Subject: UNMISET Daily Media Review 25 April 2005

[Poster's note: Long repeats of international articles already sent out to the east-timor list have been removed.]

UNMISET Daily Press Review

Compiled by the Public Information Office from national and international sources

Daily Media Review Monday, 25 April 2005

Government and Church begin dialogue

Representatives of the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste have accepted an invitation from the government to begin dialogue amid the continuing demonstration. It is planned that following today’s high-level meeting another meeting will be held on Wednesday between the Prime Minister and Timor-Leste’s two bishops.

On Friday, Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, under pressure from unrelenting Catholic demonstrations, wrote to the country’s bishops proposing talks “as quickly as possible”. In his letter, Alkatiri thanked the two bishops for the restrained character of the street protests and called for government-church talks at the highest level, Dili’s vicar general, Father Apolinario Guterres, told Lusa news agency.

The continuous demonstrations, which began last Tuesday, were ostensibly launched to press the government into not implementing plans to demote religion classes in the predominantly Catholic country’s public schools to the status of optional subjects. However, the protestors, armed with images of the Virgin Mary, rapidly broadened their demands to include denunciations of general government policy and calls for “dictator” Alkatiri to resign.

Questioned by Lusa on President Gusmão’s criticism of the use of religious icons to attain political goals, Fr Guterres suggested the President was out of touch with his people. “If the head of state has the right to say what he thinks, he also has the duty to listen to the people to know exactly what the reality is,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President has accused the Roman Catholic Church of instigating anti-government protests. President Gusmão said he welcomed the protests as a sign of Timor-Leste’s democracy but he criticized demonstrators who are calling for the sacking of the Prime Minister. “We are thankful that (people) are calling attention to the problems but the change of the government must be done according to the constitution,” he said. “If not, then every time you don’t like a Prime Minister you can just ask him to resign.” (Lusa, Timor Post, STL, Associated Press)

Timor Sea negotiations re-commence

The next round of Timor Sea negotiations between Australia and Timor-Leste will be held this Wednesday and Thursday in Dili. According to the Secretary of State for Tourism, the Environment and Investment, Jose Texeira, this round of negotiations will focus on Timor-Leste’s proposal for a ‘creative solution’. Australia’s Ambassador to Timor-Leste Margaret Twomey told Timor Post that she expects these negotiations to result in a very good outcome for the two countries. (Timor Post)

Timor-Leste to become a member of ASEAN

Timor-Leste will become a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum as early as next year, according to Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta. Speaking to journalists upon his return to Timor-Leste from Indonesia, Ramos-Horta said that the Indonesian Foreign Minister as well as other ASEAN ministers had informed him that Timor-Leste would become a member of the forum next year. The ASEAN Regional Forum specializes in the discussion of regional security issues. Ramos-Horta said that the final decision on Timor-Leste’s membership to the forum will be taken in Laos in June 2006. (Timor Post)

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