03 July 2008

Fretilin: Second defeat for controversial gun law

Media ReleaseJuly 2, 2008

Timor Leste: Second defeat for controversial gun law

A controversial new gun law proposed by Timor Leste’s de facto government suffered a second defeat in parliament on Monday, and debate on the draft law was postponed.Article 4 of the draft law, drawn up by Xanana Gusmao’s AMP (Parliamentary Majority Alliance) without any public consultation, would empower the national police commander to licence civilians to obtain and carry firearms.

Following Monday’s vote, FRETILIN’s parliamentary leader Aniceto Guterres called on the AMP leadership to allow MPs a conscience vote on the issue.“FRETILIN believes Timor Leste needs fewer guns, not more, and many AMP members of parliament agree with us,” Guterres said.The legislation was first voted down on June 25 (by 23 votes to 11 with 3 abstentions) with AMP members siding with FRETILIN and other opposition parties.FRETILIN’s parliamentary leader Aniceto Guterres said AMP leaders tried to resurrect Article 4 in parliament on Monday, June 30.

“FRETILIN again proposed the elimination of Article 4, and our position was supported by 25 votes to 17. Everyone in the chamber counted it as such, but the vote was formally declared of 25 votes against our motion and 20 in favour. We objected and a second vote was held immediately which resulted in 23 in favour, 23 against and 7 abstentions – a tie,” Guterres said.“In the event of a tied vote, the standing rules of parliament provide for another vote after further debate, but that was not immediately possible because parliament became too unruly. Parliament then agreed on a joint motion to suspend the debate.

“Our people have had enough of being subjected to armed groups disrupting their lives. That’s why FRETILIN opposes this legislation and we know that many AMP members agree with us. But they are obviously under pressure to tow the line.”Guterres said the de facto government had ignored FRETILIN’s offer last week to discuss how to reach consensus on a new draft law, opting instead for a confrontational approach.“If the gun law comes back in the same form or substantially the same form, we will again oppose it,” he said.

Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389

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