East Timor President Xanana Gusmao said yesterday he would step down if the country's prime minister refuses to take responsibility for a weeks-long crisis in which the country has been racked by violence.
He spoke in a broadcast to the nation after a second day of tense meetings failed to bring the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, blamed by thousands of protesters for the violence in which at least 20 were killed, widespread looting and arson.
"I ask the responsibility of Mari Alkatiri over this major crisis that we are going through to maintain the government and the state's democracy," Gusmao said.
If Alkatiri did not take responsibility, he went on, "tomorrow I will send a letter to the national parliament to inform them that I will resign from the presidency of this republic."
"I am ashamed of the bad deeds that the government is doing to the people," Gusmao said.
Alkatiri told Portugal's Lusa news agency in a telephone interview that he would not resign.
He said the governing body of his Fretilin party had accepted a proposal that he name one or two deputy prime ministers and that he give up his post as energy minister.
He said the party's Central Committee would debate the proposal tomorrow.
"The decision that was taken ... is that all the solution for this crisis should be found within constitutional limits," the prime minister told Lusa.
East Timor's Ambassador to Indonesia, Arlindo Marcal, said in Jakarta: "The resignation is off. We have not received an explanation. According to the constitution, only his party can propose that to the parliament. This is not an easy process." Shortly before Gusmao spoke, Manuel Fernandes, Fretilin's deputy secretary-general, said he expected Gusmao, Alkatiri and parliament's president to meet today to discuss the situation.
Alkatiri heads Fretilin, which has an overwhelming majority in parliament. So far parliament has resisted suggestions that he should step down.
Gusmao spoke early in the evening. Dili, the capital of the young nation, had been peaceful during the day with students attending school and buses running smoothly. However, many residents said they would be staying outside the city at night.
East Timor plunged into violence in May after Alkatiri sacked 600 of the 1,400-strong army for mutiny when they protested about alleged discrimination against troops from the country's west.
A 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force led by Australian troops now patrols Dili.
Source: China Daily