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Cablegate: Parliament Reverses Course After President Threatens To

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DE RUEHDT #0240/01 2521103
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091103Z SEP 09
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RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 4073

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000240

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL TT
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT REVERSES COURSE AFTER PRESIDENT THREATENS TO
RESIGN

DILI 00000240 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) President Jose Ramos-Horta threatened to resign as
Timor-Leste's president on September 9 unless the national
parliament reversed its vote disapproving of his planned travel
to the United States for the UN General Assembly. The
parliament, with unclear constitutional authority, voted against
the president's proposed trip on September 8 as a protest
against the government's decision to release indicted militia
leader Martenus Bere to Indonesian custody on August 30. The
Parliament took a second vote the afternoon of September 9 and
approved the president's travel, although several
parliamentarians reportedly took the decision under duress and
only in the "interest of the state."

2. (SBU) Ramos-Horta summoned the diplomatic corps at 5:00 PM
on September 9 (which had been his deadline for the parliament
to approve his travel) to inform them of his resignation threat
and to criticize unwelcome intervention on the Bere case from
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and
international NGOs. Ramos-Horta, barely suppressing his anger,
told diplomats the parliament was "playing with fire" by playing
political games with him. This parliament was corrupt and
ineffective, Ramos-Horta charged, and needed to be cleaned up
and "taught a lesson" in the coming months. Despite the
parliament's reversal, Ramos-Horta insisted "this isn't over"
and hinted at exercising his presidential prerogative to
dissolve parliament and call early elections or resign before
the end of his term. The president stated his intention to hold
a press conference the evening of September 9 to reveal publicly
his resignation threat and to identify the "irresponsible"
politicians who had insulted the dignity of his office, with the
expectation that the people would be angered at the treatment he
had received and frightened at the prospect of losing him as
president.

3. (SBU) Ramos-Horta sharply criticized a September 2 letter
released publicly by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
questioning the government's handling of the Bere case.
Ramos-Horta rhetorically demanded to know who had authorized
such a letter and promised to respond directly only to the UN
Secretary General and the UN Security Council. He questioned
the need for a representative of the human rights commissioner
to be resident in Timor-Leste - a country which has ratified
"all of the human rights treaties" - and criticized the United
Nations for its "hypocrisy" in failing to prosecute human rights
violators or establish an international tribunal while it still
had executive authority in Timor-Leste up to 2002.

4. (SBU) The president urged diplomatic missions to refrain
from instigating critical commentary from international NGOs and
to convince parliamentarians to "stop playing games." He
praised Portugal, Brazil, and Spain for not lecturing
Timor-Leste on the issue of justice. Ramos-Horta accused the
international community of not understanding the situation in
Timor-Leste and not appreciating the fruits enjoyed by
Timor-Leste as a result of its non-confrontational approach
toward Indonesia, citing a stable border (despite the presence
of thousands of former East Timorese militia in West Timor),
preferential access for Timorese students in Indonesian
universities, and Indonesia's support for Timor-Leste's ASEAN
membership. If we listened to the international community,
Ramos-Horta concluded, Timor-Leste would be much worse off.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Ramos-Horta sees himself as above local
politics and as an indispensable guarantor of stability in the
country. Ramos-Horta has taken the parliament's vote as a
personal affront and may also be using his threat to resign as a
way to end the growing criticism of the government's decision to
release Bere. This latest development indicates that the
ongoing controversy surrounding the Bere case is continuing to
exacerbate partisan politics.


DILI 00000240 002.2 OF 002


6. (SBU) COMMENT (cont): The processing of the legal case
against Bere continues to evolve. Currently, responsibility
lies with the Prosecutor-General (a member of the opposition
Fretilin party). The Prosecutor-General has already determined
that Bere remains a Timorese citizen, is checking the validity
of the outstanding arrest warrant, and is traveling to Suai on
September 10 to examine the documents pertaining to the case.
HENICK

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