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Mari Alkatiri

Mari Alkatiri

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Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri (born 26 November 1949) was the first Prime Minister
Prime Minister of East Timor
The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste is the head of government in East Timor. The President is the head of state. The Prime Minister is chosen by the political party or alliance of political parties with a majority in the national legislature and is formally appointed by the president...

 of an internationally-recognized East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

. He served from May 2002 until he resigned on 26 June 2006 following weeks of political unrest
2006 East Timor crisis
The 2006 East Timorese crisis began as a conflict between elements of the military of East Timor over discrimination within the military, and expanded to a coup attempt and general violence throughout the country, centred in the capital Dili...

 in the country. He is the Secretary-General of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor is a leftist political party in East Timor. They presently hold a plurality of seats in the National Parliament and formed the government in East Timor from independence until 2007...

 (FRETILIN).

He is Hadhrami Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 by ethnicity and comes from the Al-Kathiri
Kathiri
Kathiri was a sultanate in the Hadhramaut region of the southern Arabian Peninsula, in what is now officially considered part of Yemen and the Dhofar region of Oman....

 tribe a branch of which was also the Royal family of Seiyun
Kathiri
Kathiri was a sultanate in the Hadhramaut region of the southern Arabian Peninsula, in what is now officially considered part of Yemen and the Dhofar region of Oman....

 that is now part of Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

.

Life


Alkatiri's ancestors were Hadhrami merchants who lived in Portuguese Timor, he was born in Dili
Dili
Dili, spelled Díli in Portuguese, is the capital, largest city, chief port and commercial centre of East Timor.-Geography and Administration:Dili lies on the northern coast of Timor island, the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands....

, East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

, and had 10 other siblings. He left East Timor in 1970 for post-secondary studies in Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

, returning to East Timor as one of the founders of FRETILIN, becoming its Minister for Political Affairs. Following FRETILIN's declaration of independence for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on November 28, 1975, Alkatiri was sent overseas as part of a high-level diplomatic mission. After Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 invaded the nascent nation on December 7, 1975, Alkatiri and his colleagues were unable to return, and he established the headquarters of the FRETILIN External Delegation in Maputo
Maputo
Maputo, also known as Lourenço Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is known as the City of Acacias in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It was famous for the inscription "This is Portugal" on the walkway of its...

, Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

.

During the 24-year Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Alkatiri was a chartered surveyor (Angolan School of Geography), and lived in exile in Angola and Mozambique. He also studied law at Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique. Alkatiri was Senior Legal consultant, in a private law office in Maputo from 1992 to 1998, and consultant on Public International Law and Constitutional Law to the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique
Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique
The unicameral Assembly of the Republic is the legislative body of Mozambique.The first President of the National Assembly of the People's Republic of Mozambique was President Samora Moises Machel...

 from 1995 to 1998.

On May 20, 2002, the United Nations Transitional Administration transferred sovereignty to the first elected Parliament and Government of East Timor. As Secretary-General of the FRETILIN Party, which had received a large majority of the vote in Parliamentary elections the previous August, Alkatiri was chosen as the first Prime Minister of the newly independent nation.

In May 2006, his government faced near-civil war conditions
2006 East Timor crisis
The 2006 East Timorese crisis began as a conflict between elements of the military of East Timor over discrimination within the military, and expanded to a coup attempt and general violence throughout the country, centred in the capital Dili...

 when approximately half of the country's security forces rebelled amidst scenes of rioting and looting in the country's capital, Dili. On 21 June 2006, President
President of East Timor
The President of East Timor is the Head of state of the East Timorese republic, elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The role is largely symbolic, though he is able to veto some legislation. Following elections, the president appoints as the prime minister, the leader of the majority party...

 Xanana Gusmão
Xanana Gusmão
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão GCL is a former militant who was the first President of East Timor, serving from May 2002 to May 2007...

 called for Alkatiri to resign or else he would, as allegations that Alkatiri had ordered a hit squad
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 to threaten and kill his political opponents led to mass backlash. Senior members of the FRETILIN party met on June 25 to discuss Alkatiri's future as the Prime Minister, amidst a protest involving thousands of people calling for Alkatiri to resign instead of Gusmão. The party agreed to keep Alkatiri as Prime Minister; Foreign and Interim Defence Minister José Ramos-Horta resigned immediately following this decision. On the same day, East Timor's chief of police Paulo Martins called for Alkatiri to be arrested for conspiracy to murder his political opponents.

Despite this vote of confidence, Alkatiri resigned on 26 June 2006, to end the uncertainty. In announcing this he said, "I declare I am ready to resign my position as prime minister of the government… so as to avoid the resignation of His Excellency the President of the Republic Xanana Gusmão."

In the June 2007 parliamentary election
East Timorese parliamentary election, 2007
A parliamentary election was held in East Timor on 30 June 2007. Although a narrow plurality was achieved by the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor , a coalition involving the next three largest groups formed a government...

, Alkatiri was re-elected to a seat in parliament; he was the second name on FRETILIN's candidate list, after party president Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres
Francisco Guterres
Francisco Guterres, popularly known as Lu Olo is the President of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor . He was also President of the National Parliament of East Timor from 2002 to 2007...

.

Alkatiri said on August 1, 2007 that he would be FRETILIN's candidate for prime minister, while criticizing the record of his rival for the position, Gusmão, who had left the presidency and was elected to parliament at the head of a new party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction
National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction
National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction is a political party in East Timor founded by former President Xanana Gusmão in March 2007 in preparation for the 2007 parliamentary election....

 (CNRT). FRETILIN won more seats than any other party in parliament, including the CNRT, but a post-electoral coalition led by Gusmão holds a majority of seats. In a statement, Alkatiri called for a national unity government comprising all parties elected to parliament, saying that this would bring stability. With the parties unable to reach an agreement to form a government together, President José Ramos-Horta announced on August 6 that he had decided that the CNRT-led coalition would form the government, with Gusmão at its head. Alkatiri denounced Ramos-Horta's decision as unconstitutional, and angry FRETILIN supporters reacted to Ramos-Horta's announcement with violent protests, although Alkatiri said that the party would fight the decision through legal means and would encourage people to protest and practice civil disobedience. The party subsequently backed away from its threat of legal action.

Later in August, after Australian soldiers took FRETILIN flags during protests and allegedly desecrated them, Alkatiri accused the Australians of working against FRETILIN and intimidating it, and said that "it would be better for Australian troops to just return home if they cannot be neutral".

Mari Alkatiri is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

Assessment


Alkatiri has been described as a skillful negotiator and an economic nationalist who secured as larger portion of East Timor's share of the Timor Sea
Timor Sea
The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia and to the west by the Indian Ocean....

 oil resources against Australia. He was backed by Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 but opposed by Australia's
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 then Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 Government.

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