Mari Alkatiri

Mari Alkatiri
Prime Minister of East Timor
In office
20 May 2002  26 June 2006
President Xanana Gusmão
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by José Ramos-Horta
Personal details
Born (1949-11-26) 26 November 1949
Dili, Portuguese Timor
(now East Timor)
Political party Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
Alma mater Eduardo Mondlane University
Religion Sunni Islam

Mari bin Amude Alkatiri (Arabic: مرعي بن عمودة الكثيري) Mar'ī bin Amūdah al-Kaṯīrī (born 26 November 1949) was the first Prime Minister of an internationally recognised East Timor. He served from May 2002 until he resigned on 26 June 2006 following weeks of political unrest in the country.[1] He is the Secretary-General of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), as well as President of the Special Administrative Region of Oecusse.

He is Hadhrami Arab by ethnicity and comes from the Al-Kathiri tribe a branch of which was also the Royal family of Hadhramaut that is now part of Yemen. He is one of very few Muslim politicians in a country that is 97% Catholic.


Alkatiri's ancestors were Hadhrami merchants who lived in Portuguese Timor, he was born in Dili, East Timor, and had 10 other siblings. He left East Timor in 1970 for post-secondary studies in Angola, 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 28 November 1975, Alkatiri was sent overseas as part of a high-level diplomatic mission. After Indonesia invaded the nascent nation on 7 December 1975, Alkatiri and his colleagues were unable to return, and he established the headquarters of the FRETILIN External Delegation in Maputo, Mozambique.

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 from 1995 to 1998.

On 20 May 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 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 Xanana Gusmão called for Alkatiri to resign or else he would, as allegations that Alkatiri had ordered a hit squad to threaten and kill his political opponents led to mass backlash.[2] Senior members of the FRETILIN party met on 25 June to discuss Alkatiri's future as the Prime Minister, amidst a protest involving thousands of people calling for Alkatiri to resign instead of Gusmão.[3] The party agreed to keep Alkatiri as Prime Minister; Foreign and Interim Defence Minister José Ramos-Horta resigned immediately following this decision.[4] 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.[5]

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."[1]

The 'hit squad' accusations against Alkatiri were subsequently rejected by a UN Commission, which criticised Gusmão for making inflammatory statements during the crisis, and called Police Chief Paulo Martins's abandonment of his post a 'serious dereliction of duty'.[6]

In the June 2007 parliamentary election, 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.[7]

Alkatiri said on 1 August 2007 that he would be FRETILIN's candidate for prime minister, while criticising 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 (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.[8] In a statement, Alkatiri called for a national unity government comprising all parties elected to parliament, saying that this would bring stability.[9] With the parties unable to reach an agreement to form a government together, President José Ramos-Horta announced on 6 August 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[10] and would encourage people to protest and practice civil disobedience.[11] The party subsequently backed away from its threat of legal action.[12]

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".[13]

Mari Alkatiri is an Honorary Member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's Roncalli Committee.[14]


Alkatiri has been described as a skilful negotiator and an economic nationalist who secured as larger portion of East Timor's share of the Timor Sea oil resources against Australia.[15][16] He was backed by Portugal but opposed by the Australian government of John Howard.[17]


  1. 1 2 Agence France-Presse (2006). East Timor PM quits. Retrieved 26 June 2006.
  2. ABC News Online (2006). Alkatiri's resignation 'would paralyse Govt'. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  3. Reuters (2006). East Timor ruling party meets to debate PM's future. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  4. Associated Press (2006). Alkatiri to remain as PM. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  5. Murdoch, Lindsay (26 June 2006). "East Timor PM resigns". The Age.
  6. "Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste" (PDF). 2 October 2006.
  7. "National Provisional Results from the 30 June 2007 Parliamentary Elections", Comissão Nacional de Eleições Timor-Leste, 9 July 2007.
  8. "East Timor's ousted prime minister wants his job back", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 1 August 2007.
  9. "Fretilin seeks 'inclusive' E Timor govt", AAP (, 2 August 2007.
  10. "Riots after Gusmao named E Timor PM", Al Jazeera, 7 August 2007.
  11. Lindsay Murdoch, "Fretilin threatens 'people-power' coup",, 9 August 2007.
  12. "Planned challenge to E Timor Govt dropped", AFP (, 15 August 2007.
  13. Lindsay Murdoch, "Defence Force apologises for soldiers' desecration of Fretilin flag", The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 2007.
  14. "Honorary Members of the Roncalli Committee". The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  15. "Embattled East Timor PM resigns". The BBC. 26 June 2006.
  16. Hill, Helen (1 June 2006). "Stand up, the real Mr Alkatiri". The Age.
  17. de Queiroz, Mario (20 June 2006). "EAST TIMOR: Arrest, Weapons Handover Move Crisis Management Forward". Inter Press Service.
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Political offices
New office Prime Minister of East Timor
Succeeded by
José Ramos-Horta
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