|Subject: NYT; Age; AFR; BBC; SMH: Timor
After Alkatiri [incl: Analysis/Editorials/Op-Ed]
8 Timor Updates:
- NYT in Dili: Prime Minister of East Timor Resigns
- ABC: Gusmao looks to appoint new PM
- Age Analysis: Ramos Horta the right choice
- AFR: Alkatiri's clique still dominates
- BBC: E Timor's 'wrong kind of leader'
- AFR Editorial: Fretilin the stumbling block in East Timor
- The Age Editorial: Alkatiri's resignation may be the move East Timor needs
- SMH: Cautious Howard welcomes moves to break political logjam
The New York Times June 26, 2006
Prime Minister of East Timor Resigns
By JANE PERLEZ
DILI, East Timor, June 26 -- Bowing to intense pressure from his peers and from the streets, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of East Timor resigned today, clearing the way for a resolution to the violence that has devastated this small, impoverished nation.
Cheering crowds gathered at the main government building as word spread that President Xanana Gusmao, the charismatic leader who had pushed for Prime Minister Alkatiri's removal, had accepted the resignation.
In a brief appearance, Mr. Alkairi told reporters that that he accepted his share of the responsibility for the crisis and that he was stepping down for the good of the nation.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators wearing T-shirts emblazoned with images of President Gusmao packed into flatbed trucks outside the prime minister's home and taunted him by singing, "No one has a long life in this world."
In a statement this evening, Mr. Gusmao said he would convene a meeting of the 12-member council of state on Tuesday to organize a transition government. A likely replacement for Mr. Alkatiri, a hard-line politician who has been accused in the last ten days of providing arms to hit squads, is the Nobel Peace Prize winner José Ramos-Horta, the foreign and defense minister.
Mr. Ramos-Horta, a close friend of the president's, announced his own resignation Sunday as foreign and defense minister as part of the maneuvering to force Mr. Alkatiri's ouster, but in fact he was expected to remain in office.
The announcement of Mr. Alkatiri's demise ushered in a particular sense of relief since the popular Mr. Gusmao had also threatened to resign three days ago in disgust over the prime minister's refusal to budge. Now, Mr. Gusmao not only remains in power but becomes something of a kingmaker in choosing the new prime minister.
How quickly East Timor, which became independent in 2002, could recover from the turmoil of the past months were far from clear. Its population of nearly one million is among the poorest in the world, scraping by on subsistence agriculture in the countryside and with few jobs here in the ramshackle capital.
About 130,000 people have fled their homes in Dili and outlying areas in the past month. They are living in makeshift camps, relying on food and shelter from the United Nations.
They say they are too afraid to go home because of threats from armed gangs and fighters that are allied to factions in the military in the police.
A special United Nations mission dispatched by Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived from New York today to try to help find a political solution for the disarray. But Mr. Alkatiri's resignation seemed well under way by the time the officials, led by a special envoy, Ian Martin, a former United Nations administrator of East Timor, reached the area.
The United Nations was planning to send a police contingent to help stabilize the situation because the United Nations-trained local police force had virtually evaporated, Mr. Martin said.
It was possible that a United Nations peacekeeping force would also be sent to East Timor, he said.
An Australian-led multinational contingent of about 2,700 troops intervened in East Timor last month to stop fighting between military factions, and to disarm them. Australian soldiers were patrolling the streets in armored personnel carriers today, and Malaysian troops guarded a key bridge from the airport.
The widespread unrest unfolded in March when the head of the East Timorese army, an ally of Mr. Alkatiri's, fired 600 disgruntled, mostly young soldiers from the force of 1,400. The dismissals aggravated already underlying ethnic tensions between members of the armed forces and the police who lived in the eastern part of the country and those who lived in the western regions.
The pressure on Mr. Alkatiri to resign increased recently when a former fighter in the independence movement against Indonesia told an Australian television program that he and some of his colleagues were supplied with weapons by the prime minister and his ally, the interior minister, Rogerio Lobato.
The fighter, Railos da Concecao, told the television program "Four Corners" that the prime minister gave the hit squad orders to eliminate opponents of Mr. Alkatiri's political party, Fretilin, and of the government.
Da Concecao also told Mr. Gusmao details of his allegations against the prime minister. Mr. Lobato, who was arrested last week, is being questioned by East Timor's prosecutor general, and diplomats said United Nations investigators had been asked to look into the charges against both ministers.
In all, several hundred members of different factions linked to the security forces were the least to have been armed, diplomats said. A key element to calming the situation was the disarming of these factions, a Western diplomat said. "It is unlikely people who are in the camps will go home until a successor government is in place with people they trust," he said.
In the hours before Mr. Alkatiri announced his resignation, celebrations had already started.
Leonadro Isaac, an independent member of Parliament, sat at the open-air restaurant of the Esplenada hotel, waiting for a bottle of Portuguese sparkling wine to cool in the refrigerator. "He has commanded the army to kill the people," Mr. Isaac said, referring to Mr. Alkatiri. "We've been in four years of hell, and now we're out."
ABC June 27, 2006
Gusmao looks to appoint new PM
By Anne Barker in Dili and wires
East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, will today begin the process of appointing a new leader to replace ousted prime minister Mari Alkatiri.
At least six people are seen as candidates for the job.
Mr Gusmao has called a meeting of the Council of States, an advisory body that will take on the task of finding a new prime minister.
It is understood Dr Alkatiri's ruling Fretilin party, which holds 55 of the 88 seats in East Timor's Parliament, will nominate for a third candidate.
The President will then consult widely before approving the appointment.
The most likely contenders include various Fretilin ministers.
Dr Alkatiri's resignation took effect yesterday but ministers including Jose Ramos Horta, who resigned on Sunday, are still officially in caretaker mode and will stay in office until a new government is formed.
On announcing his resignation, Dr Alkatiri said he would share responsibility for the political crisis that has gripped East Timor for over two months.
He said he was stepping down to avoid the resignation of the Mr Gusmao, who had threatened to quit himself unless the prime minister left office.
Thousands of people have welcomed the resignation, after demonstrating in the capital for the past week.
"He had no interest in the people's suffering," said 25-year-old Cabut, who carried a shackled monkey bearing the sign "Alkatiri".
"Like the monkey, he didn't have a mind."
Rosario Bragaza, 24, a passenger in one of the protest trucks, was equally pleased.
"We're so happy that he has stepped down," he said.
"He gave out weapons to the people to kill others and he divided the country into two halves."
Mr Bragaza's comments refer to allegations that Dr Alkatiri had organised a hit squad to kill his opponents.
Dr Alkatiri has denied the accusations and East Timor's prosecutor-general has said he had no evidence of his involvement.
The former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, faces charges over distributing the arms.
Dr Alkatiri was also blamed for triggering last month's unrest by dismissing some 600 deserting soldiers in March.
The soldiers had complained of discrimination against those from the west of the country.
The Age (Melbourne) Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Ramos Horta the right choice
MANY people in East Timor and beyond will be relieved at Mari Alkatiri's decision to step down as prime minister.
At the weekend, his refusal to quit threatened to turn nasty, with his ruling Fretilin party preparing to truck in swarms of its own supporters from the east of the country.
Most of those who had come to back President Xanana Gusmao were from the west.
The four-month crisis - and its violent flare-ups - has rubbed raw what was a mild distinction between easterners and westerners. The odds against avoiding violence, if Alkatiri had held out and forced Gusmao to deliver on his resignation promise, had been rising fast.
Much now depends on the transitional government that will be formed to carry East Timor through to the parliamentary elections due next April.
If Fretilin puts up Alkatiri's Deputy Prime Minister, Ana Pessoa, it will remain fraught. Another returnee from 24 years of exile in Mozambique, she is able and well qualified like him - but just as estranged from ordinary Timorese.
If it is Jose Ramos Horta, the Nobel prize-winning foreign minister, whose resignation on Sunday finally tipped the balance against Alkatiri, trust will flow more quickly.
Despite his equally long exile, he speaks native Tetum and has an easy rapport with villagers. On this choice, Australia and its allies can avoid an indefinite military commitment and the risk of partisanship.
But a deep involvement will still be required to rebuild East Timor's police and judicial systems, and provide an international basis for free elections.
Gusmao's decision not to pursue criminal cases against the Indonesians accused over the 1999 violence was controversial enough.
The hanging question of Alkatiri's involvement in the arming of an alleged Fretilin hit-squad are issues that must also be faced if the new country is to draw lessons and move ahead.
Australian Financial Review Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Alkatiri's clique still dominates
By Paul Cleary
[Paul Cleary worked for Mari Alkatiri as a consultant on a World Bank-funded project dealing with petroleum development. He is now writing a book on East Timor for Allen and Unwin.]
Mari Alkatiri, who succumbed to weeks of pressure and agreed yesterday to stand down as Prime Minister of East Timor, leaves behind an administration that has virtually ceased to exist.
Putting this broken country back together will take a long time. Though East Timor was physically destroyed in 1999, the people were unified, but now a new division between east and west has been created.
Filling the sovereignty vacuum will depend on installing a new leadership that can gain the trust of the people, many of whom now live in fear in refugee camps. Making this transition will require more of the forthright and sensible leadership shown by President Xanana Gusmao and former foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta.
But there remains a danger that the new leadership will be closely linked to Alkatiri and could turn out to be even worse than his controversial style.
Before the country's descent into mayhem and violence, the government was dominated by Timorese who were once exiled in communist Mozambique. This Portuguese-speaking administration was perceived by the population as arrogant, authoritarian, anti-democratic and highly centralised.
These factors loomed large in the government's disastrous handling of the dispute with the 600 striking soldiers, which divided the country and put it on the brink of civil war. The charge by Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, and some commentators, that an extension of UN peacekeeping into 2006 with a couple of hundred troops could have prevented this debacle is at best opportunistic. It also lets the East Timor government off the hook.
The Alkatiri-led Mozambique clique still dominates the government, with tentacles in the powerful portfolios of State and Public Administration, Finance and Development and Agriculture. (Previously they also held Prime Minister, Natural Resources and Minerals, Defence, Interior and Justice.)
Ramos-Horta would be an outstanding PM as he has the trust and respect of the public, but he is a reluctant candidate and not a member of the ruling Fretilin party. Yesterday he named two young and impressive ministers as potential candidates, Arsenio Bano and Rui Araujo. But he also named his ex-wife and senior Minister for State and Public Administration, Ana Pessoa, who is a close ally of Alkatiri.
Pessoa has the potential to be more arrogant than Alkatiri and much less competent. She is best known for refusing to speak Tetum, the national language of East Timor. Recently she made a series of inflammatory comments about Australia's presence in East Timor, comments repudiated yesterday by Ramos-Horta.
She now claims that Australia has a deliberate agenda to subvert East Timor's independence.
The saddest thing for East Timor is that with leadership of this quality the country may continue to languish for years to come. East Timor must now make some sensible decisions if it is to move forward.
BBC News Online June 26, 2006
E Timor's 'wrong kind of leader'
By Jonathan Head, South East Asia correspondent, BBC News
It was with a characteristically unemotional performance that Mari Alkatiri announced the end of his - and East Timor's - first prime ministerial term.
"Having reflected deeply on the present situation prevailing in the country, assuming my own share of responsibility for the crisis, I am ready to resign from my position as prime minister," he told a press conference in Dili.
This, after weeks of pressure, during which he had repeatedly insisted his resignation would solve nothing, and had received the full backing of his party, Fretilin, which holds a majority of the seats in parliament.
So why the change of heart?
Mr Alkatiri referred to his desire to avoid a threatened resignation by President Xanana Gusmao - but that threat was made last week, and then withdrawn, so it is difficult to understand why it would have changed his mind now.
More likely it was the continued discussions with his colleagues in government on how to get East Timor out of the mess it is in that persuaded Mr Alkatiri to go.
He has long been indifferent to his own unpopularity, but in the current chaos the country needs a less divisive leader.
There was jubilation over the decision across the capital, Dili, and probably in many other areas of East Timor.
Mr Alkatiri has become a hate-figure, blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the country, and it was hard to see how rebuilding confidence and stability after the traumatic events of the past few weeks could start while he remained in office.
But was he really so bad?
You hear many complaints about Mr Alkatiri, some of them obviously unjust.
I have often heard young people complain that he is a Muslim, as though that is a crime in a supposedly democratic and tolerant country.
They also accuse him of being a communist, because of his left-wing views and his long years living in Mozambique.
But these may at times have served East Timor well. His instinctive mistrust of Western help led him to drive a very hard bargain with Australia over East Timor's rights to oil and gas in the Timor Sea, helped by his skills as a negotiator.
It is unlikely anyone else could have done as well for the country.
He also has a deep personal commitment to the sustainable development of his country, and has tried hard to avoid too much aid dependency - ideas formed during his African exile.
Much of his unpopularity is due to his brusque, business-like manner.
He is an intellectual, impatient with people who express poorly thought-out ideas.
He has never seemed able to empathise with the suffering experienced by much of the population during the Indonesian occupation, or to find the right words to comfort those who are often unable to articulate what they feel about those years.
By contrast, President Gusmao is a master of the art of healing. With a few simple words, or just a hug, he can move crowds to tears.
Shortage of talent
The two men who have been running the country since independence could hardly have more different styles, and they have had a very uneasy relationship with each other.
Much of that goes back to Mr Gusmao's distrust of the Fretilin party, which he blames for harsh treatment of its rivals during the bitter struggle against Indonesian rule.
Mr Alkatiri is a consummate party man - Fretilin reaffirmed its backing for him three times in recent weeks, the last time less than 24 hours before he resigned.
The party remained loyal to the end, but he was arguably the wrong kind of leader for a country as traumatised as East Timor.
More serious are the charges against Mr Alkatiri of corruption, and abuses of power.
Some of these will now be examined by an internationally-supervised investigation, as East Timor's infant judiciary is not up to the job.
Some corruption is perhaps inevitable, given the traditions of patronage and money-politics that prevail elsewhere in the region, but the charges of abusing his power are more serious.
A documentary by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners programme claims to have documentary evidence that Mr Alkatiri tacitly approved of the distribution of police weapons to civilians - a charge that has already led to the arrest of former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, at one time an ally of the prime minister.
Mr Alkatiri has denied the charges, and the prosecutor-general says he has not yet uncovered any evidence against him.
Certainly the murky events leading up to and after the fateful decision by Mr Alkatiri to endorse sacking more than a third of the army earlier this year need more investigation.
The fact that he was re-elected at the Fretilin party congress last month by a show of hands, rather by a secret ballot, does not reflect well on his democratic values.
But it is also worth remembering that East Timor has few capable leaders.
Education levels are among the world's lowest, and the long years of conflict under Indonesia's occupation, and Indonesia's chaotic withdrawal in 1999, left few local people with experience of government.
Mari Alkatiri is among the best they have. The country can ill-afford the loss of his abilities.
Australian Financial Review Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Fretilin the stumbling block in East Timor
The political crisis in East Timor has turned a corner with the resignation of prime minister Mari Alkatiri, but the failures that led to the breakdown of political and social order have not gone away. The parliament remains dominated by a party of ageing economic nationalists - Fretilin. The president, Xanana Gusmao, is at odds with power brokers in the ruling party. Civil society is collapsing and the country remains the poorest in the world (by per capita income). This is a devastating outcome for a nation launched with an optimistic fanfare four years ago. It poses difficulties for Canberra, which will have to bail out another failing state in a region dominated by collapsing regimes and economies.
It's also a sharp rebuff to all the do-gooders who so insistently demanded East Timor's independence, without giving thought to how political differences would pull the country apart or what would drive the economy.
Mr Alkatiri was deeply unpopular. He was authoritarian, a Muslim in a Catholic country, and encouraged, rather than quelled, the recent army crisis. He negotiated a good deal from Timor Gap oil revenues but in the short term did little to promote job creation or stem ethnic conflict.
Turning this around depends on the Fretilin party reforming its own views of the economy and loosening its grip on the institutions of government. Without that not even the pragmatic president can lead East Timor in a different direction.
Canberra will have to orchestrate a new and lengthy commitment to East Timor starting, as it has, with the army but ending with nation-building assistance - for a second time.
Fighting political instability and poverty is best done in coalition; co-opting other nations to the job, and encouraging UN involvement is vital. This may mean rebalancing Australia's commitments elsewhere and it will require sure-footed diplomacy to keep powerful neighbours on-side in the process. In a region of failing states, strong leadership and empathetic engagement are the best commitments Australia can bring.
The Age Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Alkatiri's resignation may be the move East Timor needs
With the Prime Minister quitting, an opportunity presents itself to put the nation's house in order.
THE resignation yesterday of East Timor's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, may have stopped the bough from breaking, but it is yet to be seen whether it will stop it from bending further. Mr Alkatiri had no option but to resign. The building up of forces against him has proven irresistible. In stepping down, Mr Alkatiri accepted "responsibility for the crisis affecting our country".
Democracy is untidy at the best of times. Indeed democracy is best when it is untidy. With enough checks and balances in place, the hurly-burly of opposing dialogue can infuse politics with a healthy dose of inclusive plurality. What the world has been witnessing in East Timor, however, is the chaos without the checks. Almost daily in the past few months, the country has lurched from one crisis to another.
Mr Alkatiri's resignation came only a day after the announcements of the resignations of the Foreign and Defence Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, and the Transport and Communications Minister, Ovidio Amaral. The stepping down of Mr Ramos Horta, Nobel peace prize laureate, was a powerful rebuke, redolent with symbolism, to the deteriorating and debilitating situation in East Timor. But yesterday Mr Alkatiri said that with his going, Mr Gusmao need not leave office. He was available to "contribute if necessary to the formation of the interim government".
In the weeks following Mr Alkatiri's sacking in March of 600 soldiers from the nation's 1400-strong army, the East Timorese have had to weather rioting and violence, street battles and arson; tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes for refugee camps. There have also been allegations that Mr Alkatiri and dismissed Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato were involved in arming a hit squad to kill political opponents. Lobato has been charged with offences including armed rebellion. The country's police chief, Paulo Martins, at the weekend called for Mr Alkatiri to be arrested. However, the leader of the hit squad, Vicente de Conceicao or "Commander Railos", realigned himself and told the East Timor President, Xanana Gusmao, that his group had been armed by the police after meeting Mr Alkatiri and Lobato. At the end of last week, Mr Gusmao presented Railos to a rally of supporters. Mr Gusmao has also been instrumental in pressuring Mr Alkatiri to resign, saying that if the Prime Minister didn't, he would. Mr Alkatiri, with his Fretilin members holding 55 seats in the 88-seat Parliament, said the hit-squad allegations were a set-up to force him from office.
If East Timor is to wrench itself clear of this poisonous factional brawling (which is different from Australian factional brawling in that it translates to matters of life and death), then the parties need to look beyond such internecine strife. It may seem a harsh judgement, but there is some validity in the view of the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, that East Timor must solve its own problems. It cannot forever look to the international community. Certainly other nations, such as Australia, will be there for it in times of crisis. But after the first steps, the nation must learn to walk on its own. Mr Howard said at the weekend that it could not be assumed that Australian personnel, which numbers 2500 military and police officers, would stay there indefinitely. That being so, it is crucial that the wellbeing of the country be put before the nourishment of deep-rooted antagonisms. It is easy to sleep on another man's wound, as was said about the Irish troubles at the beginning of last century. It is harder to heal it.
A society's stability flows from a sound and healthy economy that provides the infrastructure in essential services, education, health and policing. A country awash with weapons in the hands of the disaffected is never going to make advances. Four years ago East Timor was born as one entity, and while regional differences should never be subsumed, they also should never drown the aspirations of the nation as a whole. Perhaps the resignation of Mr Alkatiri is the opportunity to start afresh. It should not be wasted.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Cautious Howard welcomes moves to break political logjam
Cynthia Banham in Paris and Phillip Coorey on Bantam Island
THE Prime Minister says he welcomes the resignation of the East Timorese Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, if it meant an end to instability in that country.
"It seems to me to be part of the process of working out the difficulties, resolving the impasse, breaking the logjam," John Howard said. "To that extent I am pleased."
However, he studiously avoided being seen to publicly interfere in East Timor's affairs, saying that although he wanted the issue of who governs the country to be resolved as soon as possible, he had no view on who should succeed Mr Alkatiri.
"It's not for me to nominate the prime minister of that country," he said. "It's for me ... to encourage people in East Timor in a position of leadership all to resolve their differences and get on with governing their country."
The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, also welcomed the steps being taken by the East Timorese to resolve their "tumultuous" political problems.
"It's good to see that the East Timorese are now working through their political problems and are not just lying back and expecting us to provide appropriate security for East Timor without the East Timorese themselves addressing their fundamental problems that have caused the insecurity in the country," Mr Downer said.
Mr Downer was speaking in Paris before the opening of the France-Oceania summit, which East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, had been due to attend. Mr Ramos Horta cancelled his attendance at the meeting on Friday, and resigned from the East Timorese Government on Sunday.
Mr Downer said Mr Ramos Horta had told him on Sunday that he would offer himself as a minister in a reformed government should Mr Alkatiri resign.
The Australian Government would encourage any new prime minister to address key issues "including negotiations with the people who were sacked from the East Timor defence force and negotiations with people from the defence force who have gone out and supported those people", Mr Downer said.
"If there is to be a new prime minister, that prime minister will have an enormous challenge to get the country onto a stable footing," he said.
It was likely that East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, a figure who had enormous popular support, would stay on following Mr Alkatiri's resignation, Mr Downer said.
Mr Howard said his warning on Sunday that Australian police and soldiers would not remain in East Timor indefinitely was not aimed at forcing Mr Alkatiri's resignation. "We are entitled to express an opinion about how long our troops stay in East Timor," he said.
------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service