East Timor deputy PM quits amid spat with boss

East Timor`s Prime Minister had publicly called the deputy PM a "liar".

Dili: One of East Timor`s deputy prime ministers said he has resigned after Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao publicly called him a "liar" for his outspoken critiques of the government`s failure to tackle corruption and improve people`s lives.

The abrupt departure of Mario Viejas Carrascalao, who assumed the post 18 months ago, dealt another blow to the young country`s political stability. One analyst said it could even prompt the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Carrascalao announced his resignation on Wednesday in a column in the national newspaper Tempo Semanal in which he accused Gusmao`s government of failing to stand up to corruption and nepotism, even as the problems become more sophisticated and entrenched.

Carrascalao — who is a member of the Social Democratic Party, a partner in Gusmao`s ruling coalition — said most of his efforts to make positive changes during his tenure were met with "silence, disinterest and passivity" — and sometimes even outright hostility.

He listed a raft of problems facing East Timor that he said the government had failed to solve in the eight years since independence.

Without a compulsory education policy, many children still do not attend school, he wrote. The infrastructure is in shambles. Efforts to fight AIDS and tuberculosis are woefully insufficient. Most people live in abject poverty. And local industry is virtually nonexistent.

But the final straw came when Gusmao criticised Carrascalao at a public gathering in Dili, the capital, last week for spreading allegations in the media about official graft and mismanagement before carrying out proper investigations.

"Mario (Carrascalao) is stupid and a liar," the Prime Minister said. "I have lost my confidence in him."

Carrascalao insisted on Wednesday that he has acted properly.

"Dignity is much better than any position," he told reporters. "I`m 73 years old and have never been so humiliated. My response is to resign from my position of deputy prime minister."

It was not clear if his offer had been accepted.

Bureau Report

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