East Timor: Fretilin says no to joining government as calm returns to capital

Dili, 24 August (AKI) - As a veneer of calm descends on East Timor after Thursday’s clashes, the political tension remains high.

 In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) Jose Texeira, an MP with the largest party, Fretilin, said that his party will not accept prime minister Xanana Gusmao’s invitation to join his government.

 “Fretilin will not join the government. That is for sure,” he said. “We still consider the current government unconstitutional and we will have no part in it.”

The daily Timor Post quoted Gusmao as saying “there will be Fretilin people sitting in the government cabinet.”

 The paper also cited deputy prime minister Jose Luis Guterres as saying "I know that the prime minister has sent several letters to a Fretilin leader to ask whether several party members can come into this government."

Guterres is a former Fretilin member, who led a group of defectors into Gusmao’s camp prior to the election.

The alleged overture is widely seen as a gesture to appease Fretilin, who won the largest share of the vote in the June polls but was left out of government after president Jose Ramos-Horta decided to appoint Fretilin rival Gusmao as premier.

Gusmao leads a coalition of four minority parties that controls 37 of the 65 seats in parliament.

Gusmao’s appointment has been labelled as unconstitutional by Fretilin, which had also said to be willing to lead a government of national unity

Fretilin secretary general, Mari Alkatiri, has stated that Ramos-Horta should have allowed Fretilin to form a minority government and then let parliament decide whether to accept its programme.

Ramos-Horta refused on the ground that it would have led to more instability.

 If a government's programme is voted down twice by MPs, the president is left with little option but to dissolve the parliament and call for a new vote.

 Gusmao’s appointment has also led to sporadic clashes between supporters of the two fronts.

 Clashes were reported in several parts of the country on Thursday and two people have been confirmed dead.

Sources in Dili however reported the situation was calmer on Friday at least in the capital, where international peacekeepers and UN police are patrolling the territory.

 The UN enhanced its peacekeeping and policing roles in the country last year after clashes broadly between ethnic groups from the east and west of the country killed at least 37 people and forced 150,000 others to flee their homes.

Fretilin lately gained the lion share of its vote in the three eastern districts, where it is now seen as the defender of easterners' rights.








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