10 August 2009
FRETILIN: Abuse of independent institutions must cease in East Timor
FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
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.
For further comment: Mr Jose Teixeira MP, +670 728 7080
The Preamble to Law 7/2004 which establishes the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice cites the constitutional basis of the office and its officeholder, the "Provedor":
· Section 27 of the Constitution, which provides for the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, as an independent organ in charge of examining and seeking to satisfy citizens' complaints against public bodies, and also certifying the conformity of the acts with the law.
· The Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice is also in charge of preventing injustices and initiating the entire process to remedy injustices with the competence to undertake, without power of decision, a review of specific cases and forward recommendations to the competent organs.
· Section 150 of the Constitution, empowers the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice to seek declarations on the unconstitutionality of legislative.
· Section 151 of the Constitution, empowers the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice to request the Supreme Court of Justice to review the unconstitutionality by omission of any legislative measures as deemed necessary to enable implementation of the Constitution;
LAW 7/2004 ESTABLISHING THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE
COMPETENCIES, POWERS AND DUTIES
The Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice shall be empowered to investigate violations of fundamental human rights, freedoms and guarantees, abuse of power, maladministration, illegality, manifest injustice and lack of due process, as well as instances of nepotism, collusion, influence peddling and corruption.
Promotion of human rights and good governance
1. The Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice shall, within the scope of his or her action to promote human rights and good governance, be empowered to:
(a) promote a culture of respect for human rights, good governance and fight against corruption, notably by making public statements, conducting information campaigns or by other appropriate means to inform the general public and public administration, and disseminate information regarding human rights, good governance and fight against corruption;
(b) make recommendations on the ratification of, or accession to, international human rights instruments, monitor the implementation of those instruments, and recommend that reservations to those instruments be either withdrawn or raised.
Fight against corruption
1. The Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice shall, within the scope of the fight against corruption, be empowered to:
(a) investigate all instances of corruption and the misappropriation of public assets by officials, and take measures to combat corruption, notably by forwarding reports resulting from such investigations to the Prosecutor-General;
(b) develop activities for strengthening responsibility and accountability in public administration, and in particular in infrastructure, procurement and public works sectors through ensuring and promoting public input and monitoring, and also developing information networks, sectoral strategies and any other appropriate tools;
(a) promote awareness campaigns by divulging anti-corruption practices and principles, and legal rights of action, notably through the development and implementation of a strategic annual plan of actions, publications, lectures and symposia.
Fight against influence peddling
The Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice shall, within the scope of fight against influence peddling, be empowered:
(a) to investigate the legality of administrative acts or procedures within the scope of relations between public administration and private entities;
(b) to monitor the legality and correction of administrative acts involving property interests, notably the award of public works contracts and contracts for the supply of goods or services, procurement and disposal of property assets or payment of compensations, import or export of goods and services, granting or refusal of credits and debt forgiveness;
(c) to propose to the National Parliament and the Government the adoption of legislative or administrative measures for improving the functioning of services and respect for administrative legality, namely for the elimination of factors favouring or facilitating unlawful or unethical practices.