Subject: AU: UN cable damns E Timor minister

The Australian

UN cable damns E Timor minister

Mark Dodd and Stephen Fitzpatrick, Dili, East Timor
May 18, 2006

POLICE in East Timor have failed to restore law and order following last month's deadly violence because the Interior Minister is too preoccupied with his personal business interests, a damning UN cable has revealed.

A copy of the cable, sent on May 9 from Dili-based Deputy Special Representative Anis Bajwa to UN headquarters in New York, raises serious concerns about the competence of Rogerio Lobato. Excerpts of the memo were shown to The Australian yesterday.

The message claims Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta is not trusted by the 591 rebel soldiers whose four-month protest against poor service conditions and ethnic prejudice triggered the April 28-29 riots.

The UN Security Council last week unanimously approved a one-month extension of the UN mission in East Timor, taking it to June 20.

After meeting East Timor's former UN ambassador, Jose Luis Guterres, Mr Bajwa wrote to his superiors in New York: "He (Guterres) added that because of such political reasons, the police could not be trusted to maintain law and order.

"Guterres observed Interior Minister Lobato was more involved in his business dealings than the work of his ministry."

Attempts to contact Mr Lobato for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

In 2002, President Xanana Gusmao demanded that the Government sack Mr Lobato for incompetence - a demand that was ignored by the minister's close ally, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Mr Guterres - a respected political moderate - has announced he will challenge Dr Alkatiri for the position of secretary-general of the ruling Fretilin party.

Dr Alkatiri has pleaded for the continuing support of Fretilin, but members involved in an attempt to topple him say they remain confident of deposing the embattled leader.

Dr Alkatiri will face a vote tomorrow at the second Fretilin national congress for the position of party secretary-general. Opposing him in the ballot will be Mr Guterres, heading a "renewal team" aiming to resurrect the party that negotiated the country's independence from Indonesia.

An aide confirmed yesterday that if Dr Alkatiri lost the party vote, he would immediately resign as prime minister, rather than waiting for general elections due next year.

The decision may be academic, because if Dr Alkatiri loses tomorrow's vote, a newly elected Fretilin central committee could sack him as head of government anyway.

Observers in and outside East Timor are watching the outcome closely, as the threat of politically inspired violence hovers just out of sight.

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