07 November 2008

Timor-Leste President of parliament stops debate on recommendations of truth commissions

Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor

Media Release 7 November 2008

President of parliament stops debate on recommendations of truth commissions

The President of Timor Leste's parliament, Fernando Araujo Lasama today postponed for the second time any debate in parliament about the recommendations of the two main reports on human rights abuses under the Indonesian occupation between 1975 and 1999. MPs from FRETILIN, the larges party in the parliament, strongly objected.

FRETILIN's parliamentary leader, Aniceto Guterres, who was also the Chair of the Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR), and a Member of the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC), today condemned the postponement for the second time by the President of the National Parliament of the debate on the recommendations of the reports of the two historic Truth Commissions.

Two resolutions proposed by the multi party Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Issues, Public Administration, Local Power and Government Legislation (Committee A) were set down to be debated on Monday this week, but were postponed to November 10. Yesterday debate on these draft resolutions was postponed yet again, indefinitely, by the President of the parliament in meeting with the leaders of the political benches.

"FRETILIN, PUN and the CNRT leader, want to proceed with the debate and pushed for it. These parties are clearly the largest chunk of the seats in parliament. However, there was no support from the President or the other smaller parties. Instead they wanted an agreement to be reached first by all the parties on the two draft resolutions before President Lasama would schedule the debate in the parliament," said Guterres.

"But the proposal on which they wanted agreement was devoid of any acknowledgement or acceptance of the recommendations of either Commission recommending the pursuit of justice for the victims of the violence which occurred in our country between 1975 and 1999. This is something we could never agree to as representatives of a people whose aspirations were clearly expressed during the CAVR and TFC proceedings as being totally to continue to pursue justice. We will never agree to the insistence that the resolution make no reference to the pursuit of justice for victims," said Guterres.

A media release from Committee A last week said:

The Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Issues, Justice, Public Administration, Local Power and Government Legislation (Committee A) will present two resolutions to the National Parliament that recognize the achievements of both Commissions, acknowledge their findings, and propose implementation of their recommendations.

The proposed resolutions highlight CAVR and CTF recommendations in the areas of: victim reparations, a commission for disappeared persons, justice, education and the establishment of an independent institution to oversee implementation efforts.

"FRETILIN supports the Committee's stated desire to have the debate on the two draft recommendations. We condemn the manner in which the President of the National Parliament and a small group of MPs are trying to stifle open and democratic debate in our peoples' house, by making backroom deals. We reject this as totally non transparent and undemocratic. A multi-party committee has drafted two proposed resolutions which were approved unanimously and signed by all but one member of the multi-party parliamentary Committee. These are the processes for having resolutions brought before the parliament," added Guterres.

"All else aside, during the discussion between the leaders of the parties in the parliament and the President, it was clearly evident that there are still many of our colleagues who have not read and do not understand the substance of the recommendations made by the Commissions and their importance. We ask them to inform themselves of these basic facts before taking positions on the issue," Guterres urged.

Guterres has said that FRETILIN intends to move in the parliament next Monday for a motion that a debate on the draft recommendations by the Committee proceed, and that the parliament vote on the motion regardless of the President's expressed wishes.

"That's not how the parliament works. We the MPs should decide by majority the deliberations and proceedings. They are not and should never be dictated to us by the President. That has been the style of this President, but we are confident that will end next Monday. It is unfortunate to have to say that, but this is the reality in a poor parliament," Guterres said in closing.

For information contact: Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080 Nilva GuimarĂ£es (media officer) on +670 734 0389

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