UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News

Timor Leste

Timor-Leste resistance hero Gusmao offers resignation

Departure of former guerrilla fighter would deprive the country of a unifying leader

Aquino Campos for AFP, Dili

Aquino Campos for AFP, Dili

Updated: April 24, 2015 02:39 PM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Timor-Leste resistance hero Gusmao offers resignation

Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao (right) speaks to journalists in Dili after meeting President Taur Matan Ruak, with whom he discussed his planned resignation, earlier this week (AFP Photo/Valentino De Sousa) 

 

Share this article :
Timor-Leste resistance hero Xanana Gusmao has submitted his resignation as prime minister, the government said Friday, after more than a decade leading the half-island nation during the fraught early years of its independence.

The president must now decide whether to accept the resignation of the 68-year-old, who has served as either president or prime minister since Timor-Leste became independent in 2002 following a long struggle against Indonesian occupation.

The departure of the former guerrilla fighter would deprive the predominantly Catholic Timor-Leste of a unifying figure who has helped resolve numerous crises, but analysts say it is time for Gusmao to step aside to enable a transition to a new generation of leaders. 

Speculation had been mounting that Gusmao would step aside soon after he began talks with the president earlier this week about a major government overhaul, which is expected to be announced in the coming days.

In a statement Friday, the government said that Gusmao "has sent his letter of resignation from the post of prime minister to the president", Taur Matan Ruak.

"It is now for the president of the republic to consider and respond to the letter of resignation." 

If it is accepted, then Gusmao will remain premier until a replacement is sworn in. Gusmao has "encouraged all members of government to work calmly in this time of transition until the new government is sworn in," the statement added. 

It is not clear what role, if any, Gusmao would play in a new government, or who would succeed him. Observers say he may keep some sort of role to ensure a smooth transition. 

In an earlier statement, authorities said talks were under way on a "major restructure of the government". 

Authorities want to "reduce the size of the executive to create a more efficient and functional body focused on results, and allow opportunities for a younger generation of leaders to make a contribution to the nation", said the government statement. 

Analysts said that the reshuffle could be aimed at getting rid of ministers from Gusmao's coalition who had been accused of corruption, before he steps down.

Gusmao has repeatedly delayed his resignation, with observers saying he was likely trying to ensure the graft scandals were dealt with before he stepped aside. 

He led the military wing of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), which fought against Indonesian occupation. Before Indonesia invaded in 1975, Portugal had ruled Timor-Leste for centuries.

He spent years hiding out in the jungle before being captured and imprisoned in Jakarta towards the end of Indonesian occupation. However, he continued to lead the struggle for independence from behind bars.

After the Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-backed referendum in 1999, he returned to his homeland a hero and was elected the country's first president in 2002. He has been prime minister since 2007.

He is credited with resolving numerous crises in the chaotic early years of the country's independence. 

After returning to Timor-Leste following the referendum, Gusmao urged reconciliation, persuading pro-Indonesian militiamen who had gone on a murderous rampage following the vote to return home.

Gusmao also helped to keep a lid on communal tensions after a crisis in 2006, when soldiers sacked from the army launched a mutiny that sparked factional violence that left dozens dead and forced 150,000 into makeshift camps. AFP

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
UCAN Ad
 
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution