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What next in Timor after all the twists and turns?

Updated On: Jun 27, 2006

Twists and turns seem to characterize East Timor politics at the moment.

After threatening to resign, President Xanana Gusmao did an about turn and decided to stay on. The official reason for the change in decision announced by the President himself to thousands of supporters gathered in the capital, Dili, was that he would "honour the constitution". "I will fulfil my obligations based on your demands".  His thousands of supporters and other key figures such as the senior bishop, Alberto Ricardo da Silva, were instrumental is persuading the President to change his mind.

Foreign forces have also joined in the appeal. Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were said to have telephoned President Gusmao to persuade him to stay on. Head of United Nations mission in Dili Sukehiro Hasegawa from Japan also became an intermediary between the President and the Prime Minister to try to broker a deal in the interests of peace. Hasegawa pulled along parliamentary Speaker, Francisco Lu-Olu Guterres, a close friend and ally of Mr Alkatiri at the top of the ruling Fretilin party, to meet the President in an effort to reach an amicable bipartisan support.

It was a different story for the Prime Minister. In a game of brinkmanship, and after rejecting all sorts of pressures for him to resign, including the resignation of Ramos Jose Hortas, the Prime Minister finally relented.  In the afternoon of 26 June 2006, Prime Minister Alkatiri told reporters gathered at this home in Dili, "I declare I am ready to resign from my position as prime minister”.  He gave the reason of wanting to avoid the resignation of President Xanana Gusmao. "I am ready to dialogue with... the president in order to contribute if necessary to the formation of an interim government," he said. The announcement immediately sparked celebrations on the streets of the capital Dili.

Behind the scenes negotiations is now gathering pace and centering on Minister for State Ana Pessoa as a possible successor for Alkatiri. One sign of this political deal was that she flew in to Dili from Indonesia's Bali in the heat of this succession crisis. "I am prepared to be part of the solution. I don't want to be part of the problem," she said. Pessoa may have been a compromise since she had been appointed to a commission tasked with investigating the grievances of some 600 soldiers sacked by Alkatiri in March 2006.

Many like the bishop and foreign leaders see Gusmao as an important if not the only unifying figure in the country. And this unifying role is extremely crucial in preventing another round of violence in the fragile state. The President made this clear to his supporters. 'You, the young people, chose us as your leaders to bring you prosperity and not misery. We, your leaders, made a mistake,' Mr Gusmao said, urging the protesters to stay peaceful as the interim government is being negotiated.

Sources:

Outgoing FM says Timor Leste's PM to quit (Straits Times, 26 June 2006)

East Timor Prime Minister Alkatiri resigns (AP, 26 June 2006)

Timor Leste's embattled PM resigns (Channelnewsasia, 26 June 2006)

Bitter rivalries lie at root of Timor woes (Straits Times, 26 June 2006)

Timor Leste's ruling party keeps PM Alkatiri at post (Channelnewsasia, 25 June 2006)

ETimor ruling party gathers amid speculation PM could resign (Today/AFP, 25 June 2006)

East Timor's ruling party to consult on political crisis as protests continue (Jakarta Post, 25 June 2006)

Gusmao backs down on threat to resign (Straits Times, 24 June 2006)

It's you or me: Gusmao to Alkatiri (Today, 24 June 2006)

Thousands rally to support Gusmao (The Age, 24 June 2006)

East Timor president 'to stay on' (BBC, 23 June 2006)

Timor Leste's president may reconsider threat to resign: bishop (Channelnewsasia, 23 June 2006)

Gusmao to his PM: Either you go or I go (The Straits Times/AP/AFP, 23 June 2006)