DILI — Celebrating with party supporters at the headquarters of his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, Xanana Gusmao was his usual mix of backslapping and banter last Tuesday. “I’m anti-smoking, don’t be like me,” he said, laughing, before lighting one up. He could afford to be a bit facetious given that three days earlier the coalition he leads won a parliamentary majority in what was the second election in less than a year in East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste. The last vote in July 2017 led to a minority government led by Mari Alkatiri of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin. But Gusmao and his coalition allies in the Alliance for a Parliamentary Majority blocked Alkatiri’s budget, and soon after, in January, the government fell, only 4 months after it was sworn in. Alkatiri, a Muslim of Yemeni descent in what is one of only two Catholic majority countries in Asia, told me that he thought his party would win at least 30 seats, up from 23 last year.
DILI — A three-party alliance led by Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao ousted the short-lived Fretilin minority government in East Timor’s election held Saturday, though the top party in the ruling coalition refused to concede the outcome late Sunday. Gusmao and his allies won 49.59% of the vote, according to official figures released Sunday, with only a few ballots left to be counted. That gives the Alliance of Change for Progress 34 seats in the Southeast Asian country’s 65-member parliament, a fragile majority. Gusmao’s alliance, which emerged as the Parliamentary Majority Alliance — or AMP — to oppose the Fretilin-led government formed last year under Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, claimed before the vote that it could win up to 43 seats.
JAKARTA — Australia and East Timor on Wednesday signed what Canberra’s foreign minister Julie Bishop called “a milestone” agreement on a maritime boundary between the two countries. The treaty ends a long a bitter dispute between the neighbouring countries and paves the way for exploitation of billions of dollars in gas and oil under the Timor Sea – with at least 70 percent of the revenue to go to impoverished East Timor. The agreement was also historic because it marked the first successful conclusion of “conciliation” negotiations to settle maritime differences under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. How much money the country, a half-island nation of 1.3 million people who are among the poorest in the world, ends up getting depends partly on what deal is worked out to drill and pipe the underwater gas.
JAKARTA — Southeast Asia hosts some of the world’s leading coffee growers and exporters, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, the world’s fourth- and second-biggest producers respectively. Neighbors such as East Timor, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand are home to smaller coffee-growing regions. Their beans have typically been for export. Many end up in cups in countries such as the U.S., the biggest importing country, and Italy, the third-biggest importer, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Italy is also the home of espresso, the strong and sometimes bitter caffeine shot that for many drinkers is the quintessential coffee pour. Now, coffee consumption is on the rise in what were mainly exporting countries of the region, and the race is on to see which kind of coffee will lure would-be local drinkers.
JAKARTA – Xanana Gusmao, the former leader of East Timor’s separatist revolt against Indonesian rule, resigned as the young country’s prime minister on Friday morning. The move follows a year of speculation that Gusmao would step down before the end of his term in 2017 due to ill health. At one point, he had said he would resign in September 2014. A replacement for Gusmao, 68, has not been named. Speculation centers on Rui Araujo, a former health minister. Former President Jose Ramos-Horta called Araujo “an outstanding leader – honest, experienced, humble,” in comments to the Nikkei Asian Review.
BANGKOK — When incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lost the March first round of Timor-Leste’s presidential election, some saw it as the end of an era for Timorese politics that began with the country’s independence in 2002. Ramos-Horta, along with opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, have dominated since independence, with the top jobs of prime minister and president passing between the sometimes comrades, sometimes rivals. The new President of the country also known as East Timor is former army chief Taur Matan Ruak – a man the from same resistance fighter leadership that fought in the jungles against Indonesia’s elemental 1975-99 occupation, which by some estimates killed a third of the country’s people. Although the new President doesn’t have Ramos-Horta’s international profile, his personal prestige as army head and ex-jungle fighter backed by the opposition Fretilin party machine – meant that Ramos-Horta was knocked out of the race in the first round with 21 percent of the vote. Taur Matan Ruak is a nom de guerre, meaning “two sharp eyes” — a soubriquet he acquired after joining Timor’s Falintil resistance fighters in 1975.