‘I lost my trust in her’, Timor PM says of health minister sacking

Timor-Leste Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak and former Vice-Minister Élia dos Reis Amaral ... trust broken over Covid-19. PM Taur Matan Ruak and former Vice-Minister Élia dos Reis Amaral. Image: Tatoli

By Florencio Miranda Ximenes and Antónia Gusmão in Dili

Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak has explained the decision to dismiss the vice-health minister, saying he lost trust in her to do the job.

The President dismissed Élia António de Araújo dos Reis Amaral from her post on Friday, following a request from the prime minister.

“I no longer wish to work with her. I have only one answer: I lost my trust in her, and Ms Élia’s work is done,” Matan Ruak told reporters.

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The position of health minister has remained vacant since President Lú-Olo declined to swear-in Xanana Gusmão’s preferred candidate for the post in 2018. Amaral, as vice-health minister, has been the de-facto minister since then.

The PM said her colleague, Vice-Minister for Strategic Health Development Bonifacio Maukoli Dos Reis has assumed her responsibilities.

“Currently, we’re yet to [choose] someone to take over as vice-minister of health. Bonifácio will watch over health matters [for now],” he said.

President Lú-Olo’s decree, issued on Friday afternoon, gave no explanation of the reasons for the dismissal. The prime minister did not offer an explanation publicly until this morning.

The decision follows a disagreement between Amaral and the newly-appointed Centre of Integrated Crisis Management, which has taken over her role leading the Covid-19 outbreak response.

Last week, the prime minister appointed former Health Minister Dr Rui Aráujo as spokesman for the centre. When consecutive press conferences held by Amaral and Dr Araújo gave conflicting data, senior government figures were reportedly furious at the junior minister.

The Prime Minister has sought to clarify who is assigned to speak on the Covid-19 response. The spokespeople are:

  • Capt. Pedro Klamar Fuik, from the F-FDTL Naval Branch
  • Sérgo Lobo, former health minister
  • Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, another former health minister and the official spokesman of the group
  • Odete Viegas, Director-General of Health Services
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