Portuguese American Journal

News Alert: ETAN exposes East-Timor policies hostile to democracy and the rule of law

In a prepared statement, dated December 15, 2014, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), a human rights watch group based in the United States, alerts the international community to recent events in East-Timor (Timor-Leste) that are hostile to democracy and undermines the rule of law in the former Portuguese colony.

Established in 1991, ETAN is a nonprofit US organization supporting human rights throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania. In 1991 ETAN actively supported the right to self-determination of Timor-Leste.

 Full text in English:

“The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is concerned that recent events in Timor-Leste weaken the country’s hard-won constitutional democracy and endanger the right of Timor-Leste’s citizens to live in a society governed under the rule of law.

“On October 24, Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister persuaded Parliament and the Council of Ministers to fire seven international judges and prosecutors and an adviser to the Anti-Corruption Commission. When the Chief Judge explained that this was an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers, the Government revoked their visas and ordered them out of the country within 48 hours, and they complied.[1]

“As an immediate consequence, Timor-Leste’s court system is severely limited. Many trials have had to be restarted, people languish in jail waiting for their trials and victims of crimes are unable to see justice done. Training of new Timorese judges and lawyers is largely curtailed, investigations into corruption and other crimes are slowed, and a message has been sent to everyone in the judicial system — Timorese and foreign — that they should think twice before displeasing high officials.

“For nearly a quarter-century, ETAN has supported the right of the Timorese people to choose their own leaders and govern their sovereign nation, and we continue to do so. After voting to end the Indonesian occupation, the people of Timor-Leste established an exemplary constitution which guarantees human rights, the separation of powers, and a democratic state under rule of law. ETAN applauded the restoration of that state’s independence in 2002, and we continue to support the right of Timor-Leste’s citizens to run their own country. However, that right belongs to all citizens through rules enshrined in their own constitution, not only to a few leaders claiming to act in the “national interest” or that force majeure justifies illegal or unconstitutional actions.

“According to the Prime Minister and other officials, mistakes by international judges and prosecutors caused Timor-Leste to lose cases regarding petroleum taxes which had been evaded by companies contracted to export Timor-Leste’s oil and gas. If this is correct, it would have been better to investigate and discipline the individuals at fault, rather than an entire group.

“We strongly believe that the oil companies should pay all the taxes they owe, and their industry’s global history of tax avoidance necessitates special precautions.[2] However, such cases should be decided according to the law, not political posturing or nationalism — to do otherwise could deter legitimate investors and others from participating in Timor-Leste’s economy. Furthermore, Timor-Leste’s government has paid millions of its people’s dollars to hire international legal counsel, and those experts should have identified and corrected the mistakes long before now.  Petroleum-export-dependent countries such as Timor-Leste often suffer from corruption or maladministration inside and outside government, and concerted efforts are needed to guarantee that their people receive all the deserved benefits from their own natural resources.

“Some believe that the assault on judicial independence is intended to deflect criticism or prosecution of high government officials who may be involved in corruption, a belief reinforced by the Prime Minister’s October 22 letter to Parliament[3] urging them to maintain immunity for members of his government until after the 2017 election. ETAN does not know if protecting alleged criminals is a motive for firing the international judicial personnel, but effective investigation and prosecution with trials by an independent court system, are the best way to determine who has committed crimes. In addition, improved transparency, accountability, unrestricted media coverage, and checks and balances can reduce corruption in the future.

“The latest controversy underscores the challenges of implementing Rule of Law in a post-colonial nation, as shown by the ongoing impunity for serious crimes committed during the illegal 1975-1999 Indonesian occupation and the extra-legal freeing of indicted criminal Maternus Bere five years ago. Just this year, actions against “illegal groups” and limitations on freedom of the press demonstrate how difficult it is to solidify a democratic culture after a half-millennium of colonization and occupation, when rulers were unaccountable and Timorese people’s rights were routinely violated.

“We join with the Prime Minister and others in their wish for accelerated Timorization of the state apparatus, including the judicial system. But centuries of autocratic foreign rule, with few opportunities for Timorese to get good education or experience, make this a protracted process. Unfortunately, some international technical support continues to be necessary, as it is in many countries.

“During the last fifteen years, Timor-Leste has seen more than its share of incompetent or ill-intentioned foreign advisors, including some in the judicial system, and we encourage more careful hiring and review processes to ensure that those who come to advise know what they are talking about.

“Unfortunately, one such advisor — Bobby Boye in the Ministry of Finance, currently pending trial in the USA for defrauding Timor-Leste [4] — originated many of the tax cases which Timor-Leste is losing on appeal. Information on these cases is not public, so we cannot assess whether Timor-Leste’s cases are strong on the facts and the law. However, it is not surprising that appeals courts and arbitration panels are deciding for the companies in some instances, as such matters are legally complex and Timor-Leste was justified in asking for every possible assessment.

“The people of Timor-Leste overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve sovereignty, human rights and constitutional democracy. We are confident that they will do so again, that current setbacks to the rule of law are temporary and will be corrected, and that Timor-Leste’s judicial system will be able to function effectively, independently and according to the Constitution and the law.”

ETAN continues to support Timor-Leste’s people in the struggle for independence and justice, as we have since 1991.

[1] These resolutions and letters are available from http://www.laohamutuk.org/Justice/2014/14Judges.htm

[2] http://www.laohamutuk.org/Oil/tax/10BackTaxes.htm

[3] http://www.laohamutuk.org/Justice/2014/XLetterImmunity22Oct14pt.gif

[4] http://www.laohamutuk.org/econ/corruption/Boye/14BoyeCase.htm

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Full text in Tetum:

ETAN nia Afirmasaun kona-ba Estadu Direitu iha Timor-Leste

Rede Asaun Timor-Leste no Indonézia nian (East Timor and Indonesia Action Network – ETAN) preokupa katak eventu balu ne’ebé foin daudaun akontese iha Timor-Leste halo fraku nasaun nia demokrasia konstitusionál ne’ebé manán liu husi luta ne’ebé todan, no eventu ne’e ameasa sidadaun Timor-Leste sira-nia direitu ba moris iha sosiedade ida-ne’ebé la’o iha ukun estadu direitu demokrátiku nian.

Iha loron 24 Outubru, Timor-Leste nia Primeiru Ministru husu parlamentu no Konsellu Ministru hodi hakotu kontratu ba juis internasionál na’in hitu no prokuradór sira no asesór internasionál ida ba CAC (Komisaun Anti-Korrupsaun). Bainhira juis sira-nia boot esplika katak ida-ne’e violasaun prinsípiu  haketak podér sira ne’ebé harii iha Artigu 69 iha Konstituisaun RDTL nian, Governu hasai tiha sira-nia visa no manda sira tenke sai husi Timor-Leste iha oras 48 nia laran, no sira tuir desizaun ne’e.[1]

Nu’udar konsekuénsia imediatu, sistema tribunál Timor-Leste nian labele la’o normál. Prosesu julgamentu balu ne’ebé la’o ona tenke repete fila fali; ema hein iha kadeia terus hein sira-nia julgamentu no vítima krime sira la bele hetan justisa. En jerál, formasaun ba juis no advogadu foun sira Timor-oan nian sai paradu; investigasaun ba korrupsaun no krime seluk sai la’o neineik tiha, no mensajen ida haruka sai ona ba ema hotu iha sistema judisiál – Timor-oan no internasionál – katak sira tenke hanoin didi’ak molok halo buat ruma ne’ebé la monu ba ofisiál boot sira nia laran.

Besik tinan ruanulu-resin-lima, ETAN fó suporta ona ba povu Timor sira-nia direitu atu hili sira-nia nai ulun rasik no ukun sira-nia nasaun ne’ebé soberanu, no ami kontinua halo ida-ne’e. Hafoin vota ba hapara okupasaun Indonesia nian, povu Timor-Leste harii Konstituisaun ida-ne’ebé di’ak tebes, ne’ebé fó garante ba direitus umanus, prinsípiu separasaun kbiit nian, no estadu direitu demokrátiku. ETAN hahí restorasaun independénsia iha 2002, no ami kontinua suporta direitu sidadaun Timor-Leste nian hodi ukun rasik sira-nia rain. Maibé, direitu sira-ne’e pertense ba sidadaun Timor-oan hotu liu husi regra sira-ne’ebé haktuir iha Konstituisaun. Direitu ne’e la’ós pertense ba de’it lider balu ne’ebé reklama katak sira defende “interese nasionál” ka dehan “força maior” justifika asaun sira-ne’ebé ilegál ka la tuir Konstituisaun.

Tuir Primeiru Ministru no ofisiál Governu nian balu, juis no prokuradór internasionál sira-nia sala maka halo Timor-Leste lakon iha kazu kona-ba taxa petróleu nian ne’ebé kompañia sira-ne’ebé kontratadu ba halo esportasaun Timor-Leste nia mina no gas evita la selu. Karik ne’e loos, dalan di’ak liu mak halo investigasaun no fó sansaun ba indivíduu sira-ne’ebé sala, la’ós ba grupu tomak.

Ami konkorda duni katak kompañia mina sira tenke selu taxa hotu ne’ebé sira tenke selu, no indústria petrolíferu nia istória global kona-ba hasees-an husi selu taxa presiza hetan atensaun espesiál.[2]  Maibé, kazu sira hanesan ne’e tenke deside bazeia ba lei, la’ós polítika ka nasionalizmu, se lae bele deskoraja investór lejítimu sira no seluk tan atu partisipa iha Timor-Leste nia ekonomia. Aleinde ne’e, Governu Timor-Leste hasai ona povu nia osan tokon ba tokon hodi selu konsellu legal internasionál, no peritu sira-ne’e tuir loloos tenke idéntika tiha ona no halo korresaun ba erru ka sala sira-ne’e uluk ona. Nasaun sira-ne’ebé depende ba esportasaun petróleu nian hanesan Timor-Leste dala-barak sofre korrupsaun no maladministrasaun iha governu laran no mós iha li’ur, tanba ne’e presiza iha esforsu ida-ne’ebé maka’as atu asegura katak povu iha nasaun sira hanesan ne’e simu benefísiu hotu ne’ebé sira merese atu hetan husi sira-nia rekursu naturál sira.

Ema balu hanoin katak asaltu ba independénsia judisiál ne’e iha intensaun atu dezvia kritika ka akuzasaun ba ofisiál sira balu aas Governu nian, sira-ne’ebé dalaruma envolve iha korrupsaun. Hanoin ne’e haforsa tan ho karta Primeiru Ministru nian ba Parlamentu Nasionál iha 22 Outubru[3] ne’ebé ezije ba Deputadu/a sira atu labele hasai imunidade husi ninia Governu nia membru sira to’o eleisaun 2017 hotu ona. ETAN la hatene se asaun hasai ema judisiál internasionál sira-ne’e ho motivasaun atu proteje ema sira-ne’ebé alegadu halo krime ka lae, maibé dalan di’ak liu atu hetan sé mak halo ona krime maka liu husi investigasaun no prosesu akuzasaun ida-ne’ebé efetivu ho julgamentu iha sistema tribunál ne’ebé independente. Aleinde ne’e, melloramentu iha transparénsia, akontabilidade, kobertura media ne’ebé la restrita, no kontrolu-no-balansu, bele hamenus korrupsaun iha futuru.

Kontrovérsia foin lalais ne’e hatudu dezafiu sira ba implementasaun Estadu Direitu iha nasaun pos-koloniál, hanesan hatudu iha impunidade ba krime sira-ne’ebé mosu durante okupasaun ilegál Indonézia nian iha 1975-1999, no asaun extra-legal fó livre akuzadu kriminozu Maternus Bere tinan lima liu ba. Tinan ne’e de’it, asaun kontra “grupu ilegál” no limitasaun ba liberdade imprensa hatudu katak difisil tebes atu hametin kultura demokrátiku depois tinan atus-lima okupasaun no kolonializmu, durante tempu sira-ne’ebé ukun la iha akontabilidade no povu Timor-Leste nia direitu hetan violasaun beibeik.

Hamutuk ho Primeiru Ministru no mós ema seluk, ami hakarak haree prosesu Timorisasaun instituisaun estadu nian, inklui sistema judisiál, la’o lalais liu. Maibé tinan atus barak iha dominasaun autokratiku rai li’ur nian, ho oportunidade uitoan de’it ba Timor oan sira atu hetan edukasaun no esperiénsia ne’ebé di’ak, halo prosesu ne’e sai prosesu ne’ebé naruk.  Infelizmente, Timor-Leste sei nafatin presiza suporta tékniku internasionál nian balu, hanesan mós nasaun seluk.

Durante tinan sanulu-resin-lima ne’e, Timor-Leste hetan esperiénsia barak ho asesór internasionál ne’ebé ladún iha kapasidade ka iha intensaun aat, inklui balun iha sistema judisiál. Ami enkoraja atu fó atensaun maka’as liután ba prosesu rekrutamentu no avaliasaun nian hodi asegura katak sira-ne’ebé mai fó konsellu hatene duni kona-ba asuntu ne’ebé ita rekruta sira ba.

Infelizmente, asesór sira ne’e ida – Bobby Boye iha Ministériu Finansas, oras ne’e iha hela julgamentu iha Estadus Unidus Amerika tanba bosok Timor-Leste[4] – sai origin ba kazu taxa barak ne’ebé Timor-Leste lakon iha tribunál. Informasaun ba kazu sira-ne’e seidauk bele fó sai ba públiku, tan ne’e ami labele avalia se Timor-Leste nia kazu sira-ne’e forte duni tuir faktu no lei ka lae. Maibé, labele hakfodak katak tribunál rekursu no panel arbitrasaun deside kompañia sira maka manán iha kazu balu, tanba buat sira legalmente kompleksu, no Timor-Leste iha razaun atu husu ba asesmentu hotu ne’ebé posivel.

Povu Timor-Leste hakat liu ona obstákulu boot tebes oioin hodi hetan soberania, direitus umanus no demokrasia konstitusionál. Ami fiar katak povu Timor-Leste se bele halo ida-ne’e dala ida tan, no dezafiu atuál sira ba estadu direitu demokrátiku ne’e sei haloos fila-fali tanba dezafiu sira-ne’e temporáriu de’it. Ami fiar katak sistema judisiál Timor-Leste sei bele funsiona ho efetivu fali, ho independénsia no tuir Konstituisaun no lei.

ETAN kontinua fó apoiu ba povu Timor-Leste iha luta ba ukun rasik an no justisa, hanesan ami halo dezde tinan 1991. 

[1] Bele hetan rezolusaun no karta sira husi http://www.laohamutuk.org/Justice/2014/14Judges.htm

[2] http://www.laohamutuk.org/Oil/tax/10BackTaxes.htm

[3] http://www.laohamutuk.org/Justice/2014/XLetterImmunity22Oct14pt.gif

[4] http://www.laohamutuk.org/econ/corruption/Boye/14BoyeCaseTe.htm

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Source:  East Timor & Indonesia Action Network/U.S. (ETAN)-  www.etan.org

Undersigned: John M. Miller, ETAN National Coordinator (2012 Recipient of the Order of Timor)