04 August 2009

Fretilin criticises Dili arms deal with Jakarta

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin 4 August 2009 A JAKARTA company has been secretly awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to supply police and army equipment to East Timor.

The deal to supply equipment including bulletproof vests, tear gas grenades, rubber bullet rifles and pepper spray is the latest of a number of contracts awarded by the Dili Government this year to business people and companies in Jakarta linked to the Indonesian military.

Fretilin, East Timor’s main opposition party, will demand to know in parliament why the contract was awarded to PT Sahabat Triguna Kesatria without an open international tendering process. ‘‘We are concerned. We are fully investigating this matter,’’ said Fretilin spokesman Jose Teixeira.

The criticism comes as East Timor prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the independence vote on August 30 that sparked a reign of terror sponsored by the Indonesian military. The violence left 1500 dead and destroyed most of the country’s infrastructure.

One of the main events will be the Tour de Timor bike race, with $A89,000 in prize money.

Documents obtained by The Age show that the Government approved a July 7 request by PT Sahabat Triguna Kesatria for advance payment of half of its $US2,895,390 ($A3.5 million) equipment contract. Some of the equipment was purchased from third countries, including the United States. The company has close ties with Indonesian security agencies.

In May, Fretilin criticised the lack of transparency in giving approval for controversial Jakarta business tycoon Tomy Winata to build a $US150 million shopping centre and hotel on prime land in central Dili. Mr Winata amassed a fortune through businesses linked to the Indonesian military.

East Timor’s largest political party has also questioned the awarding of a contract for notorious Jakarta gangster Hercules Rozario Marcal to develop a supermarket on Dili’s waterfront. He has been linked to Mr Winata in the past.

East Timor’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mario Carrascalao, has been reviewing the way the Government awards contracts, including by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who has been criticised for authorising a rice importation contract to a company connected with his daughter. Sebastiao Ximenes, East Timor’s Human Rights and Justice Ombudsman, has called for Mr Gusmao to take action against Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and Finance Minister Emilia Pires over alleged abuses of power relating to the awarding of contracts. The ministers deny any wrongdoing.

In an unpublished report dated July 2, which has been obtained by The Age, the ombudsman recommends further investigation of the cases by the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Government spokesman Agio Pereira last night described the report as a politically motivated attack. ‘‘There was no merit or facts to support the conclusions,’’ he said.

Mr Pereira said the conclusions appeared to have been reached without supporting documentation or due diligence. ‘‘We welcome any further fair and impartial investigations,’’ he said.

Mr Pereira said the Government had moved to set up an anti-corruption commission to ensure there was an ‘‘independent institution to handle corruption cases free from political bias or interference’’.

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