tone of the protesters became increasingly critical towards the Government and they demanded the removal of elected leaders.
On 27 April, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri announced the establishment of an Investigation Commission consisting of two government representatives as well as individuals nominated by the President of the Republic, the National Parliament, the Judiciary, the bishops of Dili and Baucau, and the NGO forum, in order to investigate the allegations contained in the petition. The Investigation Commission was to commence its work on 2 May and complete its mandate within 90 days. The leader of the ex-F-FDTL members, Mr. Gastão Salsinha, as well as the senior leadership of F-FDTL stated that they would accept the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission.
On Friday, 28 April, a mob of non-‘594 Group’ youths and some political elements broke off from the protesters who were peacefully camping near the Palácio do Governo. The group became increasingly violent, throwing stones and at least one Molotov cocktail at the Government offices. They subsequently splintered into smaller groups and proceeded to conduct violent rioting, fighting and arson in the outskirts of Dili. Most of the ‘594 Group’ did not join in the violence and dispersed to various destinations. By Friday evening, five persons were reported killed and more than 30 injured. Forty-five houses were completely destroyed and 116 were damaged. Gunshots and the sound of explosions were heard in certain areas of Dili through early morning.
On 9 May, in Gleno, Ermera district, the office of the Secretary of State for the Coordination of Region III (Dili, Aileu and Ermera) was surrounded for a few hours by hundreds of youths. During the police operation to end the situation, one policeman was killed and two were injured by the angry mob. This situation created panic and fear amongst the population of Dili and certain districts, and caused some Dili residents to relocate to the districts and certain facilities within the capital. Initial reports by various media indicated that by early May an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Dili residents (out of a total of around 180,000) had left Dili for the rural areas. At least 5,000 more were sheltered in churches, the United Nations Office in Timor Leste(UNOTIL) compound, schools, and other facilities.
Violent fighting between heavily armed groups started in the afternoon of Wednesday 24 May, when the F-FDTL confronted police forces and other breakaway factions took part in the fighting, resulting in a significant number of brutal killings. This new outbreak of violence which lasted for several days has been followed by a state of absence of law and order in the capital city of Dili, where communal fighting between westerners and easterners, as well as lootings and burning of houses and government buildings at the hands of gangs of youths have continued to date.
In response to this latest round of violence, the Government of Timor-Leste officially requested international support from the governments of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Portugal. Since 25 May approximately 2,000 Australian forces, 330 Malaysian forces, 160 New Zealand forces, and 120 Portuguese police have been deployed in Dili. Additional police from Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal will be deployed in the coming weeks. The deployment of international forces seems to have significantly reduced the violence and looting. However, the extremely precarious security situation in the last months has led to a significant increase of the number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in already-established camps as well as to an increase in the overall number of camps in the capital.
1.2 Priority Needs and Humanitarian Response Plan
An inter-agency Humanitarian Coordination Group (HCG) which includes members of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE), Caritas, Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Cruz Vermelha do Timor-Leste /Timor-Leste Red Cross (CVTL), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), OXFAM, Plan International, and World Vision, was established to plan and coordinate humanitarian assistance activities. Given the escalating level of violence, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in accordance with the Seville Agreement, has taken the lead within the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement as of 26.05.06. The HCG has been meeting on a regular basis since 1 May under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion (MoLCR).
The HCG carried out a rapid assessment of the IDP camps in Dili between 28 and 30 May, which identified 30 camps in the capital, hosting some 65,000 people. From Government (district and sub-district administrations) and other sources (local and international NGOs and community-based organisations/CBOs) the HCG has learned that an estimated 35,000 people have fled from Dili to take refuge in the Districts. Of these 35,000, a population of 6,000 to 7,000 is currently living in nine camps established in the districts of Baucau, Liquiça and Ermera. Families are hosting the remaining part of the displaced population. In addition, it is estimated that more than 4,000 houses and many business offices, shops, public buildings, and essential utilities have been looted or burned. The looting of two large government warehouses has contributed to the depletion of the already scarce resources available to face the sudden crisis.
The HCG has shown itself to be very effective and to date has provided immediate support to thousands of IDPs in Dili and the surrounding area. However, it is anticipated that the current situation will continue for the upcoming weeks and that it will have a much larger humanitarian impact than originally expected. While the UNCT, previously engaged in long-term development assistance work, was able to respond rapidly to the sudden and unexpected crisis, it is not well equipped to adequately address and respond to the current crisis situation.
This Flash Appeal outlines priority rapid response activities aimed at mitigating the humanitarian consequences of the crisis and outlines a multi-sectoral relief operation to be undertaken over a three-month period, as populations are not expected to return to their homes should the insecurity and the political crisis continue. The response plan, formulated through the HCG under the leadership of the Minister of Labour and Community Reinsertion, is to ensure complementarity and coordination of the response and addresses the needs of the IDPs. This Flash Appeal seeks to mobilise US$19,615,868. Of this, the UNCT has already received approval for $4,134,815 in grants from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which will allow agencies to immediately address the most urgent needs identified in the Flash Appeal. This leaves an unfunded appeal requirement of $15,481,053.