Jakarta – East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares stressed that he would not resign, despite growing calls for his resignation on the part of prominent local public figures who rallied around the local House of representatives yesterday.
"No, I will not [resign]. Now disburse," the governor bellowed to dozens of supporters yesterday. His supporters, came to welcome Abilio at Comoro airport in the provincial capital of Dili, after the governor's meeting with President B.J. Habibie in Jakarta yesterday. The people gathered at the airport had earlier arrived in three trucks and were keen to express their support for the governor and appealed for him not to resign.
East Timor Military Chief Colonel Tono Suratman, who accompanied the governor from Jakarta, also stressed that Governor Abilio would not resign. "There is not going to be a new governor of East Timor," Suratman stressed. Asked about the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) stance in relation with the growing calls to Abilio's resignation, Suratman said that ABRI always supported the East Timor Administration.
Previously, a reliable source indicated that demands for Abilio's resignation had been masterminded by the military, alarmed by a number of overtures made by the governor, to pro-referendum groups. The source also stated that ABRI Commander, General Wiranto, disliked the governor on account of his close friendship to the disgraced former Army Strategic Reserve Command chief, Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto.
Speaking about his meeting with B.J. Habibie, Abilio said that the president had asked him to seek clarification from the East Timorese legislative body, about the demands of those groups calling for his resignation. "At my meeting with the president, he told me to seek clarification from the DPRD over the resignation demands," he was quoted as saying by Antara. Governor Abilio expressed readiness to meet with legislators as well as those people calling for his resignation.
Meanwhile in Dili, a growing number of public figures in East Timor, yesterday gathered at the province's House of Representatives (DPRD I) building, demanding the resignation of Abilio. A local group of activists, led by Manuel Carascalao and Fransisco Carvalho, met with DPRD speaker, Armindo Soares Mariano, and expressed their wish that the legislative body request a replacement for Abilio from the central government.
In their statement, the prominent East Timorese representatives said that since becoming governor in 1992, Abilio's term in office had been marked with a steady and uncontrollable increase in corruption, collusion and nepotism in the provincial administration.
A reliable source in the province however, suggested that the calls for Abilio's replacement had in fact, been masterminded by the military, following a number of statements issued by Abilio, expressing a willingness to consider a pro-independence referendum in the region.
Abilio is also believed to be a close friend of former Army Strategic Reserve Commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, discharged from the Army after being implicated in the kidnapping of several political activists.
"[During Abilio's term as governor], we have witnessed a number of conflicts between integrationists and independence supporters. We've even seen civil servants and military personnel calling for independence and that's not on!" a Timorese demonstrator said yesterday.
They also explained that conflicts between people of differing opinion, often sparked cases of deadly violence in the former Portuguese colony, disrupting efforts to seek a comprehensive solution to the ongoing problems faced by the islanders.
Abilio's adversaries yesterday, seemed keen to dismiss any of the governor's accomplishments. Aside from being friend with Prabowo Subianto, and listening to independence supporters, Abilio is also blamed for allowing economic development to benefit a number of areas in the region, while ignoring others.
The statement calling for the governor's resignation yesterday, said that the people of East Timor people had quickly become disillusioned by Abilio when he was still relatively new to the job. "Give an opportunity to another figure who is committed to the improvement of people's welfare," it stated. It recommended that either Mario Viegas Carascalao, Tito dos Santos Baptista or Armindo Soares Mariano, replace the beleaguered governor.
Local house speaker, Armindo Soares Mariao, said that the DPRD would accommodate all of society's aspirations. "The people's wish is a fact. There is no engineering in this case. Power is in the hands of the people," he stressed. Armindo said that the resignation demands would be presented to the central government, as well as demands supporting Abilio's position. The DPRD will also summon Governor Abilio to explain the situation more clearly.