Subject: RA: ETimor's rebel Fretilin faction won't support Alkatiri

ABC Radio Australia

ETimor's rebel Fretilin faction won't support Alkatiri

Last Updated 21/02/2007, 22:54:20

With less than six months to go before expected parliamentary elections, East Timor's ruling Fretilin party is troubled by internal divisions.

Party divisions have focussed on former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, who was accused of arming civilians during last year's violence in Dili.

Spokesman for a rebel faction in the party, Jorge da Conceicao Teme, says they will not vote for their own party in the forthcoming elections if Mr Alkatiri is still leader.

"One Fretilin with two factions, but this faction will not vote for Fretilin, because voting for Fretilin, meaning we re-promote Mari Alkatiri, but we don't politically accept him," he told Radio Australia's Sen Lam.

East Timor holds its presidential election in April, with parliamentary polls expected to follow two months later.

The ruling Fretilin party is wracked with internal divisions over the role of former prime minister and party secretary-general, Dr Alkatiri, who has said he intends to play a key role in the elections.

"No more trust" in the judicial system

Dr Alkatiri stepped down as prime minister in June last year, amid accusations he had organised a hit squad against his political opponents.

Earlier this month, prosecutors dropped the charges against him, citing a lack of evidence.

Mr Teme says many East Timorese doubt the prosecutor's motivations for doing so.

"There is no doubt many people see there are conspiracies within the judicial system," he said.

"The people of East Timor have no more trust in the judicial system."

Push for transparent decision-making

Mr Teme's faction, Fretilin Mudansa, will be using the party's national congress on March 3 to push for internal party reform.

He says the faction refuses to set up a rival party because its members have strong historic and family ties to Fretilin, which led East Timor's fight for independence from Indonesian rule.

"Fretilin Mudansa wants to change the system, meaning that any decision-making in the party must be democratically done," he said.

"It must be transparent.

"The party should not be transformed as a private company.

"The party belongs to the people who were suffering for 24 years under Indonesian occuption."

Disputes over Alkatiri's appointment

Fretilin Mudansa's faction leader, Jose Luis Guterres, abandoned his bid for the secretary-generalship last May after the party congress decided the vote would be taken by a "show of hands" rather than the customary secret ballot.

The decision meant Dr Alkatiri was elected unopposed.

Mr Teme says the "show of hands" method was a way of "terrorising the voters".

"We were not allowed to speak out in a democratic way," he said.

Growing violence

Mr Teme acknowledged fears that the disunity within the ruling Fretilin party could spark further violence on the streets of Dili.

But he disagreed that this meant East Timor could not afford to hold nationwide parliamentary elections.

"We are hoping for the best," he said.

"Of course, we are also thinking of the worst.

"But whatever situation that we face, we have no choice.

"We have been determined to build this nation, and we have to welcome the parliamentary election."

Street fighting and arson attacks have become more frequent in Dili, blamed mainly on rival gangs.

The United Nations says it will work with national policing authorites and the Australian-led international security forces to increase security in the capital.

"We are confident the presence of the international forces will keep law and order and help avoid the violence," said Mr Teme. 

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