Subject: Radio Australia Transcript: East Timor's Power Struggle

Radio Australia

May 7, 2008 -trancript-

East Timor's power struggle

The future of East Timor's coalition government is under a cloud after a key party member announced a pact with the opposition.

Presenter: Stephanie March

Speakers: Francisco Xavier do Amaral, Timorese Social Democratic Association president; Mario Carrascalao, PSD MP; Mari Alkatiri, former Prime Minster and leader of Fretilin.

MARCH: When East Timor's Fretilin party won plurality votes in last year's election, a coalition involving the next four largest parties formed a government led by prime minister Xanana Gusmao.

But now one of those parties, the Timorese Social Democratic Party or ASDT has signed an agreement with opposition Fretilin party.

The move could mean that Prime Minister Gusmao Parliamentary Majority Alliance or AMP coalition has lost the number of seats it needs to maintain government.

But ASDT party president Francisco Xavier do Amaral says at this stage his MP's will continue to support Gusmao's AMP alliance.

He says whilst he's not happy with the way the government is dealing with certain issues, at this stage the agreement to align with Fretilin is for the next election.

AMARAL: I think I don't care about their support or their not support, what I care about is that they will do their best to serve these people.

MARCH: Francisco Xavier do Amaral says he is not happy with the way the current coalition government is dealing with problems of corruption and mismanagement.

The policy platform agreement signed between ASDT and Fretilin includes a proposal to reform public administration and strengthen the justice sector within a two-year period if they were elected to government.

But a spokesperson for ASDT warns if the government doesn't improve it's performance by May 28, there are plans to withdraw from the AMP coalition, before new elections are called.

The Prime Minister's office declined to comment on the agreement, saying it's a 'political issue' and East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta has played down the move, saying it is part of the normal political process.

Mario Carrascalao is an MP and the head of PSD party - a member of the AMP coalition. He says his party doesn't have any immediate intention to defect from the coalition, but says the government must start addressing problems of corruption and nepotism.

MARIO: Corruption should be dealt with very seriously - honestly.

Whoever is corrupted has to face the court of justice. But I do realise also that until now the AMP government is too slow to advancing towards that way, that objective.

MARCH: Despite his dissatisfaction with AMP, Mario Carrascalao has recommended that Xanana Gusmao's CNRT party convince their leader to bring a vote of confidence in the parliament, to reassure their strength and stability.

MARIO: I suggest to CNRT to convince their leader who is the prime minister now to ask confidence vote from the parliament so they can govern with stability. If they are not going to get the majority they need to continue in the government, they should step down.

MARCH: Fretilin sources and other parties have also flagged the possibility of a vote of a no confidence being raised in the parliament in coming months if the current situation continues.

But former Prime Minister and leader of Fretilin party Mari Alkatiri says the newly formed alliance is not intended to bring down the government.

MARI: This is really a signal, a message to Xanana, for him to reconsider his position.

MARCH: He says Fretilin hope all parties agree to early elections in mid-2009. And he says Fretilin is currently in talks with other MP's and parties about aligning themselves with Fretilin in the future.

MARI: Between MPs yes there are some dialogue between our MPs and other MPs. Parties that are not represented in parliament we are talking with them. Our aim is not to create a new crisis here - we are looking to be constructive, but we do believe we have to do something to stop this government from destroying this country.

MARCH: The next biggest test of parliamentary confidence in the AMP government should be at the end of this month, when the government presents it's mid-year budget review, which has to be passed by parliament.

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