23 May 2012

Timor PM's party denies receiving illegal political donations

Radio Australia Connect Asia 21 May 2012, 15:33 AEST - On Friday, Connect Asia carried a story about alleged illegal political donations raised by East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's party, the CNRT.

The Global Organisation of Parliamentarians against Corruption in Timor-Leste says the donations appear to have come from a range of local and international companies that have also won large government construction contracts.

It says it has referred these allegations to the country's Anti-Corruption Commission, Prosecutor-General and the National Election Commission.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge

Speaker: Dionisio Babo Soares, Secretary General of CNRT

SOARES: I think first of all these allegations actually came from Fernanda Borges, a member of the national parliament. I think she was addressing the fundraising evening that our party conducted 12 days earlier. I think it was actually a meeting of party members and we didn't expect that of course there were also people coming from other sections of the community, and of course in the evening a lot of them, some of them were also included in the list of people who were actually wanting to contribute to the party, the fundraising evening. And we were very much aware of the law that is in place at the moment and we actually knew that we'll have to actually scrutinise everything before we accept anything. What happened at that night was just promises from these individuals who the party still need to actually scrutinise, analyse, see if those commitments are acceptable or not. So we have not received any money at all, it's just a fundraising evening and the people who turned up there actually promised that they want to contribute a certain amount of money individually, not in the name of their private companies whatsoever. So there is not any money that the party has received so far, only promises.

BAINBRIDGE: But will you reject these donations then?

SOARES: Absolutely if the donations are against the law we will absolutely reject them.

BAINBRIDGE: But you seem to be saying that you won't accept them if they come from their company, but you may accept them if they are given as individual donations. Isn't that also in contravention of East Timor's law?

SOARES: No I think that law no.6 2008 stipulated that the party, any political party as other political parties have done, which has not been surprisingly scrutinised in the past. Now Fernanda Borges is just very, very eager to do, and we are open to be scrutinised, be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission or the Prosecutor-General. In that law it stipulates that (words indistinct) to funding or can get donations from private individuals, not private entities or from foreign entities. Some people who actually turned up that night happen to be people from other companies or from other countries, which we didn't actually identify one by one.

BAINBRIDGE: But isn't that just making a sort of technical distinction, if these people say they're giving it as private individuals but happen to be the CEO of a large company which gets a big construction contract from the government?

SOARES: This is why I think we have, the party has decided before this allegation if any such thing happened the party will have to actually, the judicial commission of the party will have to scrutinise and see if those promises are acceptable or not.

BAINBRIDGE: So what is the criterion for deciding whether they are acceptable then?

SOARES: First of all we have to look at the form of donation, second, is were they compliant with the law or not? If they are private individuals of course we will accept, but if they are from private entities or companies both nationally and internationally, the law prohibits, So we will not accept any donation or touch a thing.

BAINBRIDGE: So how has the CNRT been raising funds to pay for its election campaign?

SOARES: Well most of the funding actually comes from the party members who contribute individually so far. We have not made any fundraising in the past, unlike other political parties here, Fretilin has done so, and have raised so much amount of money from all these different kind of people. But the issue has never been raised. Fernanda Borges I think has done privately as well and other political parties also. They have opened up to this kind of fundraisers, it's just that it's never been actually put on (words indistinct) for the language.

BAINBRIDGE: Have you made your list of donors public or will you make your list of donors public before the election?

SOARES: Oh yes of course, I mean the fundraising evening itself was public, all journalists were there. The journalists actually did not write down or note down the names of the people, but they noted down the name of companies and the amount of donations that were promised. That is why actually this global anti-corruption commission in the parliament headed by Fernanda Borges, which did not even consult all the members which are members of CNRT party in the parliament, made a unilateral decision by bringing this thing out to the surface. I think it's for political consumption, it's only for political consumption, it has nothing to do with their intention, their nominal intention to scrutinise the party.

BAINBRIDGE: Well to be fair to Fernanda Borges and her party she was responding to press reports, it had been reported in East Timor before she made her call that it should be investigated?

SOARES: I think she should have verified first with the party, with us to find out what is really, I mean she just actually picked up something on the media, something actually which was published on Fretilin's blog... and then she started speaking out, and I know very much it all came about. So we are ready to be investigated, we are open because the fundraising evening dinner with the President was done openly, all the journalists were present, it was very transparent. So I don't see any problem with that.

BAINBRIDGE: The CNRT will be going to the elections like all the other parties in East Timor in less than two months. Do you think that these allegations are going to affect your election campaign?

SOARES: Well first of all the allegation was intended and directed to actually influence CNRT growing popularity among our own population. That was very clear. Second, is that the opposition is trying to use any issue that they consider can create any problem for CNRT to the public, because the issue of corruption has been again and again uttered during the last four years, but it'll never work. CNRT has the full support for Taur Matan Ruak for president. This party is very strong, the leadership is very strong and nothing has been reported about corruption, even the members of the government have never been recorded of any corruption or allegations of corruption in the past. So they're trying to use all the possible weapons that they can to actually fail CNRT. Trust me it won't have any impact at all in the election.

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