Dili, Tempo Semanal 26/09/2010
Whilst the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Mario Viegas Crarascalao is till fresh on the minds of the Timor-Leste public, the Prime Minister Jose Alexandre Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao has recently requested the suspension of two senior members of his government, Deputy PM Mr. Jose Luis Guterres and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Zacarias Albano da Costa from their positions as ministers, because they have been formally indicted as accused by the Prosecutor General. “Via this letter I inform the National Parliament that formal indictments have been issued accusing the Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Jose Luis Guterres and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Zcarias Albano da Costa, of the crimes of illegally obtaining financial benefits as a result of abusing their powers/authority, in accordance with article 113 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste,” was written in the first paragraph of a letter signed by PM Xanana and sent to President of the National Parliament Mr. Fernando Lasama Araujo on 15 September 2010.
According to the document Reference GPM/IX/2010, to which this newspaper had access, the PM said, “I also want to inform that consequent to the notification of the formal indictment by the Prosecutor General and after having consulted informally with her, she informed that there is no time limit according to article 113 of the Constitutions of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to effect the suspension of these members of government given that they were authorized to accompany His Excellency the President of the Republic to represent Timor-Leste at the UN General Assembly in New York.”
According to Article 113, line 1 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, when a member of Government is definitively accused of a crime punishable by more than two years jail, he or she is suspended from his or his position for the duration of the trial process; and line 2 states that where the alleged crime is punishable by les than two years jail, then the National Parliament shall determine whether the member of government is suspended from his position or not.
Currently the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs, Dr. Jose Luis Guterres and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Zacarias da Costa are accompanying the Head of State Dr. Jose Ramos Horta in New York to participate in the UN General Assembly. According to Tempo Semanal’s sources from the USA Dr. Zacarias da Costa has engaged in many meetings with his counterparts from other countries like Australia and New Zealand.
This newspaper also tried to confirm with these two members of government mentioned in the Prime Minister’s letter without success. Despite Deputy PM Jose Luis Guterres not wanting to comment on this issue faced by him but he did say with a big heart to Tempo Semanal that, “the law is for everyone and as veterans of the struggle for liberation we have to show a good example.”
“The Pm as much as I want to act according to the law,” said Dr. Jose Luis Guterres.
In the PM’s letter received in the National Parliament on 15/0/2010 PM Xanana proposed, “with nothing further to say, I request the consideration of the National Parliament to authorize the suspension of the two respective members of government from their positions, whilst the trial process is pending.”
Although the PM has written to the National Parliament requesting it take the matter into consideration, on Friday (24/09/2010) afternoon at parliament house, the spokesperson for the CNRT, deputy Hugo da Costa informed that, “Regarding the suspension of the members of government, that is 100% in the powers of the Prime Minister.”
“That is within the Prime Minister’s powers, so we should not give a response because we do not know what the Council of Ministers (CM) has or has not already decided, because we do not know what the issue is,” he stressed.
“Maybe there is this corruption thing either in the Prosecution office or in the Courts, but maybe there are other issues you should go an check carefully there and you should not come and ask us about it,” said Deputy Hugo.
On Thursday (23/09/2010), the leaders of the parties holding seats in the National Parliament met to discuss the proposal of the Prime Minister of the Fourth Constitutional Government to submit the matter to a secret ballot. “At today’s meeting we also discussed the proposal of the Prime Minister to suspend Deputy PM Jose Luis Guterres and Minister Zacarias. But we think it is better to wait until they return here before voting because we have to consider the national interest or the image of the nation,” confirmed Dr. Aniceto Guterres, the leader of the FRETILIN parliamentary group.
This former human rights lawyer informed us that the case involving the employment of Dr. Jose Luis Guterres’ wife with Timor-Leste’s permanent mission in New York, was the subject of a complaint by FRETILIN to the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice in 2008. “Form my point of view they breached the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Law No. 31/1999, which is part of Timor-Leste’s legal system and a careful look also reveals that they breached Articles 297, 301 and 302 of the Timor-Lesle Penal Code” said deputy Aniceto.
The report by the Ombudsman for Human rights and Justice was delivered to the Prime Minister last year as was published in this newspaper some editions ago. The recommendations of the Ombudsman were very cutting.
In the Ombudsman’s report of 9 July 2009, he was of the legal opinion that, “JLG and JFC violated Indonesian Law No. 31/1999 on the Eradication of Acts of Criminal Corrutpion, especially article 3 which states:
In paragraph G.3 of his report, beyond breaching law 31/1999, JLC and JFC breached the Indonesian Penal Code, article 421 and 423 which regulates the conduct of government officials in abusing power to favour themselves, family or group or to force others to do something for him or her, his or her family, or his or her group that is against the law.
G.4 JFC, RS and FM as civil servants also breached Lay 8/2004 on the Civil Service, in that although they had a duty to obey their superiors’ orders, as civil servants they should also ensure that their superirors’ orders are according to the law. Because of this JFC, RS and FM breached article 4 on general obligations of the Law No. 8/2004 regarding the Rights and Obligations of Civil Servants.
According to the legal opinion, “ZAC also engaged in mal-administration, resulting in irregularities and illegalities regarding the improper payment of the salary and ‘housing allowance’. ZAC knew that AMV was not a Timorese citizen and was not a career diplomat, and as such was not entitled to receive a salary of a second secretary and receive a ‘housing allowance’. Upon becoming the new Minister for Foreign Affairs ZAC should have immediately ordered the cessation of payments to AMV, but he allowed the irregularities and illegalities to continue for six (6) months, and ZAC himself signed some CPVs paying ‘housing allowance’ to AMV, which caused a prejudice the state. If this conduct was to facilitate AMV, then this act could also be considered to be collusion, but if they were done just because of trust placed on civil servants then these are irregular and illegal acts.
The Ombudsman concluded, “these acts by JLG and JFC was an abuse of power, breaching the applicable law, resulting in irregularities and illegalities prejudicing the finances of the state, for private family benefit. These acts can be considered as acts of collusion and nepotism and ZAC was engaged in mal-administration that contributed to the acts of collusion by authorizing his civil servants to continue paying the salary and ‘housing allowance’ to AMV, without taking into consideration the law or common practice regarding the payment of local staff and diplomats working at embassies. These acts caused prejudice to the state which improperly paid in excess of US$12,000 by way of salaries.
The Ombudsman recommended to, “The Prosecutor general of the Republic investigate this in depth these acts of criminal collusion and nepotism, according to the applicable law based on the powers of the prosecutorial authorities”, and also “The Prime Minister should reprimand the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. JLG and now deputy Prime Minister as responsible to these acts, and the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. ZAC to rectify the systems in his portfolio area so as that abuse of power does not reoccur resulting in collusion and nepotism for private benefit, or for family interests, especially within the Ministry.
For three years many people have screamed about KKN, and some even accused the PM Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao of shutting his ears and eyes to those accusing him of forgetting his promise during the 2007 election campaign which began on 29/5/2007 at about 1730 hours at the Lospalos football field in Lospalos, the leader of the CNRT party screamed that he would fight KKN and fix the working system in the country.
PM Xanana during his public consultation campaign for the National Strategic Development Program on 2/09/2010 was challenged by youth at the Caicoli Municipal Market which caused the PM’s blood to boil and scream at former PM Mario Carrascalao, “liar” and “stupid” in relation to his statement that three million dollars had been lost by the Ministry of Finance. On 6/09/2010 former Deputy PM resigned and his resignation was accepted by the President of the Republic.
Joao M. S. da Silva Mendonca, a youth washing his vegetables on the side of the road in Aileu said, “I believe that big brother Xanana will clean his government of KKN. Because this leads to loss of the peoples’ money and only makes some people rich.”
“I expect that it is like a sign for other members of government to think that justice will save public funds and ensure that those who want to give the best to only their families can be careful,” Joao expects.
The Prosecutor General of the Republic and her office slowly and quietly but with care has started to investigate a number of cases of KKN in Oecussi, the case of conflict of interest in Pualaka, some cases in the Ministry of Justice, the case of missing money in PNTL and others including the allegations against the Deputy PM Jose Luis Guterres and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Zacarias da Costa.
When Tempo Semanal tried to confirm with the Prosecutor in this case Dr. Aderito Tilman last Friday (24/09) at 11.25 but he did not want to comment. Upon arriving at the office of the Prosecutor General’s receptionist asked with a sour face, “who do you want to meet?”
The receptionist heard the request from the journalists in the visitors’ waiting room and then went straight into Dr. Aderito’s office. After some minutes she returned and informed the journalists sitting in the waiting room to inform them that, “Dr. Aderito Tilman does not want to comment on this matter, and you should wait for the court’s decision.”