By: Tony Duarte, Dipl FinServices, Dipl Bkg&Fin, BB Bkg&Fin
Under the leadership of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste, Zacarias Albano da Costa, Ms. Elisa da Silva, a Timorese permanent civil servant of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste has recently been appointed to serve as a new Timorese First Secretary diplomat in Canberra, Australia. She was instrumental in falsifying signatures and name of current employees and a former Foreign Affairs’ employee, Mrs. Guilhermina Mouzinho in order to concoct a flawed accusation against the former Director General of Administration of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste in 2009. Not only Ms. Elisa falsified Mrs. Guilhermina’s name by referring to her as Herminia, but Ms. Elisa also had Mrs. Guilhermina’s signature forged. The bogus claim was purposely doctored in order to substantiate her accusation. Mrs. Guildhermina signed a declaration distancing herself from this false accusation and further authenticated that her signature had been counterfeited.
The referred incident took place in 2009 with evidence supplied to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zacarias Albano da Costa and the President of Timor-Leste’s Public Service Commission, Eng. Liborio Pereira. Copies of the evidence had also been provided to the three members of the Public Service Commission, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of State Administration. To date, Ms. Elisa has neither been investigated nor reprimanded for such punishable criminal conduct.
Elisa da Silva
Ms. Elisa has left Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste for Canberra, Australia where she will perform her diplomatic duties representing the country and the people of Timor-Leste. The Australian government and its people, specifically the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade must be reminded that a Timorese diplomat with criminal background has been sent off from Timor-Leste to work at Timor-Leste Embassy in Australia in order to divert the constant criticisms made against her and those who mishandled the case in the country. Those who mishandled the case had, ever since, been suspected of backing her up by remaining silent.
According to Mr. Eusebio Guterres, an experienced lawyer and a former member of Timor-Leste National Parliament from the Democratic Party underscored, during a televised press conference in 2009, that the Timorese penal code article 303 foresees a-three-year jail term for falsification of signature. Thus, Ms. Elisa, by law, must have by now been succumbed to prison sentence in Becora.
Nevertheless, the criminal conduct of Ms. Elisa remains uncensored by the Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa and Liborio Pereira, President of the Public Service Commission despite having the evidence as their disposal. Such stance, taken by the two public authorities, demonstrates that neither Timor-Leste Foreign Affairs nor the Public Service Commission is impartial, professional, but instead possesses despicable policies of double standard. For that reason, donor countries and international organizations like the United Nations Development Programme must ensure that their contributions to the Public Service Commission must be targeted at ensuring that the President of Public Service Commission do not unduly meddle into political intricacies in order to serve certain political elite of the country by jeopardizing the integrity and professionalism of the Public Service.
Countries established under democratic principles will not allow the overseas posting of a criminal-practicing civil servant, let alone allowing such person to remain within the public sector. For a diplomat who had the courage to commit a criminally-sanctioned behavior, based on the country’s penal code, within her own country, what Timor-Leste and its people expect of her services abroad. Will she exercise her duties and responsibilities with no further condemned behaviors? Can she be trusted with State matters and secrets? Will she not sell confidential information obtained through forged signatures? Can she be trusted in preparing the Embassy’s financial reports? In 2009, she has sent an authorization as certifying officer to the Ministry of Finance authorizing payment of around USD$75,000 to supplier of goods for quadrilateral meeting, without the goods being supplied for and without the knowledge of the Directorate General of Administration. This procedure violated the Timorese procurement law presently in force by paying for undelivered goods. It is not known whether the goods ordered were delivered in the end. Can she now be trusted given this gross lapse in the past?
Furthermore, given the silent stance taken by both Minister Zacarias and President Liborio, it has further indicated that both public authorities condone such criminal behavior and that both institutions do not have the goodwill to hold her accountable for her action. Their silence in the case has aroused suspicion that they fully support Ms. Elisa’s contemptible accomplishment. A question then arises as to the reason behind their silence.
It is quite simple. Should Ms. Elisa be condemned or punished for her action, it will then backfire given the fact that the suspension and any subsequent trumped up decisions or public comments by the two officials were based solely on forged document. It is therefore in their interest to pretend that the case has finally settled, without further investigation on Elisa’s action. Equally, they expect that the problem will just die down.
In the meantime, it is time for the people of Timor-Leste to see that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste and the President of Timor-Leste’s Public Service Commission have questionable credibility and honesty in the exercise of their duties with regard to this case. Mr. Liborio has, on many occasions, voiced his principles on integrity and professionalism within the public sector, whilst at the same time bases his decision on forged document. It is highly probable that Mr. Liborio does not have the proper educational background in law, in which a competency within this domain is required. A mere empirically-based knowledge in law is not sufficient to properly interpret it and it must be supported with proper theoretical background. He has in fact completed his degree in Engineering from an Indonesian university. Given his lack of understanding on Timorese penal code or most probably he is in denial of its existence, a document with falsified signatures and name was interpreted as binding evidence upon which he took his so-called informed decision.
Capacity and unquestionable integrity are required to run the Public Service Commission. It is suggested that upon the conclusion of Mr. Liborio’s tenure of office, there must be a profound investigation related to this case and no further extension of his mandate given. Further public position must not be trusted to him pending thorough investigation.
During a private discussion with a member of the Public Service Commission, which the author has declined to name in this article, the member disclosed that the decision taken to suspend the former Director General of Administration in 2009 was not based on their collective decision as required by the Parliament Law, on the contrary the decision was taken solely by the President of Public Service Commission. The members then concluded, in private, that the President of Public Service Commission has colluded with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zacarias to condemn the former Director General of Administration for political motives.
Referring to the public lie which occurred several months ago, Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa has been caught red-handed lying to the people of Timor-Leste, the Prime Minister and he had even called journalists as liars when he was confronted about his SMS resignation sent to the office of the Prime Minister. He lied that he ever sent the SMS, but was cowed into admitting that he had in fact sent the SMS and apologized to the Prime Minister, otherwise he would have lost his post as the Foreign Minister. Even, his own political mentor, Mr. Mario Carrascallao, the present Deputy Prime Minister for State Administration and Mr. Riak Leman, leader of the Minister’s parliamentary bench at the National Parliament (PSD) uttered their disbelief and disappointment. They were in conclusion that their President of the Party had been dishonest.
As per the organic law of the government, Minister for Foreign Affairs precedes all other members of the government within the hierarchy. By publicly lying, this Minister shows non-exemplariness behaviors. As a member of government, the Minister must show his integrity, honesty, sense of serving the nation, sacrifice and goodwill towards the country and its people.
Should the people of Timor-Leste continually confide their votes in Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa in 2012, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste will forever live in infamy because the precedent is established, in which Elisa da Silva, a criminal-practicing staff, has once again received a second posting, after her first posting to the Consulate General of Timor-Leste in Sydney as a Third Secretary and despite her criminal behavior. In addition, given the non-existent of its own diplomatic statute, Ms. Elisa has been promoted to First Secretary position from Third Secretary without having to ever assume a Second Secretary position.
Meanwhile, there are numerous other staff who have joined the Ministry for years, but have not been given the opportunity as serving diplomats abroad. This is purely a politically motivated posting and Ms. Elisa’s new posting is construed as favoring her at the expense of others because of her circumstances in this case. Perhaps, this comes out as one of a handful of the Minister’s strategies in trying to build up support and gather votes for 2012 general election by winning the hearts and minds of criminal-practicing staff. Indisputably, given the Minister’s bad reputation, there will be at least only three (3) seats maximum or possibly less to be won at the next general election. Most of the present militants of Partido Social Democrata (Social Democratic Party) or PSD had deserted the party by joining the newly established party, under the leadership of the disgruntled former Secretary General of PSD, Mr. Fernando Gusmao who resigned from PSD citing arrogance in its present leadership. Also, Ms. Lucia Lobato, the diehard of PSD and the current Minister for Justice has left the party, taking with her substantial number of PSD supporters, possibly to CNRT party.
If an experienced Foreign Affairs’ staff and a diplomat who, albeit with questionable rudimentary knowledge of her own country, commits an act of criminal nature, what will prevent others from taking similar path?” Others with questionable behaviors will join the Timor-Leste Foreign Affairs because the Ministry condones unethical behaviors and such comportments will, without doubt, thrive. ------End-----
About the writer of the article:
Mr. Tony Duarte was the former Director General of Administration of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste during the AMP government. Whilst Fretilin government was in power, he has served as a Special Assistant to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. From 2007 to 2008, he has worked as a Project Coordinator for Timor-Leste Embassy in Beijing, China.
From 1999 until 2009, he has worked with United National Development Programme, International Non-Governmental Organization, the National Parliament, and For Profit Financial Institution.
He earned his degree in Business with major in Banking and Finance from Victoria University. At the same university, he completed his Diploma of Business. From the Australian Financial Markets Association, he earned his Diploma of Financial Services, which accredits him as a financial advisor.
He speaks Tetum, Indonesian, English, Portuguese and Spanish. He studied Spanish at Advanced Level from Victoria University.