31.5.06

Timor-Leste: textos importantes

The Australian
By Tracy Ong and Mark DoddMay 31, 2006

" EAST TIMORESE Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri should "step down" to avoid being sacked by President Xanana Gusmao as a catalyst for peace, East Timor's first lady said yesterday.

Mr Gusmao's wife Kirsty Sword-Gusmao said the strife-torn nation's Government needed to show "it is prepared to put the interests of ordinary citizens above the needs of the (ruling Fretilin) party, and I think that is part of the problem".

"We support calls for his (Dr Alkatiri's) resignation. There's certainly a push in that direction," Ms Sword-Gusmao said.

Her provocative comments came as a political standoff continued with talks overnight aimed at putting pressure on an increasingly isolated Dr Alkatiri.

A meeting of the country's Council of State was believed to be edging towards a compromise that would see two senior ministers - Interior Minister Rodrigo Lobato and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues - resign but keep Dr Alkatiri in power.

Dr Alkatiri was last night resisting attempts to force him to hand power for law and order from his Cabinet to the office of the President as Australian-led peacekeepers tried to put a lid on a resurgence of gang violence and hooliganism across the country.

With her husband "laid low" since the violence erupted last week with three herniated discs in his back, Ms Sword-Gusmao has been more outspoken than the President, who limited his comments to calls for calm to the warring parties in his first public appearance on Monday.

But would Mr Gusmao move to sack Dr Alkatiri and remove what they saw as the obstacle to peace in Timor?
"I would hope that it does not come to that, (but) I don't think anything is impossible at the present time," she said.

Last Tuesday, Ms Sword-Gusmao personally told 40 families who had taken shelter in her son's preschool that it was safe to go back to their homes.

"We were strongly of the view the violence had abated," she said.

"They were saying there's more ahead, and within the next 24 hours all hell broke loose."

"Neither Xanana or myself could have predicted that, but when you have lived with political violence for most of your life you can smell it coming a mile away," she said.

Ms Sword-Gusmao, an aid worker who moved from Melbourne to Dili in 1999, denied that her husband was suffering from a debilitating illness, saying he was sufficiently mobile to chair crisis talks.

"It has been two years now without any problem ... He's fine actually, apart from his back."

The couple's three children Alex, 6, Kay-Olok, 4, and Daniel, 18 months, have been house-bound since the violence erupted last week.