East Timor leader says he’s quitting after coalition collapse

East Timorese PM Taur Matan Ruak reads out the oath of office during his inauguration in June 2018. (AP pic)

DILI: East Timor’s prime minister said Tuesday he was quitting after a political coalition that supported him collapsed, setting up the tiny Southeast Asian nation for another round of instability.

Taur Matan Ruak — a one-time guerilla fighter in the former Portuguese colony later annexed by Indonesia — said he had filed a resignation letter to President Francisco Guterres, citing a “political impasse”.

“I was in a meeting with President (Guterres) and I asked to resign from the PM position,” Ruak told reporters in the capital Dili, adding that he would remain in the job until his resignation request was accepted.

Ruak was sworn in as prime minister in June 2018 following a protracted political crisis that had paralysed the half-island nation of some 1.3 million squeezed between Indonesia and Australia.

That marked East Timor’s second government in less than a year in the impoverished nation that won independence in 2002 after a brutal 24-year occupation by neighbouring Indonesia.

Born Jose Maria Vasconcelos but universally known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak — which means “two sharp eyes” — Ruak was a commander in the East Timorese resistance before becoming chief of the newly independent nation’s army.

He also served in the largely ceremonial role of president between 2012 and 2017.