22 August 2012

New President Taur Matan Ruak publicly declares assets and calls on all public officials to follow

President Taur Matan Ruak
East Timor Legal News 22/08/2012 ETLJB East Timor's new president, Taur Matan Ruak, has made a public declaration of his personal assets. He has also declared the assets of his wife and his children. The declarations were submitted to the Chief Justice of East Timor, Claudio Ximenes, at the Court of Appeal today at 11:00am.

It is the first time that the Head of State has made such a public declaration of his and his family's personal assets.

In an accompanying press statement, the President said that the office of president is a public office to which he had been elected to perform a constitutional role that is critical to the functioning of the state.

"The Office is not a tool for my own personal enrichment." the press release stated.

"By making this declaration of my personal assets and through annual declarations I shall, in accordance with my responsibilities to all citizens and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, demonstrate that I do not and will not use my position to enrich myself and to practice such corrupt behaviour.

In the jungle we used to talk of a Timor-Leste free of the corruption of others who have come to rule over us. Many Timorese shed their blood for this dream. We must not forget the patriotic ideals that guided us in the past. They are now consumed by the virus of corruption. I call upon all members of government, national parliament, the courts and all public officials to join with me to present full and complete declaration of personal assets annually.

Let us all stand firmly in this fight to make a strong, free and prosperous Timor-Leste. Those who choose not to join in this struggle against corruption should ask themselves if they are truly fit for public office. It is the people of Timor-Leste, whom we serve every day, are the true judge of the credibility of those in public office and in the end our people make the final decision of our fates."

The existing assets declaration law requires public office holders to disclose their assets to the Court of Appeal but that disclose is not required to be made public.

The President's wife said “we want to make it public and if the public wants to know they may come to the Court of Appeal and ask for it. The President of the Republic wants to make it available to the public to allow citizens to act as watchdog on making sure the President follows through on campaign pledges for clean government and good governance.  This is based on the President’s political commitment during his campaign on the issue to fight corruption in our young nation of Timor-Leste.”

The only other high office holder to publicly declare his assets is the former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alberto Carlos who made public asset declarations in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  He was the only member of the AMP Government to do so.

In making such a public declaration of assets, the President has challenged the entire political elite of Timor-Leste to do the same, stated the weekly publication Tempo Semanal which obtained copies of the declarations and published them on its web site. Click here to see the orginal documents.

In Timor-Leste asset declaration by members of the government is not a legal requirement despite Members of Parliament (MP) and some sectors of civil society outcries.

But the Vice President of the National Parliament, Aderito Hugo, has said that asset declaration by government members is not a legal requirement. “In the previous Government, all members of the government were forced to declare their assets at the Court of Appeals, however Parliament has not created any legislation which requires them to do so,” he said in the Parliament said Parliament Vice-President on 10 August 2012.

“There have been informal discussions on this matter. This legislation should be an initiative by Government or Parliament, otherwise people continue to talk about declaration of assets to the Court of Appeals, but nothing is done about it,” said the Vice-president.

“To date we have not received any instructions or forms to fill in to declare our assets,” said MP Virgilio da Costa Hornai.

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