03 October 2008

FRETILIN MPs denounce threats by Prime Minister

Media Release
Dili, 3 October 2008

FRETILIN MPs denounce threats by Prime Minister

On September 28, 2008, Timor Leste's de facto Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, declared in Ainaro that a proposed 'March of Peace'' sponsored by the largest party in the parliament, FRETILIN, would be crushed when it arrived in Dili. FRETILIN's leadership denounced this threat as illegal and dictatorial, in a media conference in Dili yesterday.

The Prime Minister's threat was also broadcast nationwide on radio and television. His exact words were: 'I hear that you from here are preparing a March of Peace to Dili. I will wait for you there, and put you all in jail!'

FRETILIN President Francisco (Lu Olo) Guterres said, 'I and many who heard those threatening words simply wish to ask why Mr Gusmao feels the need to threaten people who wish to demonstrate their political conviction and express their constitutional rights to undertake a march with totally peaceful intentions, to show peace, with a spirit of democracy. Why are they the subject of threats from our nation's leaders to 'put you in jail'?'

'I remind Mr Gusmao that according to our Constitution, in a state under the rule of law, it's not he who puts people in jail', said Mr Guterres. 'In a democratic state under the rule of law, only a court of law can 'put people in jail' and then only if it is proven in a court that they have breached the law. But it is certainly not the Prime Minister, or even the President or a Liurai (traditional feudal King) who can just do so because that is his wish. Not even the Army or the Police or the UN Police can jail anyone without a court order or warrant, and then only if the law is being broken.

'Only in a dictatorship like the old Portuguese Colonial dictatorship and the Suharto regime can a Prime Minister simply jail people without a trial as he wishes. But not in a sovereign, constitutional and democratic Timor-Leste,' declared Guterres.

Clause 42 of the Constitution of the RDTL gives everyone the freedom and right to demonstrate within the law. Timor-Leste has ratified the UN Charter and Conventions that also guarantee these rights and freedoms.

According to Guterres, the people persistently demand the Peace March to affirm Peace and Democracy and Justice in the country. 'It is a March that, when it happens, will be peaceful, in a spirit of democracy, respecting the rights of other citizens and the law and all State institutions," he said.

'The planned Peace March by FRETILIN, its allies and communities, will be done to take this country in a better direction, not as our history shows, especially in 2006, to mobilize people to take this country in a worse direction.

'We ask all relevant State institutions to assure that those participating in a lawful Peace March will be able to so exercise their rights and freedoms without threats of incarceration, and especially call on the police to protect them as they do so," Guterres insisted.

'We ask the State, especially the government, not to politicise the police against the people who wish to march in the planned March of Peace, because we also heard last Saturday the de facto Prime Minister in Ainaro say that 'I have told the police that I will not permit any small group to lie to the people'. FRETILIN is not a small group of people, but whether the group is large or small, we all have a right to lawfully carry on our political activities,' said Guterres.

He argued that the people feel the need to reaffirm a democratic state under the rule of law because in just one year the country had fallen more and more towards a dictatorship, with increasing breaches of human rights.

Guterres noted the arrest and beating of journalists, and the arrest without warrant of Opposition MPs, during the state of siege following the shootings on February 11 this year, and the recent repression of student protests about the state budget and the purchase of luxury 4WD Prados for MPs. So far there has been no substantive response to the reports on these violations by the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice.

"So these are not just threats from our recent experience," noted Guterres.

Guterres urged national leaders not to threaten the people with jail, and not to use words like 'cannons', 'armored tanks', or 'battalions', which the Prime Minister used in his Ainaro speech. "It is better if you all start to speak of the constitution, peace, democracy, tolerance, freedom, justice, the rule of law and the rights our people have to live in peace and express their political views free from fear or threats," Guterres said.

Guterres also asked people not to be affected by the threats against their rights. "When all of us walk this lawful path of peace and democracy, there will be no jail big enough to incarcerate us all," he concluded defiantly.

For information contact: Jose Teixeira MP +670 728 7080 Nilva Guimaraes (media officer) +670 734 0389

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