Friday, August 10, 2007

Timor under the Microscope

Comment - Get this Alkatiri: you didn't win
Damien Kingsbury from the Masters of International and Community Development School of International and Political Studies Deakin University, writes for

The troubles currently gripping East Timor following the appointment of Xanana Gusmao as prime minister reflect many of the reasons the country was plunged into political crisis early last year.
In short, former prime minister Mari Alkatiri does not accept the basic principles of parliamentary democracy. It was this authoritarian tendency that directly led to last year's troubles and him being forced to resign as prime minister.
In the period since East Timor's otherwise successful parliamentary elections, Alkatiri has continued to insist that his party, Fretilin, should lead the new government. This is despite Fretilin being overwhelmingly rejected by more than 70 per cent of the population, seeing its vote cut by around half.
Alkatiri has variously insisted that Fretilin be allowed to form a minority government, that it lead a unity government and that it accept a 'neutral' prime minister.
The basis of these assertions was that, as the 'most voted party', Fretilin had the right to determine the shape of the new government. This was in turn claimed to rest on section of section 106:1 of East Timor's constitution. Section 106:1 of the constitution says that the government will be formed either by what is being translated from Portuguese as the 'most voted party' OR 'an alliance of parties that form a majority in parliament'.
There is some dispute about the translation of the first part of this section from the Portuguese, which seems to allow a minority government. But in any case, Alkatiri has consistently neglected the second part of this section. Despite the clear constitutionality and workability - of a majority coalition government, Alkatiri has claimed it is 'illegal', that he will not recognise it and that Fretilin will withdraw from parliament.
Similarly, former Fretilin minister Arsenio Bano has said that Fretilin's supporters believe the party 'won' the elections. Even if explicit instructions were not given to Fretilin supporters to go on the rampage, Alkatiri's language alone would incite such rampage. Fretilin did not 'win' the elections and was unable to form a coalition.
The alternative CNRT-led coalition is, constitutionally and according to parliamentary precedent, a legitimate government reflecting overwhelming majority support. The international community has, conventionally, congratulated Xanana Gusmao on his appointment as prime minister.
It should now condemn Mari Alkatiri for refusing to play by the rules of the democratic game and, in the process, again pushing his country to the brink.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Running Amok in East Timor - When will it End?

Protesters set fire to buildings in anger at
Xanana Gusmao's appointment as PM

Mobs are once again running amok in East Timor's capital Dili.

This time angry youths -supporters of the ex-ruling party Fretilin party - are protesting the naming of independence hero Xanana Gusmao as prime minister, as the former ruling party leader vows to fight the move in court.

Youths have hurled rocks, set up road blockades and torched buildings in the capital and two other towns, with police and international peacekeepers rushing to keep outbreaks of violence under control.

The incidents came a day after President Jose Ramos-Horta named Gusmao to lead a coalition government -- without the ex-ruling Fretilin party -- which broke a deadlock following inconclusive polls in June. Read more

Xanana Gusmao - Former guerrilla leader who led East Timor to independence
  • Spent six years in Indonesian prison
  • Made first post-independence president
  • Stepped down in early 2007 to run for more hands-on role of PM