Subject: Irish Times: Ramos Horta may step down as foreign minister by end of year

Irish Times, May 30th, 2002.

Ramos Horta may step down as foreign minister of East Timor by end of year

From David Shanks, in Dili

East Timor's Foreign Minister, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, may step down before Christmas. "I have been wanting to do it," he told The Irish Times. He has expressed reluctance about office before.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was foreign minister for a week in 1975, and has since earned a considerable international reputation during the 24-year diplomatic resistance to Indonesian occupation by lobbying globally and at the UN.

"In the last few weeks I have entertained the idea of whether to stay after independence or not. I haven't made up my mind. What I know is that, yes, I will stay till October/November, until East Timor joins the UN."

Asked whether he wanted to become UN secretary-general, an idea promoted by his friends, he said: "I think if I have mentioned it, it was as a joke."

However it is "not something I would say no to . . . but you know my chance of being secretary-general is equivalent to being struck by lightning twice in the very same spot."

There are other UN jobs, however, he would consider. "Yes, I wouldn't mind in the future a job as a special envoy dealing with a crisis country - say, Colombia. I know Colombia. I have many friends there and I care about that country."

Meanwhile, East Timor's Chief Minister, Mr Mari Alkatiri, has reacted sharply to the suggestion from an opposition politician that his Fretilin party should have formed a government of national unity and to another suggestion that he had "fascist tendencies", particularly towards the media. These remarks by Mr Fernando de Araujo, head of the PD, were reported in The Irish Times on Saturday.

Mr Alkatiri had a copy to show me. With seven seats in the 88-seat National Assembly to Fretilin's 55, the PD is the second largest party.

Mr de Araujo said he had resigned as vice minister for foreign affairs. But Mr Alkatiri said he was "rejected" because of incompetence and "a lack of discipline".

He rejected a charge that his government was radically less broad-based than that under the UN transitional administration.

Mr Alkatiri is well aware that Dili is a rumour factory.

Asked about one rumour that the broadcasting station opened by the UN was about to be closed, he laughed, saying: "I have a lot of things to do. I don't need to control everything."

The broadcasting problem was temporary and concerned who the UN could hand over the equipment to. It had been put in the hands of the inspector general.

However, Mr Alkatiri referred to a cleavage between those who stayed "inside" during the 24-year Indonesian occupation and those who worked in the resistance "outside".

Some people were trying to say that most of the government came from outside, especially Mozambique. Fretilin never made such a separation.

The government had 24 members and "objectively" only four came from outside. "And these are the four that are always being talked about."

Mr Alkatiri, a Muslim Timorese of Yemeni extraction, is one of them.

And there were also people who stayed "on the inside" and worked for the Indonesians, who wanted to be ministers "and that is our history". But he had not wanted history to divide the society.

He said it was "quite natural" for people who were discontented to speak badly of the government. It was often from people who wanted to be in it and failed to recognise "the history of this people".

He said it would not have been democratic for the CNRT coalition which won the 1999 independence vote to have formed the government.

"In any democratic country in the world the party that wins the election forms the government.

"In my case I spoke to other parties, especially the PD, asking if they wanted to be part of the government or the opposition and they wanted both things, which can't be done in any part of the world," he said.

The constitution was very clear about this. "There is no exclusion just because I want to exclude people." He failed to see how a party could share government and be in the opposition.

"There is always the tendency to say that Fretilin is dictatorial and that I am a dictator", but the truth was that if Fretilin had wanted it could have pushed through its draft constitution in two days, instead of the six months it took. Instead of Fretilin's original 120 articles, nearly 170 were approved. Most of the extra ones came from other parties.

"These new parties think that democracy is consensus" but consensus would have given predominance to the minority opinion. "Consensus as a working method is anti-democratic," said the Chief Minister, who has a reputation for being hard-line.

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