14 December 2012

Military chief intervenes again in public policy

ETLJB 14 December 2012 - Over recent weeks, ETLJB has identified occasions when the chief of the East Timor Defence Forces, Major-General Lere Anan Timor, has inappropriately commented on matters of public policy upon which the military apparatus should remain silent.

The Major-General has again made remarks that have been reported in the East Timor media on a critical matter of public policy; namely, the return of East Timorese who fled to Indonesia during the violent upheaval of 1999.

According to an English translation of a report that was published by Diario Nacional on 13 December 2012, Major-General Lere said that the Government should set criteria for East Timorese who took refuge or were forced to flee to Indonesia in the past who wanted to return to East Timor.

The Major-General is reported to have said that the former refugees "can come to the country but the Government should create criteria for them if they want to return." Lere added the Government should carefully consider the criteria before allowing them to return to the country.

"As Timorese we should allow them to come but we should weigh up and think before making a decision," he is reported to have said, because "it could have a negative impact on our people's lives in the country."

The Major-General has clearly not read the Constitution, Article 44 (2) of which guarantees the free right of return to the home territory to all citizens. And this is not the first time that he has made statements that are in contradiction to the Constitution. Last month, ETLJB noted a that he had made a clear and unambiguous declaration of discrimination of the basis of real or presumed political or ideological conviction in the recruitment policy of the armed forces.


It is the opinion of ETLJB, in addition to the alarming fact that the chief of the armed forces does not know the basic constitutional principles of his own country, that it is completely inappropriate, in a democratic state founded upon the rule of law and the separation of powers that include the subjection of the military forces to the civilian authority of the state, for the military to intervene in matters of public policy. The military must remain silent on such matters and must not express their views in the public domain.

It defies explanation why the Major-General thinks he is entitled to speak on such matters or try to influence the government's policy on any matter whatsoever (except perhaps in the context of a war of aggression from an external threat).

Such inappropriate interventions by the military are not dissuaded by the unconstitutional deployment of the military in internal security or the enforcement of the civil law as has already occurred in East Timor on too many occasions. In fact, even one such unconstitutional deployment of the military was  one too many.

Such matters ought to be of grave concern to those monitoring the developing democracy and striving for a mature democracy in East Timor and ought to be identified and condemned as inconsistent with democratic principles.

The Government itself should be gagging Major-General Lere to stop him from continuing along a path that inevitably leads to a wrongful role of the military and, ultimately, to a military dictatorship that is unconstrained by the civil authority of the state.

Related report
Military intimidatory intervention in dispute over state land occupation
Unconstitutional discrimination in Defence Force recruitment policy declared by Major General Lere 

Author: Warren L. Wright BA LLB

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