24 December 2009

AMP DE FACTO GOVERNMENT FORCED LABOUR CLEAN UP DAY BREACHES CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

24/12/2009 Yet again the Gusmao de facto government has shown its willingness to act against the constitution. This week an "executive decree" was issued prohibiting all circulation by citizens between 0700 hours until 1200 hours today (23.12.2009) and compelling them to participate in a general clean up.

The right of every citizen to freedom of circulation or movement is constitutionally guaranteed in article 44 of the Constitution. That cannot be curtailed in any way by a mere government decree. Even legislation by the parliament would contravene the constitution and be struck down on the grounds of unconstitutionality.

The use of the Timor-Leste National Police to compel citizens to alight from their vehicles and motorcycles and come out of their homes, under threat of physical police enforcement is illegal. The use of force has been widely reported throughout Dili with the police assaulting citizens refusing to follow these illegal orders given by them.

It is unfortunate that the national police are being used in this fashion to cover up the shortcomings of the de facto Gusmao government in utilizing the very large and wasteful budget they have to provide basic services such as sanitation. Resorting to forcing persons to undertake unpaid/involuntary (in essence forced) labour also breaches the human rights of citizens.

We do not condemn the police officers purely following orders of their superiors, but the PNTL Commander General has been notified that the use of the police in this fashion is improper and illegal. FRETILIN intends to hold those in the PNTL command giving orders in this matter legally responsible.

FRETILIN intends to file a petition to the Constitutional court regarding this further unconstitutional act of governance, as well as seek that the Prosecutor General of the Republic investigate all physical action taking by the national police resulting in the unlawful deprivation of the liberty of persons or that resulting in assault to their persons or property.

The de facto government will undoubtedly publicize widely that the cleanup was successful because of the extensive participation of citizens. It is very clear that this has occurred mainly if not only because of the impending threat of police action for refusal to participate. This is inappropriate in our society, which we aspire to be one based on the rule of law and democracy.

This has nothing to do with public health or sanitation as purported by the government, but the use of excessive power to divert attention form their own failings. In a city of so many unemployed it would be a much more positive and constructive approach to take to pay members of the community from the state budget to undertake regularly cleaning and road maintenance. The latter is a proven effective way of public transfers being made to those without employment or other forms of household income.

Similarly, there is nothing wrong with engendering a spirit of civic/community voluntary participation. Those citizens wishing to so participate naturally are free to participate and we do not object. We do however object to the curtailment of constitutional rights of others in the process.
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