Subject: RA: New cabinet offers fresh start for government

Also: East Timor: New foreign, deputy interior ministers take office

Radio Australia

Last Updated 18/07/2006 12:46:24 PM

EAST TIMOR: New cabinet offers fresh start for government

East Timor's new cabinet has finally been sworn in to hopefully provide some semblance of certainty, for the country to move forward. Former foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta took over as prime minister after Mari Alkatiri, the leader of the majority Fretilin party, resigned. But is the new cabinet one of national reconciliation?

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Presenter/Interviewer: Sen Lam

Speakers: Dr Damien Kingsbury, director of the masters in international development program at Deakin University in Melbourne

KINGSBURY: It comprises the majority of Fretilin members, and it means that Fretelin is still going to be very strongly represented in the government and as the majority party, it will still have a dominant role. It does have a number of members who are not from Fretilin, or who were not elected, so it has a slightly wider base than the previous Cabinet. But it's not a national reconciliation cabinet in the sense that it includes members of a range of parties.

LAM: So, you think it might work, at least until next May when fresh elections are called?

KINGSBURY: Yes certainly, I think it's a stronger line-up than the previous cabinet. There's been a relatively small reshuffle. I think the most important change has been the appointment of Jose Luis Guterres, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was previously ambassador to the United Nations and he has very strong international experience and will replace Jose Ramos Horta who is now prime minister. He, interestingly also stood as an opponent to Alkatiri several weeks ago, in an aborted Central Committee election for the leadership. So Guterres would be seen as not being from the Alkatiri faction in Fretilin. However, the deputy prime minister, Stanislau de Silva is, so I think what this shows that there is a balance in Fretilin that there isn't a purge and in that sense it's an attempt to construct a cabinet that will be stable and allow for progress without too many political ructions.

LAM: Indeed, as you say, Jose Luis Guterres put his name up during a ballot against the former PM Mari Alkatiri, and then he withdrew, because there was an open show of hands, not a secret ballot. Do you think Jose Guterres still has prime ministerial aspirations?

KINGSBURY; He may do so. I understand that the proposed ballot in which he was going to challenge then prime minister Alkatiri, didn't go ahead, that the show of hands was actually on whether there should be a ballot, not on the actual contest itself. There was a lot of problems with that. There were certainly allegations of intimidation and standover tactics by Alkatiri supporters. But I'm not sure if Guterres actually wants to be PM or whether he was just trying to show that there was dissatisfaction with Alkatiri at the time. The big question of course is whether Ramos Horta stays on as prime minister, whether he goes into the elections next March as prime minister, and whether he wishes to keep that position. Given that he's not a member of Fretilin, of the ruling party, it would seem odd that he would lead Fretilin into an election. On the other hand, he could now rejoin the party or he could say look, this is just a caretaker role - I will do this until the elections, at which time I will resign and either go back to being foreign minister or indeed pursue my interest in going to the United Nations.

LAM: Indeed, Dr Ramos Horta who was foreign minister for sometime and indeed foreign affairs spokesman for East Timor even before it became a state. He's widely liked and respected in East Timor, just like the President, Xanana Gusmao. Is he seen as a unified political figure or might he be resented by some Alkatiri supporters as a usurper of sorts?

KINGSBURY: Well, there's certainly a hard core of Alkatiri supporters in Fretilin who are not happy with the fact that Alkatiri has essentially been pushed from office. Alkatiri resigned voluntarily, but he did so under great pressure and there is some resentment over that. Having said that, Ramos Horta was one of the founding members of Fretilin. He retains very close links to the party. He is well liked and well respected, perhaps if not quite as widely as he was a couple of months ago. I don't think anybody's political reputations have come out of the recent problems completely in tact. But if he chose, if he wished to rejoin Fretilin, I'm sure that Fretilin would take him back. Then of course there would be a ballot as to who would be leader and the leader would become the next prime minister, assuming Fretilin retained its majority. But at this stage, it's not clear whether he will do that or whether like I said this is just a caretaker role, whether he's just keeping the seat warm until Fretilin can get its house in order and contest the next elections in its own right and under its own new leader.


East Timor: New foreign, deputy interior ministers take office

Dili, July 21 (Lusa) - East Timor's new foreign and deputy interior ministers took office Friday, with President Xanana Gusmão saying the event underlined Dili's commitment to "exit" from its crisis of violence and political turmoil.

Former Ambassador to Washington and the United Nations José Luís Guterres was sworn in as foreign minister, replacing newly installed Prime Minister José Ramos Horta at the post, and José Agostinho Sequeira, a veteran of the anti-Indonesia independence war and director of the Resistance Archives and Museum, took the deputy interior portfolio.

"This is a sign that we are all engaged in exiting this moment of difficulties and in answering the country's present needs", Gusmão said at the ceremony.

Ramos Horta, who became prime minister July 10, said his two new ministers occupied "vital portfolios of national interest".

Most of the new cabinet took office on July 14.

Several other cabinet members will be sworn in next week, completing formation of the government that replaced the cabinet of former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who was forced to resign June 26 by the president as a move to end the country's months-long crisis.


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