Xanana secured important ministerial positions from the opposition. Riots tarnished the master plan of the CNRT party.
The sun had almost set when tens of Fretilin cadres gathered in the yard of their headquarters in Komoro, Dili. A moment later, an official government car drove by. Without any command, they attacked the car with stones lying by the side of the road. The car ended up with dents and shattered windows. "Viva Fretilin, a luta continua (come let's fight on)!" shouted the Fretilin militia who were still disappointed in the ruling party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), last Thursday.
The tension mounted after Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, who once again became Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, froze the coalition of CNRT with the Democratic Party and the Frenti-Mudansa Partyan offshoot of Fretilintwo weekends ago. The people of this country, which only gained its independence in 2002, know that riots are almost always part of political events such as general elections. With that in mind, 40-year-old Antoneta Meliana, a resident of Bairo-Pite, had packed up her things in several large boxes. She was ready to leave Dili and head for the border if riots broke out again. Similarly, 39-year-old Armando da Silva had already sent his wife and child far from the capital. "I'm afraid that there will be armed rioting similar to what happened six years ago," he said with concern.
Large-scale riots did occur in 2006. They were triggered by the desertion of about 600 soldiers from the eastern region of Timor-Leste, who felt they had been discriminated against by soldiers from the west. Military Commander Taur Matan Ruak fired the deserters with the approval of Mari Alkatiri, who was prime minister at the time.
Alfredo Reinado and his friend, Major Augusto Araujo, led the armed rebellion. The actions triggered a wave of riots in Dili, which spread to various other regions transforming into inter-ethnic fighting between the east and west. At least 20 people were killed and dozens of others were reported missing. Hundreds of buildings were set on fire and looted. About 100,000 people took refuge as far as the border with Indonesia.
It is easy to understand why the citizens of Timor-Leste still feel traumatized today. Moreover, suspicion continues to be felt towards Fretilin, the ruling party in 2006. "We are not willing to make a coalition with Fretilin because they supplied the weapons in 2006 that were used to kill the party leader," said Vicente de Conceicao alias Railos, a member of CNRT from the Likisa District.
The statement triggered anger among Fretilin members. They instigated anarchic actions in Kintal-Boot, Bekora, Lafatik, District Baukau, and Vikeke, resulting in the death of a Fretilin member, Armindo Pereira. He was shot and killed in Hera, to the east of Dili. Besides that, 15 people were injured, 63 automobiles were damaged, and seven houses were burned down.
The situation in Dili remained tense as a result. Even though last Wednesday Dili was returning to normal, the atmosphere grew tense again the following day. The government, as well as private sector offices, let their employees work for half a day. Public transportation only operated in certain parts of the city. The streets remained quiet.
Deonisio Babo, General Secretary of CNRT, apologized for the statement that had offended Fretilin. He asserted that the failure to form a coalition with Fretilin was not caused by anger or hatred. According to him, Fretilin had made a huge contribution to the independence of Timor. "We want the new government to be able to continue the programs of the government of Xanana as well as the current coalition, which is optimal," Babo told Tempo, last Thursday.
When asked about the ministerial positions, Babo said there was a chance that not many would change. He mentioned that the total number and positions of ministers from the coalition parties, the Democratic Party and Frenti-Mudansa, would remain the same. One member of CNRT said that Xanana did not want important ministerial positions to be held by other parties. Moreover, the position of head of parliament held by Fernando La Sama de Araujo may be handed over to Babo, a trusted colleague of Xanana, while La Sama will be offered the position of deputy prime minister together with Jose Lois Guteres, head of the Frenti-Mudansa party.
CNRT has secured seven important ministries, that is, finance ministry, development ministry, defense and security ministry, justice ministry, and the secretary of state for mining and petroleum affairs, including the judiciary. They gave up the agriculture ministry, tourism ministry, and the position of deputy minister to the Democratic Party. Meanwhile Frenti-Mudansa holds the positions of deputy prime minister and secretary of state for social affairs. "Whatever positions we are given, we will continue the coalition," said the General Secretary of the Democratic Party, Mariano Assanami Sabino.
Xanana, who will be holding his second and final term as prime minister, indeed needs a solid team. He has ambitions to complete development projects of hundreds of kilometers of roads and the construction of schools, an airport, port, and power plant, all of which are essential to stimulate the economy. For its development, Timor-Leste depends on money from oil, which is now at US$10.5 billion (Rp98.8 trillion). They have also received a soft loan from Japan and an aid concession from China.
Timor-Leste will also launch the computerization of all fields starting next year. A fiber-optics system is under construction. "That project will be completed at the end of this year after being underway for two years," said former Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta when he visited the Tempo office, last Wednesday. For that, Horta agreed that Xanana needs a strong government to assure stability.
Horta supports the Democratic Party joining the coalition. He believes that the Democratic Party can be a mediator in communications between CNRT and Fretilin, which will be the opposition. "The Democratic Party can act as a bridge. Some of the cadres are still young," he said.
By Eko Ari Wibowo (Jakarta), Jose Sarito Amaral (Dili)
No. 48/12, July 24, 2012
Fretilin supporters take to the streets on July 17.