Xanana Gusmão opposes extending state of emergency in Timor-Leste

CNRT leader Xanana Gusmão (right) with former President Francisco Guterres ... call to deny coronavirus state of emergency permission. Image: EPAguterres/Antonio Dasiparu/Inside Story

By António Sampaio in Dili

Xanana Gusmão, president of the second largest Timorese party, has criticised the decision to extend Timor-Leste’s state of emergency, considering that it is not justified at the present time and can bring increased risks to the economy of families and the country.

Thus, and according to a circular to which Lusa had access, members of the six parties that are part of the alliance of parliamentary majority should vote against this extension, he said.

“The alliance of parliamentary majority has to be consistent with its political position and so I ask the members of the coalition not to give permission to the President of the Republic to declare the extension of the state of emergency,” said Xanana Gusmão, president of the CNRT.

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Instead, he explained, MPs should advocate that ports, airports and borders continue to be closed in to prevent the virus from entering and that control be strengthened for those who enter illegally, welcoming the work of the defence and security forces and local authorities in this area.

“Reopen business and work, but don’t let people gather indiscriminately. All citizens have an obligation to continue to follow rules on social distancing, hand washing. There can be no parties and activities that bring many people together,” he said in a statement.

The four-page statement, to which Lusa had access, is dated April 23, was signed by Xanana Gusmão and is addressed to the leaders and deputies of the six parties of the new parliamentary majority alliance led by her party, the National Congress of Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT).

CNRT officials confirmed to Lusa the veracity of the document, explaining that it was an “internal” text and that it was not publicly distributed.

Consequences ‘not understood’
In the text Xanana Gusmão criticises the justification given by the President of the Republic, Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, for the extension of the state of emergency, focusing “very much” on the situation of the pandemic in the rest of the world, especially in Asia.

Lu-Olo, wrote the president of the CNRT, “has shown that he does not understand all aspects of the pandemic as a disease, especially of the consequences of economies in nations with covid-19.”

“Will our people survive because they will not have the covid-19, but hungry and without work?”, he asked.

Thus, wrote Xanana Gusmão, the most developed countries were concerned with both the disease and the economic effects and “how, despite the death of thousands of people, one can reduce the ‘lock down’ or the restrictions of the state of emergency so that the work can continue.”

Xanana Gusmão explained that he met with the members of the CNRT government and KHUNTO, two of the parties of the new alliance, but who are still in the current executive – which it helped form – to talk about this issue.

At that meeting, he explained, there was talk about “not approving the extension of the state of emergency” but supporting measures to help control the disease, such as banning meetings and closing borders.

“We don’t need a state of emergency. It may just be an emergency situation,” he writes, noting that Timorese abroad who cannot return due to the measures in force should be helped.

Xanana Gusmão also said that the government must continue to prepare, in terms of health and treatment conditions and that it should strengthen the country’s ability to carry out tests on the population.

Timor-Leste currently has 24 active cases of covid-19 and no deaths.

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