President of the National Parliament, Arão Noé de Jesus da Costa Amaral (Image/António Gonçalves)

DILI, 11 May 2020 (TATOLI) – The President of the National Parliament (PPN), Arão Noé Amaral, has dismissed calls for his sacking by three rival parties as unfounded, and a distraction from tackling COVID-19.

Mr Amaral argues that under the constitution, the President of Timor-Leste must dissolve parliament in order to replace him and his table of deputies (meza).

“That is why now is not the time to dismiss the President of the National Parliament and the meza of the Fifth Legislature,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

Members of FRETILIN, PLP and KHUNTO announce their call to replace the Parliament President last week (May 5) (Image/Evaristo Soares Martins)

Members of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP), KHUNTO and the Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor-Leste (FRETILIN) – who represent a majority of 36 seats in the 65-seat parliament – last week called for the removal of Mr Amaral and the meza.

The members questioned the leadership of Mr Amaral, complained of a lack of direction during meetings.

“As we observed yesterday and today, there is no agenda for the plenaries,” FRETILIN member Francisco de Vasconcelos said last Tuesday.

PPN Amaral – the equivalent of the Speaker of the House in the US or Australian systems – is a member of the National Congress of East Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), a rival political party which until early this year was in alliance with the governing PLP and KHUNTO.

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However, CNRT fell out with its former alliance colleagues in January, with the party forming a new coalition and presenting as the “alternative” government.

Parliament’s “great deficiencies” led to dismissal push

In the dismissal application, the members cited “deficiencies” in the running of parliament dating back to the beginning of the government in 2018.

“The National Parliament has been showing a great deficiency in its functioning, mainly with regard to the drafting and approval of important necessary legislation,” the application read, citing an Anti-Corruption bill which has been discussed for two years, but is yet to be finalised.

But in exercising his “right to defend himself” yesterday, Mr Amaral said that progress on that bill is the responsibility parliament’s Commission A, comprised of members from FRETILIN (4), CNRT (3), PLP, PD, KHUNTO and UDT-FM (one each).

“The process does not depend on the president of the parliament, but on the commission’s agenda, and having a quorum for deliberation,” he said.

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“The commission has to organise itself autonomously and does not depend on the president, who receives the report and information from the commission, but does not directly interfere in its work.”

He also argued that the parliament must act in accordance with the state of emergency decree, declared to deal with COVID-19 and the devastating March 13 Dili floods.

Watch: The Friday 13th Floods in Dili

Mr Amaral said parliament must “respect the rules” of the response to COVID-19, but also that he would seek advice on whether to allow debate on the dismissal request.

Fundamentally, the president said that the leadership of the parliament is in place as a result of the 2018 legislative elections, and that “there is no reason to remove the meza if the Eighth Government” remains in office.

“Timor-Leste is a Democratic state [with] the rule of law, and strictly complies with constitutional rules to guarantee the functioning of the state, in accordance with the constitution and the laws in force,” he said

Read the original Tetum coverage here: PPN Hasai Pontu Haat ba Pedidu Destituisaun; Bankada FRETILIN, PLP no KHUNTO Hatama Ona Rekerimentu Destituisaun Ba Meza PN

Journalist: Evaristo Soares Martins

Editors: Robert Baird, Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges


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