Sydney Morning Herald
September 22, 2011
EAST Timor’s parliament is ”corrupt and ineffective”, Prime
Minister Xanana Gusmao has an alcohol problem and former prime
minister Mari Alkatiri is ”arrogant and abusive”, according to
President Jose Ramos-Horta.
Mr Ramos-Horta’s caustic observations have been revealed in leaked US
embassy cables published by WikiLeaks.
But the President doesn’t emerge unscathed. The Catholic Church is
recorded as sharply criticising the East Timorese leader. A senior
Vatican official is reported by US diplomats as observing
”Ramos-Horta started with good intentions but had let his Nobel
prize go to his head”.
All the US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks were published two
weeks ago, but 390 reports from the American embassy in Dili have not
attracted media attention until now.
Mr Ramos-Horta, described as a ”legendary international
negotiator”, brands Mr Gusmao as ”arrogant, but he likes to pretend
to be humble, unlike Alkatiri, who doesn’t even pretend to be
anything but arrogant”.
In May 2008, the US embassy reported East Timorese parliamentary
contacts as suggesting that Mr Gusmao ”may have an alcohol problem,
which is impairing his relations with others”.
The embassy said that during a May 5 meeting with [US embassy
officers], James Dunn, an author and long-time observer of East
Timor, reported the Prime Minister angered Mr Ramos-Horta by turning
up ”visibly drunk” at a reception in honour of Prince Albert of
Monaco on April 6.
Mr Ramos-Horta has also been sharply critical of Mr Alkatiri, whom he
replaced as prime minister in June 2006, describing him as ”arrogant
The cables provide a detailed account of events leading to Mr
Alkatiri’s June 2006 resignation under threat of dismissal by then
president Gusmao, as mob violence and looting flared in Dili. Mr
Gusmao was ”particularly insistent” that Mr Alkatiri resign or else
be dismissed immediately.
The WikiLeaks disclosures provide new insight into Mr Ramos-Horta’s
attempts to negotiate with rebel East Timorese military leader
Alfredo Reinado, including the involvement of US diplomats as
intermediaries, while Australian troops tried to hunt down and kill Reinado.
In June 2007, the embassy reported that Mr Ramos-Horta had asked the
Australian commander of the International Stabilisation Force to
suspend its pursuit of Reinado so that he could call for the rebel to
turn himself in.
But on February 11, 2008, Mr Ramos-Horta was critically wounded in an
assassination attempt by Reinado, who was killed in the attack.
The President told the US ambassador that he was ”unable to explain
his attacker’s motivation”, and described how he lay bleeding for
”20 or 30” minutes after he was shot before ”a battered ambulance
with a driver but no medic arrived”.
James Dunn, a confidant of Mr Ramos-Horta, told The Age yesterday
that much of the US embassy’s reporting was ”quite perceptive”.