This paper provides a comparative study about the proliferation of youth gangs in East Timor and the United States of America. It introduces the characteristics of the gangs in both countries by pointing out the differences and similarities.
East Timor obtained its independence from Indonesia after a prolonged freedom struggle, in which tens of thousands of East Timorese were killed, captured or tortured. The political turmoil of April 2006 led to the disintegration of the security forces into multiple factions and large organized street gangs. Research has found out that large numbers of young and marginalized males have joined these organizations, factions and street gangs (Scambary, 2006). Youth gangs are not a new phenomenon since they were used as instruments of repression during the Portuguese and Indonesian rule. After gaining independence, East Timor has witnessed sporadic clashes in the western highlands and Dili. A riot in March 2001 between rival gangs destroyed several houses in villages like Olobia and Boramatan (Scambary, 2006).
The current conflict and nature of the violence has been focused in the market areas around Comoro and Taibesse. Sintu Kulao and Gaya Anak are two of the western gangs arrayed against two big eastern gangs, Lito Rambo and Lafaek in Becora and Comoro respectively (Scambary, 2006). Ethnicity has also played a large role in the formation of these youth gangs as a struggle between West and East Timor. Revenge has been the motive for the random violence, which has taken place. Another reason for the huge proliferation of gangs in East Timor is the land disputes, which have arisen in the aftermath of independence. A strong campaign of house burnings and intimidation against easterners has revolved around individual property disputes. Some gangs are being led by former resistance figures like Lito Rambo and Sintu Kulao (Scambary, 2006). Many gang members have infiltrated the political parties and security forces.