Timor’s political crisis in 2006

Timor’s political crisis in 2006


After independence in 2002, Timor-Leste’s government and people began rebuilding the country after decades of Indonesian occupation and the crisis of 1999. But a major political crisis in April – May 2006 resulted in significant loss of life, personal injury and widespread destruction of property.

Starting with a petition by soldiers from Timor’s army F-FDTL in January 2006, protests extended in March when 594 petitioners were dismissed from the army. A rebel group of soldiers led by Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha was later joined by Major Alfredo Reinado as the crisis erupted into armed violence in April-May. Initial joint operations by Timor’s army (F-FDTL) and police (PNTL) soon descended into armed clashes between the police, army, rebel soldiers and urban youth, with over 100 people being killed in 2006.

The crisis extended beyond the security forces, leading to the fall of the government headed by then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. The events of 2006 continue to impact on Timorese politics, highlighted by the February 2008 armed attacks on President Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao, and the death of Major Reinado.

Many UN peacekeepers had withdrawn from Timor-Leste in late 2004, but following the crisis, Australia increased its police and military presence in Timor, a deployment which continues today as Operation Astute.

Government sources

United Nations

Report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste, UN High Commission of Human Rights report s/2006/822, 2 October 2006.

United States

The Crisis in Timor-Leste: Causes, consequences and options for conflict management and mitigation, Cynthia Brady and David G. Timberman, USAID, Dili, November 2006.

East Timor: Internal strife, political turmoil and reconstruction, US Congressional Research Service report RL 3394, April 2007.


A Survey of Gangs and Youth Groups in Dili, Timor-Leste, James Scambury with Hippolito Da Gama and Joao Barreta, report commissioned by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Dili, 15 September 2006.

European Union

Rethinking Timorese Identity as a Peacebuilding Strategy: The Lorosa’e – Loromonu Conflict from a Traditional Perspective, Jose ‘Josh’ Trindade and Bryant Castro, The European Union’s Rapid Reaction Mechanism Programme: Technical Assistance to the National Dialogue Process in Timor-Leste, Dili, 6 June 2007.

Commentary and analysis

Crisis in Timor-Leste: Looking Beyond the Surface Reality for Causes and Solutions, Richard Curtain, State Society and Governance in Melanesia program Working Paper, July 2006.

Crisis in Timor-Leste: Restoring National Unity through State Institutions, Culture and Civil Society, Rebecca Engel, FRIDE working paper, August 2006.

Ethnicity, Violence and Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste, Andrew Harrington, East Timor Law Journal (2) 2007.

After the 2006 crisis: Australian interests in Timor-Leste, Strategic Insights 38, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 27 November 2007

“The paper, authored by Bob Lowry, examines a range of Australian security interests in Timor-Leste, the factors contributing to the state collapse in 2006, and lessons for Australia in the handling of that crisis.  Key conclusions address overall measures that Timor-Leste will need to implement to prevent a re-occurrence of the crisis of 2006.”

Guns, ammo missing from E Timor police, Mark Dodd, The Australian, 6 June 2006

” ‘It is very important that Australian men and women in uniform don’t end up as meat in the sandwich in any continuing political dispute’ Mr Rudd said. ‘East Timor has its own constitutional and democratic processes for resolving its own internal problems.’ “

Ten questions about East Timor for which we need answers, Richard Tanter, Austral Policy Forum 06-18A, 8 June 2006

“The dominant characteristic of the coverage of East Timor in the past two weeks has been utter confusion, both inside and outside the country, this is really a time for a little humility amongst the foreign pundits and experts.”

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