Chaos in Timor-Leste parliament as politicians try to ‘gag’ deputy speaker

Timor Parliament clash
An opposition CNRT member of Parliament waves a chair in an attempt to "shut up" the deputy speaker. Image: Efran Colo/FB

Pacific Media Watch

Following yesterday’s parliamentary row in the national chamber of Timor-Leste, chaotic scenes were streamed live on social media today for more than half an hour live as police were called.

Media consultant Bob Howarth reports that the police were called into the Parliament with rival politicians screaming insults and makng threatening gestures.

Lusa newsagency correspondent Antonio Sampaio providing a running commentary in Portuguese, said Howarth.

WATCH: Today’s angry scenes on social media
READ: Earlier story about yesterday’s clash

“All the aggression, according to the commentary, came from former prime minister and ex-president Xanana Gusmao’s CNRT party members,” he said.

“The parliamentary President – Speaker – top table was smashed, allegedly by a CNRT MP. Another was restrained after waving a chair around.”

Journalist Antonio Sampaio reports that several members of Parliament made loud drumming noise on the tables of the Parliament to prevent the deputy speaker (vice president) from conducting a plenary session that was officially unscheduled.

With shouting of “illegal” and “assault on power”, the deputies (MPs) resorted to a long drumming on one of the areas of the tables normally occupied by the government in parliamentary debates.

Oppositon members drumming
At the other end of the table, Vice-President Angelina Sarmento, of PLP, repeatedly tried with a microphone and a portable column to start the plenary which was officially not even on the agenda of Parliament.

Every time she spoke, on the other side the opposition members started drumming, accompanied by claps and other noisy blows on the side of the plenary table.

Without hearing the speeches of Angelina Sarmento, the majority benches – Fretilin, PLP and KHUNTO – held up their green voting cards.

A “symbolic” vote supported dismissal of the President of the National Parliament, Aaron Noah Amaral, but without any validity under parliamentary process.

For the second day in a row, the Timorese Parliament was experiencing moments of tension, which worsened today with CNRT members spilling the presidential table backwards, and the police were called in to maintain order.

The tension began when the parliamentary vice-president tried to occupy the table area to open the plenary, considering she had the legitimacy to do so because President Amaral had not called the plenary.

Several members converged on the parliament table area, with CNRT members turning to the table of ther colleague Amaral to prevent the beginning of plenary.

Screaming and pushing
In a scenario of screaming and pushing, with deputies from various parties climbing into the table area, East Timor National Police Officers (PNTL) took control.

A request had been signed by the majority members who want to vote on the removal of Amaral and should, according to the Rules of Procedure, have been debated in plenary within five days.

This deadline has passed, but the session had not yet been scheduled because of President Amaral’s refusal to hold the plenary.

On Friday, the three governing coalition parties accused Amaral of “abuse of power, against the state and subversion” for paralysing parliamentary procedure.

The majority had asked Vice-President Angelina Sarmento to lead the plenary.

The crisis has come while the country has been dealing with the coronavirus crisis, but Timor-Leste has been declared covid-19 free after all 24 active cases have recovered.

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