East Timor PM Xanana Gusmao resigns

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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East Timor independence hero Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister today, ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week.

Mr Gusmao, 68, is a former guerilla leader who spearheaded East Timor’s drive for independence when Indonesian rule ended in 2002.

He was the first president of the new country, from 2002 to 2007, and then prime minister for more than seven years.

East Timor voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to end 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation that had left more than 170,000 dead, but the country has struggled since then to develop economically.

About half of the population of 1.2 million people live in poverty.

An adviser to Mr Gusmao said the PM felt now was the time to pass the responsibility of governing to the next generation.

He said it was part of a restructuring of the government that is expected to be announced next week.

Under the proposal, the Cabinet would be reduced from 55 to 34 ministers and become more inclusive, with opposition members among those appointed.

A government statement said Mr Gusmao submitted his resignation to President Taur Matan Ruak.

“Recently the prime minister encouraged all members of government to work calmly in this time of transition until the new government is sworn in,” it said.

If his resignation is accepted, Mr Gusmao is expected to maintain a role in government, perhaps as a co-ordinating minister, the adviser said, but the aim is for the older generation of leaders to give way to younger politicians.

The adviser said Mr Gusmao, the president and MPs are discussing who will be the next prime minister but that it was unlikely to be announced before next week.

East Timor was a colony of Portugal until it declared independence in late 1975. It was then invaded and occupied by Indonesia until a UN-backed referendum in 1999, followed by it becoming a sovereign state on May 20, 2002.

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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