The so-called "martial arts" groups in East Timor continue to wreak havoc in the community despite purported efforts by the government of Xanana Gusmao to reign in the violence.
In the latest move by the government to deal with the long-standing social problem, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has said that the Government had issued a resolution to halt martial arts clubs' activities in Timor-Leste, following numerous incidents of violence and killings involving the martial arts clubs members.
According to an English translation of a report on TVTL, the prime minister made the comments after handing over project documents to the Anti-Corruption Commission last Friday. Xanana also warned the country's security force members, such as the Timorese Defence Force (F-FDTL) and the National Police (PNTL) that they would be sacked from their institution if they were found to have engaged in martial arts activities.
"We issued the resolution to halt their activities as the situation is difficult and it is also because they kill one another. Brother and sisters are divided; we have lost our culture of respecting one another."
"So, we close them down, we appealed to their leaders. I forgave them when I was still president of the republic," he told journalists.
Last year the Government issued a resolution to suspend the martial arts clubs' activities for one year, but there has been no change, conflicts and violence continue happening everywhere in the country.
Meanwhile, Suara Timor Lorosae reported on 8 July that the Timor-Leste National Youth Council (CNJTL) supported the Government's resolution to permanently close down the martial arts groups in the country.
"I agree with the Government's decision to close down martial arts groups because it is an order that people should obey," CNJTL President Leovizildo da Costa Hornai told STL at his office in Farol of Dili on Saturday 6. He called on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to give instruction to the State Secretariat of Sports and Youths, State Secretariat of Security and the Ministry of State Administration and Territorial Management to conduct public education programs about the issued resolution.
The leader of a martial arts groups has since been reported as agreeing with the Prime Minister's decsion. Timor Post reported on 10 July comments from the one of the groups' leaders, Silvester Xavier Sufa, saying "We are from Kera Sakti and we agree with the declaration of the prime minister as it is a good decision to prevent conflict in the country," President for Kera Sakti said.
Sufa said the decision that Prime Minister Xanana took was positive as it would have a positive impact for the people in the country. "As citizens, we should bow to the decision that state's leaders take as this country wants to stay at peace," he said.
Since the government resolution was passed, extra police have been called in for night patrols to combat martial arts groups activities. According to a report in Independente on 10 July, a special police task force targeting martial art gang activity will be patrolling the Dili streets 24 hours a day, following a sharp increase in gang related violence recently.
Police will undertake routine inspections during the day and night across Dili paying particular attention to areas that have been identified as gang hot spots such as Comoro and Beto Barat.
"Our members do routine operations at night and day, they conduct operations in the villages that we have identified already as potential violence hotspots," Operation Commander of National Police, Armando Monteiro told Independente yesterday at his office in Caicoli of Dili.