Tuesday, May 30, 2006

East Timor - President Gusmao takes over

It’s just been announced that East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has declared a state of emergency and taken sole command of the armed forces and internal security.

The very popular and revered leader Gusmao had been suffering from a serious back injury for days and had difficulty coming out to play a greater role in stopping the rioting. But he spent two days in discussion with the country's Council of State at the presidential palace. Observers said PM Mari Alkatiri had refused to resign, causing a no-win situation. The East Timorese detest Alkatiri.

But the crisis has forced President Gusmao into seizing emergency power and restricting that of the PM, to assume the reins of the nation, something he had been loathed to do. He said the state of emergency will last for 30 days. PM Alkatiri will remain in office but with severely curtailed powers.

During the state of emergency Gusmao has decreed that the authorities including foreign forces would have the power to stop large gatherings of people, demand identity papers, carry out surveillance and seize weapons, ammunition and explosives. The President has even threatened more severe measures if things do not improve.

Earlier, the East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta suggested that some of the country's politicians will resign in the aftermath of this week's violence. He is obviously hinting to Alkatiri, but the PM has strong support among Fretilin, the former guerrilla force that fought the Indonesians for years.

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