14 January 2009

East Timor Parliament must prohibit silencers for police weapons

FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE FRETILIN Media Release Dili: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Parliament must prohibit silencers for police weapons

FRETILIN will move to block a government proposal to equip Timor Leste's police with firearms silencers and other so-called "equipment to maintain public order" when parliament debates the proposed budget for the security sector starting today and going into next week.

FRETILIN Vice President and MP, Arsenio Paixao Bano, said today the purchase of silencers for a police "Rapid Intervention Unit" had not been "excluded from the budget" by a parliamentary committee as claimed by the Secretary of State for Security, Dr Francisco Guterres in a January 12 media release.

"A parliamentary committee cannot 'exclude' budget items proposed by the Council of Ministers – this can only be done by a formal resolution passed by parliament, as Dr Guterres would know," Bano said.

"Committee B (Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security), chaired by Mr. Duarte Nunes MP, a member of Xanana Gusmao's CNRT party delivered its report to parliament on the proposed budget for the security sector but failed to mention the strong opposition from some committee members to the proposal to acquire silencers.

"Page 15 of the committee report still includes line items for the acquisition of minor capital: "equipment for public order; special operations equipment" which is where the silencers can still be acquired unless parliament specifically excludes them.

"That's why FRETILIN will put forward a resolution to ensure that silencers and other equipment such as laser illuminators, which help snipers target people with greater accuracy, are not acquired."

"Despite what some government MPs might say in a committee meeting, we can place no trust in the word of a government that is prepared to ignore even parliamentary resolutions. In April last year parliament voted to establish an International Commission of Investigation into the attempted assassination of President Ramos-Horta. Mr. Gusmao simply ignored the resolution.

"In July last year parliament passed a resolution prohibiting the government from using the state budget to build a second heavy fuel power station and calling for the funds to be invested instead in hydro-electricity. Mr. Gusmao has ignored this too."

Bano said the Secretary of State's media release, which sought to make light of the issue, failed to explain why the purchase of silencers was approved by the Council of Ministers, of which he is a member.

"Even some MPs allied to Dr Guterres' government are gravely concerned about the government's motives for having such equipment included in the budget submission in the first place.

"The Secretary of State may think it's a joke, but we doubt whether the students whose peaceful protest was brutally broken up by police last year would agree."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT ARSENIO BANO M.P. ON +670 741 9505, Jose TEIXEIRA MP on +670 7287080 or fretilin.media@gmail.com

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