East Timor deputy quits after row with PM

One of East Timor’s deputy prime ministers said he resigned after prime minister Xanana Gusmao publicly called him a “liar” for his outspoken critiques of the government’s failure to tackle corruption and improve people’s lives.

The abrupt departure of Mario Viejas Carrascalao, who assumed the post 18 months ago, dealt another blow to the young country’s political stability.

Mr Carrascalao announced his resignation in a column in the national newspaper Tempo Semanal in which he accused Mr Gusmao’s government of failing to stand up to corruption and nepotism, even as the problems become more sophisticated and entrenched

Mr Carrascalao – who is a member of the Social Democratic Party, a partner in Mr Gusmao’s ruling coalition – said most of his efforts to make positive changes during his tenure were met with “silence, disinterest and passivity” – and sometimes even outright hostility.

He listed a raft of problems facing East Timor that he said the government failed to solve in the eight years since independence.

Without a compulsory education policy, many children still do not attend school, he wrote. The infrastructure is in shambles. Efforts to fight Aids and tuberculosis are woefully insufficient. Most people live in abject poverty. And local industry is virtually non-existent.

But the final straw came when Mr Gusmao criticised Mr Carrascalao at a public gathering in Dili, the capital, last week for spreading allegations in the media about official graft and mismanagement before carrying out proper investigations.

“Mario (Carrascalao) is stupid and a liar,” the prime minister said. “I have lost my confidence in him.”

Mr Carrascalao insisted he acted properly.

“Dignity is much better than any position,” he told reporters. “I’m 73 years old and have never been so humiliated. My response is to resign from my position of deputy prime minister.”

It was not clear if his offer was accepted.

Government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

East Timor is a tiny nation that declared independence in 2002 following decades of harsh rule by Indonesia and a period of UN administration. The country has been plagued by violence and political unrest since then.

Tempo Semanal said Mr Carrascalao’s resignation could lead to the Social Democratic Party pulling out of the coalition, causing “a political earthquake in Dili”.

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