KHUNTO members during their national congress in March (Image/Tatoli)

DILI, 5 May 2020 (TATOLI) – KHUNTO party will hold an extraordinary congress to formalise its decision to split with Xanana Gusmão’s New AMP coalition, following pressure from the the former president.

Senior KHUNTO leader Luís Roberto said the party had intended to hold such a conference, but the State of Emergency measures prevented it.

Related news: KHUNTO Leaves Gusmão’s Majority “Alternative Government”

Luís Roberto, Vice-President of the National Parliament and senior leader of KHUNTO Party (Image/Tatoli)

“We will hold an extraordinary conference [in] response to the concerns of New AMP leader Xanana Gusmão. However, we are under the State of Emergency situation and maintaining social distance, thus after end of this month KHUNTO will hold the conference,” Luis Roberto told TATOLI by phone on Monday.

Xanana Gusmão held a lengthy press conference last week, saying New AMP was “not mad” at KHUNTO for choosing to leave the majority coalition, removing its parliamentary majority in the process.

However he said the party ought to have made the decision formally, through a party congress. Mr Gusmão also said the coalition would seek legal advice from the Court of Appeals regarding the “constitutionality” of the current political impasse.

Luís Roberto said KHUNTO will also submit a letter to the Court regarding KHUNTO’s decision to retire from the coalition.

He added the party’s board met last week with KHUNTO advisor and co-founder, José dos Santos “Naimori” Bucar to talk about the conference – but no decision was reached.

Related news: Gusmão: “We’re Not Mad” at KHUNTO; “That’s Democracy”

“We will sit together again to plan when [the congress] will be, maybe we will wait until the end of State of Emergency. Thus, there is no fixed date for the conference,” he said.

A split in the coalition

The new AMP (Parliamentary Majority Alliance) coalition was formed on February 22 by six parties — CNRT, KHUNTO, UDT, FM, PUDD and the Democratic Party (PD) — presenting itself as the “alternative” government.

However, President Francisco Guterres declined to replace the current government and prime minister, and Taur Matan Ruak has since rescinded his resignation in order to focus on the COVID-19 response.

Fractures over policy formed in the coalition early on. But the schism came during last week’s vote to extend the state of emergency decree. Mr Gusmão was vocally opposed to extending the measures, citing the economic cost of the lockdown.

However, KHUNTO voted in favour of the extension. KHUNTO parliamentary leader António Nobre Amaral Tilman said at the time it was important “to give the government time to create conditions to protect our people”.

The extension passed with 37 in favour, 23 against, 4 abstentions and one absence (PD member Adriano do Nascimento).

Mr Gusmão’s coalition now has 29 seats in the National Parliament (CNRT 21, PD 5, UDT 1, FM 1 and PUDD 1).

FRETILIN has the most seats (23), while the governing PLP has eight, and KHUNTO has five.

Read the original Tetum version here: KHUNTO Sei Realiza Konferénsia Estraordinária Hodi Deklara Sai hosi AMP

Journalists: Evaristo Soares Martins, Robert Baird

Editors: Robert Baird, Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges

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