Subject: LUSA: Church leaders say anti-gov't protest will continue

27-04-2005 11:57:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-6951820 Temas:

East Timor: Church leaders say anti-gov't protest will continue

Dili, April 27 (Lusa) - East Timor's two Catholic bishops, who are leading a protest calling for the resignation of the Dili government, said Wednesday that their action against the executive of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri will continue.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo Silva of Dili, and Basílio do Nascimento, bishop of Baucau, said after a two-hour meeting with President Xanana Gusmão that the protest, entering its ninth day and involving thousands of Catholic supporters, will carry on.

"Clearly it will continue until differences are overcome", said Bishop Nascimento.

The dispute between Timor's powerful Catholic Church and Alkatiri's executive was originally centered on clergy opposition to government plans to demote religious teaching to an optional subject in some schools.

Since the round-the-clock demonstrations began April 19, rifts have widened between Alkatiri's leadership and the church.

Meanwhile, Timor's Catholic hierarchy has released a document outlining the constitutional reasons underpinning its calls for the resignation of the prime minister and also urging lawmakers in the Dili parliament to table a censure motion against Alkatiri.

The document, signed by church spokesman Father Domingos Soares, states: "The request for the removal of the prime minister by the people is constitutional. Parliament might not want to do this, which does not mean that the removal of the Alkatiri government would be unconstitutional".

A censure motion would need the backing of a quarter of the 88 MPs in the Dili legislature, noted the statement from the Catholic leadership.

Alkatiri could also be sacked by President Xanana Gusmão to "ensure the normal functioning of democratic institutions", the church document said.

After his meeting with Timor's two senior religious leaders, Gusmão held talks with Alkatiri to analyze latest developments in the dispute between church and government and also discuss the latest round of Timor Sea oil talks beginning Wednesday in the Timorese capital between Dili and Canberra officials.

Alkatiri said after his meeting with the president that he was still prepared to meet Timor's two bishops to seek resolution of the church's mass protest.

EL/CJB Lusa

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