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SOMET Calls for End to Violence and Instability in Timor-Leste
Thursday, 09 August 2007 23:16

August 9 - The Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET) is deeply worried about continued instability in Timor-Leste, despite recent credible elections. Although media reports and past traumas have exaggerated the implications of the limited, sporadic violence of the last few days, we remain concerned that prolonged unrest and allegations of government illegitimacy could undermine Timor-Leste’s fragile democracy.

We urge people to express their views peacefully and legally, without violence. Supporters of all sides should be free to voice their opinions but not to impose them through violence or intimidation. We agree with leaders from across Timor-Leste’s political spectrum who have spoken out against violence, and we hope they will persuade their partisans to remain calm.

Timor-Leste needs a stable government and a peaceful environment to allow it to overcome both long-standing and short-term problems, including those of poverty, security, unemployment, health, justice, infrastructure, and education. Some of these and other critical issues underlie Timor's current insecurity.

SOMET believes that the newly-elected Parliament and President represent the will of the voters, and SOMET reiterates our praise for Timor-Leste’s electorate and electoral officials in conducting three largely free, fair and peaceful elections this year. We continue to believe that legal, constitutional processes are the only way for Timor-Leste to move from its current post-independence adolescence to become a mature, democratic nation.

The four parties which make up the Alliance for Parliamentary Majority include more than half of the members of Parliament. The new Government headed by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão appears to be the most likely to survive constitutional hurdles, providing essential stability.

Any parties that disagree can use the process provided for in the Constitution by introducing a parliamentary motion of no confidence. If it passes, they will have the opportunity to form their own Government. However, if Parliament affirms its confidence in Xanana Gusmão’s Government, FRETILIN and other parties should accept its legitimacy and serve as a responsible, vigorous and constructive parliamentary opposition. A cycle of repeated Government dissolution and creation and will only add to Timor-Leste's political uncertainty.

We encourage all political parties not in the Government to be strong watchdogs, proposing and advocating alternative policies and legislation. We also expect the Government to respect the opposition and to respond to its views, as well as to those of civil society. Everyone should learn from the policies and attitudes over the past several years and work to restore the confidence of the people in democratic institutions. Timor-Leste needs more cooperative relationships among politicians from all parties, as well as between the government and the people.

SOMET will soon issue its detailed report of its observations of the June 30 election and its recommendations for future electoral processes. Previous SOMET reports are available online at http://www.etan.org/etan/obproject/.

Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET) is a nonpartisan observer mission including both international and domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor the 2007 Presidential and parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste.

SOMET was created by the US-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), in cooperation with Stichting Vrij Oost Timor (VOT) of the Netherlands, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) based in the Philippines, and the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA), in response to requests from several civil society organizations in Timor-Leste. In Timor-Leste, SOMET cooperates with Asosiasaun HAK, Timor-Leste NGO Forum, La'o Hamutuk, FOKUPERS, Bibi Bulak and the Kadalak Sulimutuk Institute.

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