Timor capital calm after President takes charge
EAST TIMOR: East Timor's capital was calm for the first time in more
than a week on Wednesday as residents digested news that independence
hero President Xanana Gusmao had assumed sole responsibility for the
Gusmao's proclamation on Tuesday night appeared to quell the violence
by gangs of youths who have been on a rampage of looting and arson
sparked by the dismissal of nearly half the army.
Gusmao said he was taking sole responsibility for the tiny nation's
armed forces and would also be in charge of coordinating a 2,500-strong
Australian-led international peacekeeping force that East Timor asked
for last week to restore order.
His move - assuming emergency powers without declaring a formal state
of emergency - is seen as further isolating Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri,
whose handling of the affair has been heavily criticised both in Timor
"There was always a wedge between them, but that wedge has been hit
with a sledgehammer," one diplomat told Reuters.
But Alkatiri added confusion to Timor's already complex political
situation on Wednesday by insisting he was still in charge.
"You are wrong, completely wrong, he (Gusmao) is not taking control,"
he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
"The defence and security is still part of the government, and I am
the head of the government," he said, blaming the confusion of a
misinterpretation of Gusmao's statement from Portuguese into English.
On the street, those who have heard the news have no doubt who is in
"This is good. Now we can go back to our homes," said Jose Aurajo,
who has slept for the past five nights along with hundreds of other
people in the carpark of his neighbourhood church.
"Gusmao will never let the nation down. Alkatiri must take
responsibility for this and must resign."
Meanwhile East Timor's rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado labelled an
emergency declaration designed to bring peace to the country a "mistake"
Wednesday because it did not involve sacking the prime minister.
"This it's not a solution, he (Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri) is a
criminal and should not be allow to stay as prime minister," Reinado
told AFP by mobile phone from his base in the countryside outside the
"That is the mistake that the president has made."
Meanwhile Australia plans to keep troops in East Timor for at least
six months but hopes to scale down its deployment as order returns to
the tiny nation, a top military official said on Wednesday.
Australia is leading a 2,500-strong contingent of international
peacekeepers in East Timor after it appealed for help to quell a
rebellion by almost half of the army, which led to widespread violence
in the capital Dili. Dili, Canberra, Wednesday, Reuters, AFP