Former President, and current CNRT Party leader, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. (Image/António Goncalves)

DILI, May 12, 2020 (TATOLI) – The lawyer acting for Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT Party said he will submit a second petition to the Court of Appeal, after a panel of judges rejected his submission challenging President Francisco Guterres.

18 MPs from CNRT and one from UDT/FM lodged the petition last week, questioning the “constitutionality” of several actions by the President in recent months.

But the court’s three judges rejected the group’s arguments.

“With the grounds set out, the judges of this panel of the Court of Appeal deliberately reject the initial petition outright,” judges Deolindo dos Santos, Maria Natércia and Jacinta Correia da Costa wrote in their decision.

Lawyer Manuel Tilman. (Image/Egas Cristovão)

Speaking to TATOLI from his office in Dili, lawyer Manuel Tilman explained that the judges only examined the arguments based on Article 79 of the constitution, concerning “criminal liability and constitutional obligations” of the president.

“I accept the decision of the Court of Appeal… [but] I am preparing another matter for this week, to deliver a second time to the Court of Appeal, based on Article 150,” he said.

Mr Tilman said it was a decision of some CNRT members to alter the petition to focus on Article 79, instead of 150 – which the panel rejected.

President Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo has faced sustained criticism from CNRT which has escalated in recent months (Image/Julião Fernandes)

The petition to the Court on May 5 cited a number of decisions taken by President Lú-Olo in recent months.

In particular, the members argued the president should have dissolved parliament once the 2020 General State Budget had stalled for 60 days.

“[This is] not to question Mr Lú-Olo, but [we] must defend the constitution of the Republic of Timor-Leste, and everyone respects the law,” Xanana Gusmão said in a press conference on April 30.

The action presented by the members had “no support in the text and in the spirit” of the constitution, they wrote.

The panel decided that, under Article 150 of the constitution, the president is accountable to the court for “clear and serious violation of constitutional obligations”, but that would require a proposal brought by one-fifth of the members of the National Parliament, and passed by two-thirds.

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The President of the Court of Appeal, Deolindo dos Santos, explained today that Monday’s decision was “procedural” rather than on the merit of the petitioner’s arguments.

Conflict between Gusmão’s CNRT and President Lú-Olo, a leading figure from FRETILIN, dates back his refusal to swear in nine nominated ministers, following the 2018 parliamentary elections.

But the friction increased this year, when the president declined to support a move by a CNRT-led coalition to replace Taur Matan Ruak’s government.

Under Article 157, CNRT has 10 days to submit another petition to the Court. The same three judges will consider any subsequent submission.

Read the original Tetum/Portuguese coverage: Advogado do CNRT diz que será entregue nova petição no Tribunal de RecursoDesizaun ba Petisaun CNRT Bazeia ba Prosesuál;

Journalist: Evaristo Soares Martins

Editors: Robert Baird, Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges

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