DILI, 18 May 2020, (TATOLI) – The Vice-President of the National Parliament (PN), Maria Angelina Sarmento, has been physically removed from a plenary session this morning, after she tried to claim the president’s chair.
The chamber erupted into farce as members of PN President Arão Noé Amaral’s CNRT party blocked Ms Sarmento and fellow deputy Luís Roberto from seizing control of parliament.
The shouting and disorder began when members of the governing bloc of PLP, FRETILIN and KHUNTO entered the chamber, soon after 10 o’clock.
CNRT Members stepped up to the president’s table to block Ms Sarmento, Mr Roberto and their party allies from taking the president’s chair.
“We can give the chair [to the Vice-President], but it should be according to the law; don’t come and just seize [it],” CNRT member José Virgilio said, as he guarded the seat.
TATOLI then witnessed the members push Ms Sarmento out of the room. The CNRT members later allowed the two deputies to take their own seats, but continued to block them from the president’s chair.
In a press conference this morning ahead of the plenary, Mr Amaral accused Ms Sarmento – from rival PLP party – of violating the constitution in a “grab” for power.
“As President of the National Parliament, I want to denounce an attempt by Vice-President Angelina Sarmento to remove [me],” he said. “This act by Angelina Sarmento violates the constitution, parliament rules and the law.”
The role of the president has been the subject of a bitter dispute across a number of parties.
The governing bloc of FRETILIN, KHUNTO and PLP want Mr Amaral removed from his post. Last week the three parties drafted a letter, signed by a majority of parliament members, accusing him of “abuses of power”.
However, CNRT and its parliamentary allies are fiercely resisting the move. Mr Amaral has instead insisted President Francisco Guterres dissolve parliament and call elections.
CNRT, led by charismatic former president Xanana Gusmão, has been in a standoff with the president since the last elections in 2018: initially over his decision to reject some of the party’s ministerial nominations; but more recently, because Mr Guterres declined to support CNRT’s bid to take over the government.
Journalist: Evaristo Soares Martins; Robert Baird
Editors: Robert Baird, Cancio Ximenes
Translation: Nelia Borges