23 October 2017

Military's intervention in political situation in Timor-Leste anomalous

ETLJB 23/10/2017 - In advanced democracies, the role of the military is clearly defined. It has no role nor right to intervene in any domestic political matters.

If the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces had taken to the public arena and made the sorts of comments reported to have been made by the East Timor Defence Force Chief, Anan Lere Timor, regarding the political situation in Dili, there would be astonishment and anger that the military had dared state its view on any political matter.

Our democracy would be in great jeopardy.

It is also worth noting that we would be equally astonished if our government did not have a majority in the House of Representatives and able to govern by passing policy and legislation. We have seen minority governments here but at least the loosest of coalitions was able to control a majority in the Legislature.

The current government of East Timor, a coalition between FRETILIN and PD, does not control a majority in the East Timor National Parliament.

Fretilin has only 23 seats. PD has only 7; clearly not a majority in a 65-seat Parliament and clearly not a workable government. It's little wonder that the Alkatiri government failed to get its program through the National Parliament last week. The remaining 35 seats are held by CNRT (22), PLP (8) and KHUNTO (5). It has been reported that these parties have declared a Parliamentary Majority Alliance and would be in a position to control the legislature and constitute a new government.

It's little wonder that this institutional failure has lead to current tensions in the country. The government should not have been appointed unless it could demonstrate to the President that it controlled the Legislature. But it does not.

It is not a democratically representative government.

As for the Defence Force chief's comments, we should not be surprised at this phenomenon because since 2006, there has been a constitutional confusion of the role of the East Timor Defence Force and its relationship with the East Timor National Police.

Governments have deployed the military is situations that should have been left to the police or at least in which the military should have had no role whatsoever beyond its constitutional mandate. All of that occurred without a single objection from the international community or the United Nations.

The government must change in East Timor. The military must abstain from any interference with the political process.

Warren L. Wright BA LLB

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