Impeachment calls heating up in East Timor

Bangkok: MPs from East Timor's major political parties are moving to impeach the country's President as tensions rise again in the former Indonesian-controlled island nation.

The MPs are demanding that Taur Matan Ruak, also known by his Portuguese name Jose Maria Vasconcelos, reverse a decision not to reappoint the commander of East Timor's Defence Force, Major-General Lere Anan Timur.

Both Mr Ruak and Major-General Lere are heroes of East Timor's independence. For years, they were among guerrillas fighting Indonesia's armed forces from the country's mountains and jungles.

Former prime minister and president Xanana Gusmao, who is also a revolutionary hero, called a private meeting of key politicians to discuss the emerging crisis last week.

Representatives of the National Congress for Timorese Construction, which Mr Gusmao founded in 2007; the former ruling party Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) and the Front for National Reconstruction of East Timor, known as Frente Mudanca (Change Front), agreed that Mr Ruak's decision was unconstitutional, sources said.

Details of the impeachment move have not been made public.

Mr Ruak has appointed one of Major-General Lere's deputies to take over the position that commands 1332 active personnel.

Mr Ruak, who is a powerful and popular figure, led the country's defence forces between 2002 and 2011 before becoming President.

Since 2002, he has visited almost every village across the half-island nation.

Major-General Lere was sworn in as defence commander in 2011 by then president Jose Ramos-Horta, replacing Mr Ruak as he moved to the presidency.

Major-General Lere vowed at the time to ensure the country's stability.

"If we stand solid, there will be no one who can destroy our nation and our unity," he said.

Political instability spread across East Timor in 2006 when the then government sacked almost half of the defence force after protests over discrimination and poor conditions.

As the army and police failed to stop spreading violence, foreign peacekeepers led by Australia were deployed to the country.

East Timor gained independence in 2002 after the Timorese overwhelmingly voted in 1999 to break Indonesia's rule at a violence-wracked United Nations-supervised referendum.

This story Impeachment calls heating up in East Timor first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.