Subject: News Flash: Alkatiri Resigns; Woman Ready to Take Over [6 reports]

6 reports:

- The Age: Alkatiri Resigns as Timor PM

- AFP: East Timor's PM resigns

- ST: Bitter rivalries lie at root of Timor woes

- Australia disappointed by Ramos-Horta resignation

- The Australian: Pacific aid `fails to avert violence'

The Age (Melbourne) Monday, June 26, 2006 - 3:01PM

Alkatiri Resigns as Timor PM

by Lindsay Murdoch

East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has announced his resignation in Dili in a move that is set to ease tensions in the troubled nation.

Mr Alkatiri made the announcement during a hastily convened press conference from the balcony of his Dili home today, where he said he had stood down to stop Xanana Gusmao from resigning as President.

Looking tense and grim, Mr Alkatiri read a very brief statement in English, Portuguese and Tetum, the local language before walking back inside.

Mr Alkatiri said he would co-operate with the President in forming an interim government.

'Right to peace and tranquility'

He said he was resigning because all Timorese had a right to live in peace and tranquility.

Just before his announcement, a separate press conference had been called where - said Timor journalists - seven key members of the Government were about to resign.

Former foreign and defence minister Jose Ramos Horta, who stood down last night, interrupted a press conference today to take a phone call during which he was notified that Mr Alkatiri had resigned.

"I'm a little person with no consequence on this planet. There is other news to cover," he said, before telling reporters to go to Mr Alkatiri's home.

Right up until time of Mr Alkatiri's resignation, hundreds of protesters had been circling the city in trucks calling for him to stand down.

Observers say his announcement will almost certainly head off any further protests.

Mr Ramos Horta resigned last night, saying he could no longer work with Mr Alkatiri.

This morning, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he feared Mr Alkatiri's political survival could spark a new wave of violence.

Amid reports of supporters and opponents of Mr Alkatiri gathering in Dili, Mr Downer said his biggest concern was a deterioration of the relatively stable security environment in the fledgling nation.

"People are perfectly entitled to protest against or in favour of the President, or the Prime Minister for that matter, in a free society,'' Mr Downer told ABC Radio.

Political turmoil

Mr Ramos Horta's shock resignation last night threatened to plunge the nation into deeper political turmoil.

Mr Ramos Horta, who has been trying to broker a settlement between the ruling Fretilin party and Mr Gusmao, told the President that he could no longer work in a government led by Mr Alkatiri.

The resignation of Mr Ramos Horta, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1996 for his non-violent resistance to Indonesian rule, had fuelled fears that the Government would unravel.

"I decided to resign from the Government until a new government is established," he said yesterday through his spokesman. "I am ready to serve this nation in whatever position."

Female frontrunner for PM?

Mr Ramos Horta's resignation came after it emerged yesterday that his former wife, Ana Pessoa, a close ally of the Prime Minister, had become the frontrunner to replace Mr Alkatiri.

Asked whether she was willing to be prime minister, she said: "I am willing to contribute to help find a solution."

Ovidio Amaral, the Minister for Transport and Communications, also quit the Government last night, apparently in protest at the lack of progress in solving the crisis - widely seen as having been triggered by Mr Alkatiri's decision to sack 600 soldiers from the country's 1400-strong army.

Australia has 2500 military and police personnel in East Timor.

Members of the ruling Fretilin party's central committee gathered in a specially convened meeting last night to discuss Mr Gusmao's demand that Mr Alkatiri resign or be sacked.

The committee passed a resolution appealing for both Mr Alkatiri and Mr Gusmao to stay in their posts.

During the meeting, Mr Alkatiri said he would offer to resign if that was the wish of the 72-member committee, but Fretilin spokesman Estanislal da Silva said members rejected the offer and urged that Fretilin urgently talk to Mr Gusmao.

The committee also called for credible international monitors and the church to help solve the crisis. The spokesman suggested former world leaders, including former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, "if he wants to come", should be involved.

Alkatiri implicated in 'hit squad'

Mr Alkatiri's position became impossible at the weekend after Prosecutor-General Longinhos Monteiro confirmed that former interior minister Rogerio Lobato had implicated him in the setting up of an alleged secret hit squad to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Monteiro has refused to rule out charging Mr Alkatiri over the allegations.

East Timor's police chief, Paulo Martins, yesterday called for the arrest of Mr Alkatiri over charges of plotting to kill his political opponents.

Mr Alkatiri appeared to accept he would have to go to avoid further outbreaks of violence between militia from the east of the country and gangs from the west. However, he denies any wrongdoing or responsibility for the violence.

- with agencies


Agence France Presse Monday, June 26, 2006

East Timor's PM resigns

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has resigned after weeks of pressure to step down, in a move expected to ease tensions in the impoverished nation.

"I declare I am ready to resign my position as prime minister of the government... so as to avoid the resignation of His Excellency the President of the Republic" Xanana Gusmao, he told reporters.

The premier said he had "deeply reflected" on the present situation in East Timor and said the interests of the nation were paramount.

"Assuming my own share of responsibility for the crisis affecting our country, I am determined not to contribute to any deepening of the crisis," he said, adding that he would stay on as a member of parliament.

"I am ready to dialogue with... the president in order to contribute if necessary to the formation of an interim government," he said.

He said he hoped militants and his own party would accept his decision.

The statement was read out on the verandah of his official residence, in Portuguese, Tetun and English.

Alkatiri did not take any questions.

Political wrangling in East Timor could spark a new wave of violence in the tiny nation, Australia has warned.

Australia, which has nearly 1,500 troops and police in the troubled country, was working to prevent violent confrontation between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

"People are perfectly entitled to protest against or in favour of the president, or the prime minister for that matter, in a free society," Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"But what they're not entitled to do is go at each other hammer and tongs and start attacking each other.

"And that's what I'm worried about -- that the supporters of, and the opponents of, Prime Minister Alkatiri have the potential to get into a confrontation with each other in the next few days. We're working to try to avoid that."

Downer said he was disappointed at the earlier announcement that Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta's had resigned.

"He has been a very good interlocutor for us as the foreign minister, in all sorts of different ways, so the fact of his resignation is one that I can't hide my disappointment about," he said.

But Downer would not be drawn on whether Australia wanted Alkatiri to quit. "Whoever their prime minister is, that's a matter for them," he said.

He noted, however, that Australia wanted to reduce its troop commitment in East Timor as soon as possible.

"We look to them to sort out their political problems as quickly as possible so that once the internal environment is more stable, while the security environment will improve, then we can downgrade the level of our assistance," he said.

Peacekeeping forces were also contributed by New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia when violence erupted in East Timor in May after Alkatiri sacked 600 disgruntled soldiers.


The Straits Times (Singapore) Monday, June 26, 2006

Bitter rivalries lie at root of Timor woes

By Leslie Lopez

DILI, EAST TIMOR - OVER the past month, home for Mr Antonio De Santos and about 130,000 of his fellow East Timorese has been a makeshift refugee camp - many of which have sprung up in parks and church compounds across Dili.

After armed youths torched and looted his village last month, Mr De Santos walked away with a badly scratched guitar and his dog. All around him, the nationwide security breakdown triggered a wave of violence that has left more than 30 people dead.

He said: 'Neighbours are fighting each other and there is no trust anymore.'

Timor Leste's troubles started in late March, when 600 armed soldiers, about 40 per cent of the country's security forces, deserted ranks because of poor benefits.

Their subsequent demands for the dissolution of Parliament and the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri triggered widespread clashes between them and those loyal to the government, plunging this Catholic-majority country into its worst crisis since its independence in 2002.

Last week closed with a battle of wills between the country's popular President Xanana Gusmao and Mr Alkatiri. On Thursday, the President called on the Premier to step down, following weeks of street violence in Dili.

If Mr Alkatiri refused to budge, Mr Gusmao said that he would himself leave office, although by Friday, the charismatic head of state showed signs of reconsidering his ultimatum.

A 2,000-strong crowd which gathered outside the government house in Dili on Friday afternoon registered its choice: It wanted Mr Alkatiri out.

Deepening the turmoil, one of the country's most senior political figures, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, quit the government on Sunday. Hehad been foreign minister since Timor's independence in 2002, but last month was also given the defence and interior portfolios.

The word on the streets is also that peace will not come until the fight between the Lorosae and Loromonu is over.

The Lorosae from the east and Loromonu from the west are two communities whose tangled web of allegiances and rivalries lies at the root of the country's descent into chaos. It is a clash that dates back to the nation's days under the Portuguese colonialists.

The Portuguese fanned the bitter rivalry to stay in control. Indonesia, which invaded this province in 1975 after the Portuguese, did the same, further poisoning mistrust between the two sides by forcing informers to spy on families and neighbours.

But the return of communal tensions only partly explains the deepening woes of this struggling Pacific nation. With national elections set for next April, local politicians and diplomats say Timor Leste's problems are also about the fight for control over this resource-rich nation of just over a million people.

And then there is that long-standing rift between Mr Gusmao and Mr Alkatiri, say analysts and diplomats.

Mr Alkatiri, whom several local politicians have accused of arming street gangs that started the violence, has denounced the rebel soldiers as deserters and traitors; Mr Gusmao has come out behind them, saying they had valid grouses.

Mr Joao Saldanha, who is on the Council of State which advises President Gusmao, said: 'Until the problem between the two men is resolved, our political and economic problems will only get worse.'

Neither Mr Gusmao nor Mr Altakiri responded to requests for interviews.

When asked how a country - until recently hailed as a model of nation-building by the United Nations - plunged into near anarchy, Mr Saldanha said he blamed the UN. It is a view widely held by diplomats and analysts.

For instance, Mr Mario Carrascalao, who leads the opposition Social Democratic Party, said: 'The UN was in a desperate hurry to get out and declare East Timor a success. But the government that was installed didn't have popular support.'

The world body moved in to administer Timor Leste after an independence referendum in 1999, and held polls to elect a constituent assembly, which was given the job of writing the nation's Constitution.

But instead of calling for a referendum to approve the newly-minted Constitution, or holding fresh elections to vote in a new government, East Timorese say the UN took the easy route - by allowing the constituent assembly led by Mr Alkatiri's Fretilin movement to take the reins of government.

The people never chose their government, said Mr Saldanha, who also heads a local think-tank called the Timor Institute of Development Studies.

Since its inception in 1974, Fretilin, whose Portuguese acronym stands for Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, has been a motley crew of democrats, Marxists and nationalists.

But during the 1980s and 1990s, the Marxist-dominated Fretilin leadership underwent major changes.

Founding leaders such as Ramos Horta, who single-handedly kept East Timor in the international eye, represented the nationalists.

Mr Gusmao, leader of the East Timor guerillas, began as a Marxist but distanced himself in the late 1980s to head a broad front made up of guerillas, the Catholic Church and underground student groups.

Marxist-inclined Mr Alkatiri, who was exiled in Mozambique, was relatively unknown, but came to dominate Fretilin, which many East Timorese considered a symbol of nationhood.

It was this link to Fretilin that gave him and his supporters the advantage when the East Timorese elected a constituent assembly to draft the new Constitution.

Fretilin controls a 55-seat majority in Parliament, but Mr Alkatiri's five years at the helm have created dissatisfaction because his government has failed to deliver economic benefits.

The country - with its churches, stuccoed buildings and basic huts - is a picture of neglect. Analysts say that the poor infrastructure has failed to lure foreign investments into an economy already mired in recession.

Local analysts say the economy needs to grow by around 6 per cent a year to eliminate poverty.

But Mr Saldanha still says: 'All these problems don't mean that we are a basket case.'

This is because Timor Leste is starting to receive income from the development of oil and gas fields in its territorial waters. The government could be earning as much as US$500 million (S$799 million) from these two natural resources within the next few years.

But the country's woes could be resolved immediately if Mr Alkatiri exited the scene, many East Timorese believe. But he has dismissed calls for his departure and is even planning to seek re-election in April.

Opposition leader Mr Carrascalao and several other Timor Leste legislators have publicly urged Mr Gusmao to exercise his powers under the Constitution to remove Mr Alkatiri, because the developments since April give him enough grounds to do so.

However, Mr Gusmao is said to be reluctant to assume a major political role, as he fears that Mr Alkatiri's dismissal could lead to more bloodshed.

Senior Timor Leste lawyer Lucia Lobato said: 'The President needs to move quickly and there is growing consensus that he should step in.'


Australia disappointed by Ramos-Horta resignation

SYDNEY, June 26 (Reuters) - Australia voiced disappointment on Monday at the resignation of East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, and urged the fledgling nation to quickly resolve its political crisis.

Nobel Peace laureate Ramos-Horta, foreign minister since East Timor gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, quit on Sunday. An aide said the resignation came after Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's Fretilin party decided to continue backing Alkatiri.

Alkatiri has been widely blamed for violence which erupted after fighting within the armed forces spiralled into rioting, arson and looting in the streets of the capital, Dili.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in Indonesia for a summit with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, urged Ramos-Horta to keep seeking a political solution to the crisis.

"I think he's made a big contribution to East Timorese politics and I hope that he's not lost to the political scene in that country and I don't for a moment imagine that he is," Howard told reporters on Indonesia's Batam island.

He said he hoped East Timor's leaders would resolve what he described as a "highly charged domestic political situation" peacefully and democratically.

"I would like to see a situation where the country was more politically stable than it is now, and I would like to see a situation where there was no reasonable prospect of the kind of disorder and chaos that we were asked to put down," Howard said.

"The political leadership of East Timor has got to accept responsibility for providing a more stable situation," he said.

Australia led a force of 2,500 police and troops into East Timor to quell violence that claimed about 30 lives. Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal also contributed to the force.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported that thousands of pro- and anti-Alkatiri demonstrators might converge on Dili from different factions in the east and west of the capital.

Brigadier Mick Slater, commander of Australian troops in East Timor, said plans were in place to deal with the demonstrations.

Howard said Australian troops would not remain in East Timor indefinitely.


The Australian Monday, June 26, 2006

Pacific aid `fails to avert violence'

Cath Hart

AUSTRALIA could avoid a repeat of the riots that have rocked Solomon Islands and East Timor by using its overseas aid more strategically to unlock economic prosperity in the Pacific as the "girder" for long-term stability.

Australian National University academic Satish Chand, who runs the Pacific Policy Project, said Australian aid to the region had not been effective because it had grown rather than decreased.

"The riots in Honiara and Dili suggest law and order in these cities is now more dependent on the presence of the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police personnel than ever before," he said.

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of Australia's aid program on human rights and security in the Pacific, Dr Chand criticised Australian forces for not acting sooner to quell the Honiara riots.

"Every dollar of official development assistance spent on containing breakdowns in law and order is a dollar less for expenditure on other items, including those for growing the economy," he said.

Australian intervention in such breakdowns was "indicative of the failure of past interventions at addressing the deep causes of these breakdowns", Dr Chand said. Sustained peace required economic prosperity so the local population voluntarily complied with the law.

"If economies grow sufficiently ... then prosperity would be the girder on which peace and stability could rest," Dr Chand said.

Australia's failure to resuscitate the economies of East Timor and Solomon Islands after the security interventions of 1999 and 2003 had left both countries vulnerable to further unrest.

Dr Chand said he had strong misgivings on the "intelligence-gathering apparatus in Honiara and the capacity of RAMSI to pre-empt crisis".

"The Australian taxpayer would have been spared the extra cost, and the ADF and AFP the additional effort, if the authorities on the ground were able to contain the breakdown of law and order before it spun out of control," he said.

"I am reliably informed by several commentators that the riots in Honiara were planned and meticulously executed. Similar reports are now arriving from Dili in relation to the May riots there."

Max Quanchi, a Pacific historian at the Queensland University of Technology, backed Dr Chand's view, saying Australian aid placed too much emphasis on terrorism and security. "Australian involvement in promoting regional institutions historically does have a strong track record but this has been perceived by Pacific Island nations as bullying, lecturing and the taking over of key roles," Dr Quanchi said.

"Australia has funded worthwhile attempts but mostly failed to exert leadership, or develop shared leadership in the long-term in concert with Pacific Island nation leaders."

--------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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