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Martial Arts Ban Continues in Timor-Leste, Highlighting Significant Drop in Violence

Martial Arts Ban Continues in Timor-Leste, Highlighting Significant Drop in Violence

The Government of Timor-Leste recently announced the extension of the martial arts ban until November. This extension, implemented in April, was deemed effective in reducing incidents of public disorder involving martial arts groups. 

The initial ban stemmed from concerns about violence or possible links between martial arts and violent acts. 

Earlier, in November 2023, Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão imposed a six-month ban on martial arts after clashes between martial arts groups resulted in 4 deaths, 26 injuries, and damage to 21 properties.

Gusmão also cited incidents in public schools where students fought with teachers as a reason for extending the ban until November. 

Currently, learning and teaching martial arts is banned in Timor-Leste, and martial arts centers are closed. The government will also inspect martial arts clubs and take preventive measures against martial arts-related violence.

All sectors of society and the state apparatus are called upon to collaborate to identify martial arts practices that violate the law and to suspend involvement in martial arts organizations. 

Although the majority of the population supports the ban to curb violence, Prime Minister Gusmão's actions have sparked anger among martial arts leaders and advocates.

Da Costa, former president of the Martial Arts Regulation Commission of Timor-Leste, stressed the importance of regulating martial arts practices based on the country's martial arts history. He also emphasized that the ban overlooks the essential values of martial arts.

Samuel Antonio Guterres of the martial arts organization Ikatan Kera Sakti expressed similar sentiments. He expressed doubts about the indicators used to justify martial arts-related issues and the continuation of the ban, as reported by ABC News.

Guterres argued that the success of the martial arts ban in reducing violence cannot be guaranteed because violence is not solely related to martial arts. He believes that violence is also influenced by social issues such as unemployment, the economy and poverty.

Martial arts were introduced to Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation and became popular in the country, especially among those supporting guerrilla movements.

However, after independence in 2002, some martial arts groups entered politics and became rivals, leading to sectarian violence and gang conflicts in 2006. These conflicts have left dozens dead and thousands displaced.

It peaked in 2013, when violence between martial arts groups led to a ban on martial arts. Gusmão was disappointed in these groups for losing the original purpose and philosophy of martial arts in Timor-Leste. 

Although the ban was lifted once, it has now been reinstated.

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