08 February 2010

FRETILIN Media Release: Gusmao government continues to whitewash corruption

Fretilin Media FRETILIN MEDIA RELEASE Dili, 7 February 2010 Gusmao government continues to whitewash corruption - FRETILIN demands more resources for courts and prosecutor's office Statements by Timor-Leste Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, and his Deputy Mario Carrascalao, highlight the Gusmao administration's unwillingness to combat corruption within its own ranks - and suggest Timor-Leste's new anti-corruption commission has little chance of success.

Mr Gusmao told the Dili newspaper Sara Timor Loose on February 3 last: "The opposition parties should present evidence of corruption to the anti corruption commission (KAK) and should not use it to damage the Government's image."

FRETILIN Vice-President and MP Arsenic Bano said today Mr. Gusmao was typically avoiding his own responsibility as leader of the government
since August 2007 to fight corruption.

"Every time we have raised an allegation of graft in parliament, or the Provedore for Human Rights and Justice has recommended to the Prosecutor General that a criminal investigation be initiated against a member of his government, Mr Gusmao's immediate response is 'take it to court, take it to court', but he himself takes no action," Mr Bano said.

"This happened in relation to Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and Finance Minister Emilia Pires in connection with the Gleno prison contract, and Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and Minister for Foreign Affairs Zacarias da Costa in relation to the employment and overpayment of the Deputy Prime Minister's wife as a diplomat in New York.

"This is unacceptable for a head of government and self styled 'zero tolerance anti-corruption fighter' who promised loudly during the 2007 election campaign to remove anyone for 'stealing 25 cents, a quarter'. FRETILIN has taken allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism to the Provedore for investigation, and has even referred matters directly to the Prosecutor General for criminal investigation. We ask, what has Mr Gusmao ever done to ensure allegations of corruption are investigated?"

Mr Bano also referred to remarks by Deputy Prime Minister, Mario Carrascalao, on February 2 that the anti-corruption commission "will only be effective perhaps in 2011. The people who will work in it will also need to be trained, they cannot select just anyone, nor make random accusations, then go to court because people will lose their dignity. This will become a big problem."

Mr Bano asked: "Will anyone be legally mandated to effectively investigate cases of corruption and official misconduct between now and 2011, or will there be an unchecked corruption spree?

"The Gusmao government has tried to discredit and weaken the Office of the Provedor who has investigated over 30 corruption cases since Mr. Gusmao came to power and referred them to the Prosecutor General's office.

"Given that the Prime Minister is in the habit of denigrating the Prosecutor General's Office and has repeatedly interfered with the courts, which institution will investigate and try criminal cases of corruption?

"Given that the de facto Prime Minister has ignored and obstructed the opposition's efforts in parliament to investigate allegations of corruption against his government, which institution will provide the checks and balances in relation to his governance of Timor-Leste?" Bano asked.

In an interview with the Jornal Diario Nacional newspaper on 26 January last, President Jose Ramos Horta called on Mr Gusmao to sack a number of his ministers because of corruption in his government, saying: "I, as President of the Republic of this nation, I do not want to be ashamed in the international community that I am President of a state, a nation where corruption is rampant, as that dirties all of our names, especially the President of the Republic."

On Thursday and Friday of last week the media in Dili were speculating on a rift between the President and the de facto Prime Minister on the President's demands that Gusmao sack a number of his corrupt ministers. Speculation has it that Horta wants at least three ministers to be sacked, but Gusmao refuses to do so, largely because these ministers hold senior positions in their respective parties, which keep the AMP coalition and Mr. Gusmao in power, and he is therefore unable to move against them in any way.

"The allegations of corruption in the government grow daily, and there are now huge pressures on Mr Gusmao because of the number of cases being investigated for prosecution by the Prosecutor General's Office," Mr Bano said.

"As a result Mr. Gusmao and his media minders are engaging in public relations hype to attempt to clean up his image. The latest but oldest story is that of a 'reshuffle' of his ministry. The other is the misrepresentation that the anti-corruption commission will be the silver bullet to stop corruption in Timor-Leste dead in its tracks, which of course it alone will not be able to do.

"Mr. Gusmao has been talking about a reshuffle of his government for more than a year now but has been unable to remove these corrupt ministers because he would be putting his shaky coalition at risk.

"It is up to the President to act swiftly and dismiss this government before any further damage is done to Timor-Leste's reputation - as Mr Ramos Horta threatened to do just days before the attempt to assassinate him almost two years ago."

Mr Bano said the most proven effective way of fighting corruption was to properly resource and strengthen state institutions such as the Prosecutor General's Office, the courts to prosecute corrupt officials to the full extent of the law, and the government's own internal auditing and inspectorate agencies to uncover them in the first instance.

"It is about building an integrated anti-corruption institutional network. In addition to state institutions, the legal profession and civil society organizations must be resourced and empowered to independently uncover and advocate legal proceedings to bring corrupt elements in society to account," he said.

"FRETILIN will continue to push for substantive increases in resources and budgeting to the courts, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Inspector General's Office, as well as the anti-corruption commission, to be able to independently and effectively do their job of uncovering and prosecuting corruption in
our country.

"Most of us want to rid our country of the scourge of corruption, and some of us are actually committed to doing something about it, instead of merely talking about it for political expediency," Mr Bano said.


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