DILI, 26 February, 2020 (TATOLI)– The Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak has resigned his position, signalling an end to the 8th constitutional government, and a possible breakthrough in the 18 month-long political impasse.
The prime minister said he offered his resignation in a letter sent to President Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, dated February 24.
“I met with the president today, [after] submitting my letter with the intention for resignation,” he told reporters at the presidential palace on Tuesday.
Taur Matan Ruak met with President Lu-Olo during their regular weekly meeting. The prime minister said the president would take time to consider the request, and reiterated that his resignation is only effective with the president’s approval.
“Therefore, I will continue to work as prime minister to ensure the government functions for our country.”
Tuesday, 25th February 2020 – It was held a meeting with H.E. the President of the Republic, to talk about the demission letter submitted on the previous day, but under our constitution, the demission can only be valid after the publication of a Presidential Decree. pic.twitter.com/43vXCcvtGB
— Taur Matan Ruak, Primeiro-Ministro de Timor-Leste (@TaurDe) February 25, 2020
“The work continues… We cannot let our nation go without direction, like a car without a driver,” he said.
The announcement comes in a time of flux in Timor-Leste politics, after the collapse of the governing AMP coalition over the failed 2020 budget bill. After Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT party helped block the bill, the prime minister declared the alliance ‘no longer exists’. And last week Mr Gusmão presented an alternative coalition government, with enough members to unseat Mr Taur’s PLP party.
“By now I think that you have heard about the new coalition. I will explain to you when it is time, and I told you that the resignation is [only] valid when the president has signed [it]. If it is not signed, I will continue as Prime Minister,” he said.
The tensions within AMP – which formed in 2018 as a coalition between Taur’s PLP, Mr Gusmão’s CNRT and KHUNTO – began principally with the president’s refusal to swear in nine CNRT MPs he deemed of “poor moral standing”. The decision angered Mr Gusmão, whose much-larger party was left underrepresented in the council of ministers.
President Lu-Olo seemed to anticipate a future CNRT-led government earlier this week, warning against nominating any of the nine rejected members for future positions.
Ramos-Horta: ‘moral obligation’ to support new govt
Former president José Ramos-Horta said he would ‘prefer’ Mr Gusmão to lead the new government, citing Xanana’s experience negotiating Timor’s maritime boundary with neighbouring Australia.
The Nobel laureate said he has spoken with Xanana, and confirmed that he is yet to confirm who would take over as Prime Minister.
“I am not really bothered with [who will lead], but my sense and my commitment is to help the actual government…because this is our government; thus we have moral and political obligation to help this government,” he said.
Mr Horta said the Greater Sunrise oil and gas project had stalled, and more work is needed to protect Timor from future economic shocks.
The former president said he would support the new government ‘informally’, and would prefer to see Taur continue serving as prime minister until the new government is confirmed.
Meanwhile, President Lú-Olo would not be drawn on the circumstances of Mr Taur’s resignation.
“I will not talk about that,” he told reporters bluntly this afternoon.
Journalist: Cipriano Colo
Editors: Robert Baird; Cancio Ximenes
Translation: Nelia Borges