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This page last updated: 12 July 2006

A Brief Chronology of Events

What's happening in 2006?

Author: Sister Susan Connelly, Assistant Director of Mary MacKillop East Timor (MMET)

In March 2006 The East Timorese Government sacked 600 soldiers from its 1,400-strong force when they deserted their barracks complaining of regional discrimination in promotions. A rally in support of the sacked soldiers in April turned into a riot when security forces fired on the crowd. Five people were killed and 21,000 people fled their homes.

Both the Timorese Army and the Police Force splintered, taking sides in the dispute and dividing loyalties.  Security for the Timorese people disintegrated.  The Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said the violence was an attempted coup. There were growing calls for him to take responsibility for what was happening. There were also claims of interference by outside forces.

Mr José Luis Guterres, Timor-Leste’s Ambassador to the UN, declared his candidacy for the office of Prime Minister.  When the Fretilin Congress agreed not to have a secret ballot for the vote for Prime Minister, José Guterres withdrew. On May 19  Mr Alkatiri was reaffirmed as Secretary General of the party and therefore as Prime Minister.  The vote was taken by a show of hands.

Further clashes between rebel soldiers and Army troops killed two people and wounded five.  Claims of numerous other deaths have not been verified. East Timor requested assistance from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal. Australia said it would send up to 1,300 troops and Portugal agreed to send 120 military police.

An estimated 70,000 people were sheltering in camps, mainly situated in Church grounds.  The number of displaced people continued to rise as the situation deteriorated, estimated at 150,000 by June. Widespread fear and trauma resulted from the instability and from the multiple rumours spreading around the capital.

On May 26 the UN confirmed that nine unarmed police were shot dead by troops in Dili.  Three days later the full contingent of 1,300 Australian was in place.  Questions continued to be asked about the apparent inability of these troops to stop the looting and burning by youths in Dili.  Further questions were asked about the organisation of these gangs, the use of mobile phones in apparent coordination and reports of payments made to the young people.

On May 31 President Xanana Gusmão took control of the armed forces and declared a 30-day state of emergency. East Timor's Interior Minister Rogério Lobato and Defence Minister Roque Rodriguez resigned on June 1, with Lobato later being placed under house arrest, accused of arming civilian militia groups. By June 16 rebel soldiers were heeding an order from President Xanana Gusmão and began handing over their weapons.

On June 23 Rogério Lobato said that Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri had full knowledge of the arming of civilians, a claim which Alkatiri continued to deny.   On the same day, President Xanana Gusmão delivered a 90 minute speech broadcast to the nation in which he berated Fretilin’s failures and challenged the show of hands at the Congress as an unconstitutional method for political parties to elect leaders.  He said he would resign if the Prime Minister did not.

East Timor's foreign and defence minister, Jose Ramos Horta, tendered his resignation on June 25, making it clear he could no longer be part of an Alkatiri government. The Prime Minister announced his resignation on June 26.

East Timorese prosecutors summoned Mari Alkatiri over allegations that a hit squad was being armed to kill his opponents.  There were large rallies for and against the Prime Minister in Dili.  Mr Alkatiri claimed that he had been deposed and that mischievous forces wanted him removed. He would not name names.

On June 30  Mr Alkatiri refused to appear before the court, awaiting the arrival of his lawyer from Macau.  He also refused to step down from Parliament, claiming immunity from prosecution as an MP.  Groups continued to loot and burn property in Dili.

In early July José Ramos Horta acted in the capacity of caretaker of the Government and called meetings of the Parliament to address the issues.

On July 10, Mr Ramos-Horta was sworn in as Prime Minister.

Contact the author:
Sister Susan Connelly,
Assistant Director of
Mary MacKillop East Timor (MMET)
Phone: 02 9623 2847

Mary MacKillop East Timor (MMET)
formerly Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timorese Studies (MMIETS)

This info last updated: 4 July 2006

MMIETS is a Sydney and Dili based charitable institute established in 1994
by the Religious of St. Joseph (the order of the Blessed Mary MacKillop - Australia's first and so far the only saint officially recognised by the Roman Catholic church) in response to an appeal for help by Bishop Belo (Diocese of Dili) and in consultation with the East Timorese community. It was created to assist in meeting the cultural, educational, health and material needs of the people of East Timor. MMIETS is safeguarding East Timorese culture by promoting the use of the language Tetum within the Church and general education and is developing a Tetum literacy program to this end. 

Director of MMET:
Sister Josephine Mitchell, RSJ (Religious of St. Joseph - "Brown Joey's")

Assistant Director of MMET:
Sister Susan Connelly, RSJ

Reception / Secretarial:
Noreen Nicoara

Supervisor of Linguistics & Editor of Tetun Materials (based in Dili):
Father Leão da Costa, Director of Catholic Education, Fundação São Paulo

Tetun Oral & Literary language expertise (based in Dili):
Father Ricardo da Silva, Bishop of the Diocese of Dili
Father Ricardo was born in Dare, East Timor and has been speaking Tetun all his life.

Linguist, Educator (based in Dili):
Sister Teresa (Tess) A. Ward, FDNSC (Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart)

Timorese Tetun language expertise (based in Sydney):
Luisa da Cunha Marques
Filomena de Oliveira

Health worker/educator, Nurse:
Sister Joan Westblade, LCM (Little Company of Mary)

MMET - Sydney, Australia:
20 Mamre Rd, St Marys
PO Box 299, St Marys NSW 1790
Phone: 02 9623 2847
Fax: 02 9623 1573

Institutu Mary MacKillop - Bekora, Dili Timur, Timor Lorosae:
New larger premises now located in Bekora.
PO Box 427, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin)


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