Timor-Leste Legal News April 2006
UNOTIL Daily Media Review 28 April 2006
Four Sovereign bodies form new investigation commission – The government, through PM Mari Alkatiri, reportedly explained that an idea has been proposed to establish one State commission to investigate the petitioners’ claims. In this regard, two representatives will be chosen directly from the office of the President, two from the National Parliament, two from the government such as State Minister Ana Pessoa and Vice Minister of Interior, Alcino Barris and one from the Tribunal with participation from the Church and the civil society as a consultative member. (DN, STL, TP)
Lobato: Some individuals provoke the petitioners – Interior Minister, Rogerio Tiago Lobato reportedly stated that regarding the current situation, some individuals are taking advantage of the situation to provoke and push the petitioners to demonstrate. Minister Lobato said “there is a third party among the protesters, and some have said that the government is incompetent”. The media further reported that Lobato also pointed out that intelligence has taken photographs of some foreigners supporting the petitioners and that these photos are currently in police custody. (DN, STL)
Fire at Taibessi Market sees kiosk burnt down – The Taibessi Market was a scene of destruction again yesterday, with one kiosk being burnt down. The fire did not spread to other kiosks, as it was put out quickly by the surrounding community. The situation in the market became increasingly tense, and those traders who had returned to tidy up their stalls and belongings from the previous day’s destruction then fled again. The community is concerned due to the threat from the leader of the dismissed soldiers, Gastão Salsinha, that there will be trouble if at the end of the week of demonstrations there is still no solution presented by the government. There were no deaths in yesterday’s market violence, and the police were able to arrest the perpetrator/s of the vandalism. (STL, DN, TP)
Salsinha meets Bishop Ricardo and PM Alkatiri – Spokesperson for the F-FDL petitioners Gastão Salsinha yesterday met with Dili Diocese Bishop Alberto Ricardo and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta. During the meeting, the four came to an agreement to establish a commission to investigate the charge of discrimination within the F-FDTL. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Salsinha said that whether the petitioners agree with the proposed commission or not will depend on what the commission does and who will be involved. He said that he himself is interested and concerned to see who will be on the investigating team, and that he has doubts as to its success if only one state institution is involved. (TP)
Regional Media Reports
Timor-Leste: Incidents during the demonstration, shots on the street – Dili, 28 April 2006 (Lusa) Serious incidents near the Government Palace occurred today at around 13:30 hours local time in the framework of the demonstration taking place in Dili since Monday last. The incidents coincided with the end of a meeting of businessmen at the main hotel of Timor-Leste where a luncheon was scheduled with the participation of the President of the Republic, Xanana Gusmão, and the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, in addition to other government members. At around 13:30 hours (local time), a vehicle of the Police passed near the hotel and, using a megaphone, informed without entering into detail that the demonstrators had “attacked” the Government Palace.
While shots were being heard on the street, Xanana Gusmão and Mari Alkatiri were immediately removed from the hotel. There are no reports of victims from the incidents and no further details are available. The Office of the Prime Minister had earlier today distributed a note in which it stated that, from now on the demonstration by the soldiers is illegal “in the light of the Law in force in Timor-Leste”.
“The Government, in coordination with other organs of sovereignty, will therefore assert the authority of the democratic rule of law. It [the Government] is left with no other solution to reinstate the legality and the respect for the institutions and the public order”, the note stresses. (LUSA)
UNOTIL Daily Media Review 27 April 2006
Rees: United States in not behind the petitioners – United States’ Envoy in Timor-Leste, Grover Joseph Rees, responding to an allegation that the United States is behind the 591 petitioners, said that “this information is false. He also said that last year some people said that the United States supported the demonstration that was held by the church, and pointing out the similarity of the two rumours. Ambassador Rees emphasized the falsification of these reports and stated that there are liars and honest people in every country.” (STL, TP)
Lu-Olo: War has passed and there will not be bloodshed – President of the National Parliament, Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, reportedly said that in the past, people were at war because of their intention to take over Timor-Leste and added that now it is the Timorese who are at war with each other (referring to the petitioners). He said “In my opinion, no one can leave the place where he/she has been born and come to occupy this nation”. The media also reported that on Wednesday, two delegations of the petitioners re-presented their demands to the national parliament.
This information was obtained from an urgent press conference that was held in Parliament saying that the letter submitted on the first day of the demonstration did not address their demands but it was related to Maubere Democratic Party (PDM).
STL reported that the 591 petitioners have given a sovereign body a deadline of Friday to resolve the matter with a positive outcome. Diario National quotes one protester as saying that they “also protest against the people who are from Lorosae (East) who dominate the selling of goods in the three markets of Becora, Taibessi and Comoro”. If a solution is not reached, then people from the West will boycott all goods imported into Timor-Leste. (STL, DN)
Horta meets informally with Salsinha – Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister, José Ramos Horta, on Tuesday night met informally with the 591 petitioners’ spokesperson, Gastão Salsinha. It is reported that during the meeting Horta stated that the government will establish a new investigation commission to address the concerns of the petitioners. In response to this, it is reported that Salsina did not accept this proposal and said that such a decision should have been taken before the demonstrations started, so that a solution is proposed. Diario National Reported that the president of the National Parliament,
Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, clarified his declaration to journalists on Wednesday in which he referred to the involvement of embassies and some political parties being behind the petitioners. Lu-Olo said he meant that the problem of the 591 petitioners is an internal one for the government and people of TL; therefore the Timorese State should find a solution, and not the United Nations (UN) or other countries. (TP, DN)
Alkatiri/Lu-Olo convene urgent meeting to find solution for Petitioners – President of the National Parliament Francisco Guterres and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on Wednesday convened an urgent meeting with the aim of finding a solution to the current problem with the petitioners. Speaking to journalists, Lu-Olo said that the Prime Minister would then convey the opinions that they formed together to the President. He said that there are several steps that can be taken to resolve the problem, and that he is confident that a solution will be found. (DN, STL)
Destruction at Taibessi Market; one wounded – The Taibessi Market became a scene of destruction yesterday, with people running chaotically resulting in one trader injured and one police officer remanded for firing shots without a command to do so. Trading areas and kiosks in the market were pulled down, and in other areas of Dili three houses were stoned. The destruction and rioting are related to the current “594” demonstrations.
Minister of Interior Rogerio Lobato confirmed that the police have arrested some people involved in the violence, while Police Commander Paulo Martins denied rumours that police had shot a child in the Taibessi Market in the midst of the rioting, and confirmed only that one officer had fired a warning shot. However, one young person was shot by an unknown person in the market and is currently undergoing treatment at the National Hospital for an injury to his eye. (STL, DN)
Claudio Ximenes: Come to the Tribunal; a decision must be made (STL) – The president of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste’s Court of Appeal, Claudio Ximenes declared that with regards to the decision taken by military authorities to expel some members of the F-FDTL, he will not be making any opinion. However, should the case be taken to the Court, then a decision will be made accordingly. Claudio Ximenes gave this remark to the journalist at the Court of Appeal building in Caicoli on Tuesday (25/4) when asked his opinion.
Claudio, who is also the President of the Superior Council of the Magistrate, was quoted as saying “first of all, I am not familiar with the decision, and therefore I cannot give an opinion; and secondly, even if I am aware of it, I am unable to given an opinion over the decision.” When asked for further explanation, he clarified that as a Judge, he cannot give his opinion (at this stage). According to Claudio, the F-FDTL problem is more of an administrative and military problem, so only military authorities are competent to resolve it.
Having said that, he added that it may also need a political solution, but even so, the ability to do so rests with those with whom the military administration function rests, and those who have the political function and authority in relation to this matter. The President of the Court of Appeal confirmed that he has received a copy of the petition from the F-FDTL members but that he is unable to publicize its contents as he does not have the authority to disclose it.
Demonstrators Attack Houses and Shops in Lecidere – STL reported that some of the demonstrators involved in the rally of F-FDTL’s petitioners assaulted three houses and three kiosks in Lecidere, Dili on Wednesday. From the assault, it total losses were estimated worth US$ 3,500. Aside from assaulting the houses, the demonstrators also damaged one car, two tricycles of street vendors and killed one pig in the area. We do not know anything. But, all of the sudden the demonstrators in military uniform came and destroyed our house and the car,” said Jenoveva Soares, a Lecidere resident.
Soares appealed to Timorese authorities, especially President of Republic, Prime Minister and President of National Parliament to quickly find the solution for the problem, adding that as an ordinary citizen she was innocent of what went on, and said that in the era of independence what she very much wants is to live in peace and carry out a normal life.
In response to the incident, the spokesperson for the petitioners, Gastão Salsinha stated that he did not have confirmation on all of the incidents reported except that of the damaged tricycles, adding that what had happened was considered to be a technical mistake, therefore they would try correct this wrong behaviour. Moreover, Salsinha said that once all of the damages done by the demonstrators were confirmed, he would be responsible for it. (STL, 27 April 2006)
UNOTIL Daily Media Review 25 April 2006
Petitioners: Brigadier Taur should explain: “If you want war; we are ready for it” – The 591 F-FDTL petitioners yesterday staged a protest and demanded sovereign bodies of this nation to speed-up the resolution to their claim of discrimination which they insist occurred within the F-FDTL institution. According to reports, at about 09:30 in the morning approximately more than 1,000 protesters marched from Tasi-Tolu to Dili, a distance of about 15 kilometers.
The protesters carried various banners, saying: “We want to seek justice and truth,” “Brig. Gen Ruak should declare ‘westerners’ were also involved in the independence struggle,” and “Viva President”.
When the demonstrators reached the presidential palace, they presented their declarations to leaders which consisted of 10 items, one of them declaring that the soldiers dismissed by Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak would be ready to die if no solution is found.
The Petitioners also demanded an explanation of the Taur’s earlier remark to the petitioners, “If you want war, we’re ready for it.” Timor Post reported that Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri asked the 591 F-FDTL petitioners via their delegates after they had submitted their demands, that while they carry out their protest, they also maintain a secure atmosphere especially in Dili. Malaysia invited Timor-Leste authorities Defense Minister, Roque Rodrigues, Commandant F-FDTL Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak and Superintendent PNTL, Paulo de Fatima Martins to view an exhibition on Defense Services Asia (DSA). Fatima said that he could not attend because he is responsible for internal security in the nation, particularly at this sensitive time. As the demonstration carried on yesterday on the way to the Court of Appeal, there was a minor incident in which two people were wounded and a vendor’s stand was destroyed. The Police and petitioners managed to regain calm. (TP, STL, DN)
Lu-Olo: National Parliament does not take any stand – The President of the National Parliament, Francisco Lu “Olo” Guterres, has stated that the National Parliament does not take a stand with regards to the protest of the petitioners because the letter that they had submitted to the Parliament through their delegation does not outline their demands but instead relates to Maubere Democratic Party (PDM). The paper reports that Lu “Olo” informed journalists of this issue at an urgent press conference held yesterday, after receiving the letter from the petitioners.
DN reports that UIR police commander and the district police commander yesterday accompanied the delegation to a meeting held behind closed doors. Journalists received no comment in their attempts to confirm reports of the said letter. On the other hand, journalists confirmed with the spokesperson for the petitioners, Salsinha, that the letter had been submitted to the Parliament but that it appears that the letter has been manipulated with the intention to “destroy the action” of the petitioners. “We do not have any letters from PDM”, said Salsinha, “but the letter that we have now was written by myself with one of my colleagues, and we have signed it”. (DN, STL)
Supreme Commandant should suspend Taur Matan Ruak – The spokesperson of the 595 petitioners, Gastão Salsinha, requested the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão to use his power as the President of the Republic as stipulated in article 74 and 75 of the National Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to take immediate steps to suspend Brig. Gen. Taru Matan Ruak for the bad decision he made with regard to the dismissed soldiers. Lt. Salsinha said if the problems are not resolved, “we will form a commission which will be composed of the four competent sovereign institutions, including the civil society and the intellectual and religious community.
We the petitioners, the people and the youths demand justice and truth. We also ask the four sovereign state institutions with the competency to resolve the problems presented by the petitioners as soon as possible, within the five days,” Should there be no solution to the problems presented by the petitioners, then we ourselves would seek for alternative solutions, such as, first of all “ we are ready to go on a strike and will remain here until we receive a response. Secondly, we are ready to die in order to defend justice. Thirdly, we, the petitioners continue to pledge our allegiance to the President of the Republic, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the DRTL” added Salsinha.
“Our petition has been delivered to the four most Sovereign State Institutions, the Government, the Parliament, and the Court of Appeal and these Institutions will talk with the President of the Republic, and then we will hear a result,” said Salsinha. Responding to the question from a journalist regarding when they plan to hand in their uniforms, Salsinha said that only on the last day of their demonstration will they know whether or not they will hand in their F-FDTL uniforms which are still being worn by all of them. (DN)
Bianco: Government Will Solve Petitioners of F-FDTL’s Problems – Speaking to the media on Monday, Minister of State and Presidency of Council of Ministers, Antoninho Bianco was quoted as saying that the Government would solve petitioners of F-FDTL’s problems, but it should be based on the regulations currently in place. Bianco added that he indeed participated in yesterday’s meeting which the Prime Minister held with representatives of the petitioners, adding that they did not say anything much but only handed over a document [containing their demands and aspirations]. In addition, Bianco said that it was the first time for Prime Minister to receive the official documents of petitioners, and so far he only followed the issue through media.
Moreover, he said that Prime Minister would study the document after which the President of Republic would talk to other organs of State to look into it, and solve the matter. “Government is ready to accept their aspirations. Presenting aspirations is a normal thing as it has been enshrined in the Constitution that the ordinary citizens have the rights to speak out and present their petitions,” Bianco further said. (DN)
UNOTIL Daily Media Review 22-24April 2006
Petitioners Protest – The ‘petitioners group’ is scheduled to protest today with the support of 5,000 sympathizers, reported the media on Monday. Spokesperson for the group, Salsinha Gastão, told the media on Saturday that sympathizers from 10 Districts were expected to join the protest. Gastão said the ‘petitioners group’ planned to hold the demonstration in F-FDTL military uniform, following law and order, assuring it would be a peaceful demonstration and that security was under PNTL control.
The venues of the protest include the Government Palace, the National Parliament, the Court of Appeal, and the Palace of Ashes ending at the seashore, Gastão said. STL reported on Saturday that a meeting took place between PNTL Commander Paulo Martins, Operational Commander Ismael Babo and ‘Petitioners Group’ spokesperson, Salsinha Gastão delineating plans of the protesters.
The trio also held a press conference later. In the meantime PNTL Commander Paulo Martins reportedly said police are prepared to provide security during the four day protest adding he has asked the group to follow law, though if there are major disturbances, the police have the competence to stop the demonstration and to prevent victims and damages that have occurred in similar past events.
Bishop Basilio do Nascimento asks the leaders to listen to the ‘petitioners’ even if the solution cannot be found straight away, reported Timor Post today, adding that the group is holding the demonstration for a reason that needs to be looked into by both sides. In a separate article, Diario Nacional reported F-FDTL Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant Colonel, Lere Anan Timor as saying Minister of Defence, Roque Rodrigues, Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of Defence, Filomeno Paixão and Major Coliati departed Sunday to Malaysia for an official visit. The delegation will participate in an exhibition regarding military equipment scheduled for today and will return on April 28.
Anan Timor reportedly said Taur Matan Ruak would spend three days in Bali before continuing his trip to Timor-Leste where he will rest for two days before proceeding on an official trip to the USA. MP Clementino do Amaral (KOTA) is of the opinion that any citizen has the right to support any group holding a demonstration and that includes priests in the name of the church, reported STL Saturday. (STL, TP, Diario)
Government Wants To Urgently Define The Electoral Law – The government wants to define the fundamental principles of the electoral law as soon as possible to allow many people to participate in the debate on the elections, as well as on candidature and voting procedures, reported STL. According to the report, the Council of Ministers raised the topic during Thursday’s meeting.
The Council also discussed other topics including combating HIV/AIDS and the organic structure of the public administration. (STL)
UN Supports Portuguese Magistrates – Three Portuguese magistrates accused of being ‘colonialists’ by the Minister of Interior last week were cleared of the accusations by the United Nations. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, SRSG Hasegawa emphasized that the investigation following the accusations by Timor-Leste Minister of Interior, Rogério Lobato “reveals that by no means did this reflect colonial attitudes, nor was there evidence found of misconduct, dereliction of duty or absence without due authority by any international prosecutor”.
In response to the SRSG’s conclusion, Prime Minister Alkatiri said, “I recognize that work has been done in the Prosecutor’s office since the Portuguese began working there”. On the accusations made by Minister Lobato, Alkatiri said, “one thing is the absence of the Portuguese prosecutors, duly authorized, the other is negligence and worse is to consider their attitude as colonialist. “ I have knowledge of some situations in the Prosecutor General’s office where Timorese and expatriates have had conflicts, but I recognize work has been achieved since the Portuguese prosecutors began work in that area,” he said. (STL, Lusa)
22-24 April 2006
PNTL Commander Laments Report – PNTL Commander Paulo Martins told the media he greatly laments the Human Rights Watch report that gave a bad image to PNTL. Martins said he feels sad about the report but that some part of it discriminates against PNTL. Some of the discrimination Martins said the citing of the names of some PNTL officers such as the Commander of Dili District, Eugenio Pereira, accused of infringement in Bobonaro District. In the meantime the Programe Manager for Law and Enforcement Program, Aniceto Bertenie Neves reportedly said that the Human Rights Watch is a reflection of the current situation in the country.
According to Aniceto Neves, PNTL often violate human rights when they perform their duties during patrol among communities. He affirmed that HAK Association has also gathered facts that show that a number of human rights violations within the community involve Timor-Leste police. (Timor Post 22-24/04/06)
19 April 2006
Approval of Electoral Law is crucial – The president of ASDT party and vice president of the National Parliament, Francisco Xavier do Amaral said the Parliament hopes to receive the electoral law from the Council of Ministers sooner in order to allow the Parliament more time for discussion and debate, especially commission A which has the competency for this matter. Xavier Amaral underlined that if the document is presented to the Parliament late they will not have time to discuss and would just implement it.
On the same issue, National Parliament Secretary of Sub Commission A, Alfredo da Silva told reporters that the electoral law is exclusive to the parliament and as enshrined in the constitution MPs can propose the laws, but not political parties. He said the commission will be open to the public so the political parties can provide good inputs to make the law. Silva reportedly says he believes there will be no manipulations in the general election in 2007 because there is good mechanism to prevent this. Suara Timor Lorosae 19/04/06
19 April 2006
East Timor: Treaty to draw Dili Closer to ASEAN Bloc – Dili, April 19 (Lusa) – East Timor has gotten ASEAN’s blessing to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty with the Southeast Asian bloc, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. In a communiqué, the ministry said Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta got the diplomatic OK in a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, in Bali, where ASEAN’s 10 foreign ministers are gathered to prepare bloc’s December summit.
The communiqué made no mention of a date for the signing of the treaty, viewed in Dili as a further step towards its bid for full membership in the regional bloc. Last July, East Timor gained full membership in ASEAN’s Regional Forum, a body that binds ASEAN’s 10 member states to 14 other countries.
17 April 2006
Timor-Leste Penal Code – The President of the Republic will cooperate with the Government to make changes to the penal code, RTTL reported Thursday. The code, particularly article 175 on defamation has caused concerns among the civil society groups and media in this country. Speaking to journalists, the President’s Chief of Staff, Agio Pereira reportedly stated that the legislative process is not being finalized and the President was willing to cooperate with the Government to make the penal code reflect the public opinion.
UNOTIL Daily Media Review Monday 17 April 2006
AFP Wednesday, March 29, 2006. Home Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato vows to catch rioters – East Timor’s Home Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato has vowed to catch the men behind weekend riots in the capital Dili, as President Xanana Gusmao expresses concern at the security situation. Authorities say some of the men were among 591 recently-dismissed soldiers who deserted the tiny nation’s fledgling Army in protest over working conditions, although their representative has denied the men’s involvement. “We will arrest all the rioters with the help of the people,” Mr Lobato said.
Police have not said how many people were involved but witnesses say there were skirmishes between groups of up to 25 people. Police have said four people have so far been arrested in connection with the unrest, two of whom were dismissed soldiers.
The capital remains under tight security with police conducting road checks. President Xanana Gusmao says he is upset by the current tight security measures and has told soldiers they should not be on armed patrol. “I am really saddened by hearing that every single night police are conducting intensive patrols causing people to be afraid to go out on the street,” he said. Shop owners have been seen departing the city as public transport dwindled and some people have sought refuge in a church. “I also heard that there are several armed members of the F-FDTL (the East Timorese armed forces) going around on board taxis as if there is an impending invasion,” President Gusmao said. “If there are such orders … as the highest military commander, I ask that they be immediately halted, to normalise the situation.”
The 591 sacked soldiers, more than a third of the regular armed forces, are mainly former resistance fighters. About 840 regular soldiers remain in the fledgling Army, plus 1,500 reservists. Guerrilla forces fought Indonesian troops during almost 24 years of occupation of the former Portuguese colony.