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Violence abates but political stalemate remains in Timor Leste

Updated On: Jul 07, 2006

The weeks of violence and uncertainty that wrecked Timor Leste has abated, and its ministers are back to work after a break of several weeks, but it seems the political situation will take awhile longer to be resolved.

After feuding soldiers sparked the worst crisis in the nation’s short history, the man widely tipped to be named later this week as the next Prime Minister, Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, said the military is set to undergo a sweeping reorganisation forms.  One of Timor Leste's rebel factions surrendered weapons yesterday in a further step towards restoring calm in the young nation, but another rebel boss said he would not disarm until deals are reached with the government next week.

In another sign that stability is returning to the country, Ramos-Horta, has met with Asian investors about a new US$80 million biomass power project despite the crisis.  Ramos-Horta also headed a meeting of ministers on Monday to plot the young nation's route from crisis. 

But problems still face the country and a new political showdown looks set.  Lawmakers shelved plans yesterday to discuss the 2006-2007 budget, laws paving the way for the next general elections and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's claims of immunity, saying they first had to decide on a new Prime Minister.  While Ramos-Horta said yesterday that he was one of three shortlisted candidates nominated by Timor Leste's ruling Fretilin party as a likely candidate to be the next Prime Minister, Fretilin party spokesman Elizario Freitas said otherwise later in the day.  Fretilin has threatened to block passage of the country's budget, which is crucial to the overall functioning of the government, unless the President backs one of its candidates for prime minister in a list that does not include Ramos-Horta.

Earlier, Ramos-Horta had said that he was optimistic Gusmao would name a new premier “some time this week” to lead the country until next year's elections.  But yesterday, he hinted the announcement of the interim government may still be some time away.  “We have decided to wait till the formation of the new cabinet in a week or two whenever there is the new cabinet,” he said.

Sources:

Ramos-Horta one of three shortlisted in Timor PM race (Today/AFP, 5 July 2006)

Timor Leste back in business (Today, 4 July 2006)

Timor MPs discuss ousted PM's immunity (The Straits Times/AP, 4 July 2006)

Timor Leste braces for new political showdown (The Straits Times/AFP, 5 July 2006)

Major forces reorganisation for East Timor after violent clashes (ANTARA, 4 July 2006)

Timor Leste rebels hand over guns to peacekeepers (The Straits Times/AFP/AP, 6 July 2006)

Gusmao silent on E Timor interim govt (ABC, 5 July 2006)