East Timor rally calls for PM to step down
Around 1,000 people in trucks and on motorcycles converged outside the offices of Mari Alkatiri.india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 14:34 IST
Around 1,000 people in trucks and on motorcycles converged outside the offices of unpopular East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on Tuesday to demand his resignation.
More than 40 trucks carrying around 20 people each plus hundreds more on motorcycles reached the government offices on the Dili waterfront escorted by a convoy of Malaysian peacekeeping troops.
"Bring down Alkatiri," shouted protesters from trucks draped in banners, one saying, "Dissolve the government of Alkatiri."
East Timor plunged into chaos when the premier in April fired 600 soldiers, nearly half the tiny nation's army, after they complained of discrimination because they came from the country's west.
"The eastern and western districts together bring down Alkatiri. If he doesn't resign war will not end," read a banner on another truck as it headed into the capital.
Some 21 people died last month as sporadic battles between rival soldiers unleashed a wave of lawlessness that descended into gang clashes and led the government to appeal for foreign help.
More than 2,000 combat-ready foreign peacekeepers, chiefly from Australia, are deployed in Dili.
Despite Alkatiri being largely blamed for the unrest, which continued Tuesday with the burning of more buildings, the popular president of the tiny nation, Xanana Gusmao, has so far refused to sack his embattled prime minister.