POLICE fired tear gas at hundreds of students protesting against allegedly corrupt government officials at East Timor on Monday, forcing members of Parliament to suspend a scheduled auction of government cars, reports Reuters.
The students claim the cars at the auction were purposely priced lower and will bring losses to the state. At the street demonstration, they threw rocks at police and public vehicles, injuring several officers while some students were arrested, according to officials.
“We are doing this because we are not satisfied members of Parliament are taking such decisions to their own benefit,” said Duarte Antonio Nunes from a student organization.
Nunes warned of more protests if the government did not call off the auctions.
After the protest, national Parliament president Aderito Hugo told a local radio station the auction had been “temporarily suspended” and asked for the public’s patience while they review what to do with the cars.
Monday’s event is not the first time East Timor students protest on the streets. Last March, they joined thousands others outside the Australian embassy in Dili, calling on Australia to negotiate a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea. According to ABC, organisers allege Canberra has been “illegally” occupying and taking resources from East Timor’s maritime territory.
Some 1.2 million people live in the young democracy, which held its first peaceful legislative and presidential elections this year after a UN peacekeeping force left at the end of 2012.
From its establishment in 1999 until its independence from Indonesia in May 2002, the United Nations provided an interim civil administration and peacekeeping mission in the territory.
Reuters notes the young democracy is now struggling with issues of income inequality and high unemployment. A UNDP “Human Development Report 2016” found nearly half (46.8 percent) of the population live below the poverty line, despite the country being rich in natural resources.