Fretilin: Abuse of Independent Institutions Must Cease

Media Release

Monday August 10, 2009: Dili

Abuse of independent institutions must cease – FRETILIN

FRETILIN parliamentary leader Mr Aniceto Guterres today called on the de facto Gusmao government to publicly withdraw a recent media statement attacking a Timor-Leste Ombudsman’s report on alleged corrupt decisions by the Ministers for Justice and Finance.

“We call on the de facto government to apologize unreservedly to the Provedor and his staff for the statement issued by the government spokesperson Mr Agio Pereira on August 7,” said Mr Guterres. (The best English equivalent of “Provedor for Human Rights and Justice” is “Ombudsman”.)

Mr Pereira’s remarks, that the Provedor’s report was “politically-motivated” and had “no merit or facts to support the conclusion” were in a release headlined: “False report delivered by outgoing Provedor.”

“We fear that Mr Pereira's statement is an attempt to discredit and undermine the Provedor's Office’s findings and also to influence any future investigations,” said Mr Guterres.

The Provedor is believed to have handed in to the Prosecutor General's Office at least 10 different reports recommending further action against a number of public officials.

“Although we and the public have no detailed knowledge of the content of these reports, it is believed they include a number of Ministers. The President, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta has also told local press last month that he had requested the Provedor’s Office investigate some matters involving the government,” said Mr Guterres.

“It is clear Mr Pereira has not read the Ombudsman’s report. Far from having ‘no merit or facts’, the report is comprehensive, based on procurement and contract documents, and on statements taken from all concerned, including the relevant ministers. The report quotes the Ministers,” he said.

This is not the first time an independent institution has been attacked by the Gusmao government over an inconvenient decision. Mr Pereira publicly criticized the Constitutional Court in November 2008 after it delivered a ruling striking down aspects of the Budget as being unconstitutional and illegal.

“When its man on the Judicial Council, Mr Gusmao's party general secretary Dionisio Babo Soares, moved to dismiss a Court of Appeal Judge who had been instrumental in that decision, Mr Pereira supported the move, displaying disrespect for the democratic doctrine of the separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary,” said Mr Guterres.

Since 2006, the de facto government has also openly threatened journalists for reporting the news, and used tear gas and police to repress student anti-corruption protests on the university campus.

Mr Pereira’s media release stated: “Our Provedor for Human Rights and Justice was a candidate of Fretilin and ‘elected’ to the office by the absolute majority controlled Parliament during former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s term. Ximenes was handpicked by Alkatiri’s Fretilin faction.”

In fact the Provedor was appointed in 2004 by the National Parliament by votes that included members of the non-FRETILIN opposition parties at the time. He was the third candidate put forward during a parliamentary process to find a consensus candidate.

Mr Guterres said, “The Provedor never shirked from delivering reports that were adverse to the previous FRETILIN government. The Provedor and his Office have conducted themselves in an independent and impartial manner ever since appointed.

“We are deeply concerned that the de facto government’s attacks on the Provedor’s office will undermine the work of all independent commissions and bodies in the future, including the new Anti-Corruption Commission. What will they say when the anti-corruption commission hands down findings against their ministers? Or do they hope to use their numbers in parliament to appoint a commissioner who will be amenable to their desires? What will they say when the Prosecutor General’s Office issues indictments following the recommendations of the Provedor in these reports, that it too is biased?

“The recently passed law establishing the new Anti-Corruption Commission is indeed one which all political groups in the parliament should be proud of, passed with multi party consensus,” said Mr Guterres. “It will serve the nation and people of Timor-Leste well, but only if we all respect the institution and its work and refrain from making statements such as that by Mr Pereira in response to the Provedor's report.”

The constitution of the RDTL clearly makes the Provedor an independent and impartial investigator. The excerpts from the law below detail his legal and constitutional role and powers

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