Monday, 15 October 2012


By Fundasaun Mahein,  15 Oct 2012 

What do our ancestors think of us? Do they smile with pride, or do they cry with shame?

LUICIA LOBOTA, eis ministra justica RDTL 2007-2012
Many people speak of the impunity for crimes committed in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. This issue is everlasting issue and its cover diary conversation.

The Alkatiri Government from 2002 to 2006, in addition to the Ramos-Horta Government from 2006-2007 and the Xanana Gusmao lead Governments from 2007 until 2012 have all had similar positions on the matter of impunity for crimes against humanity.  Our Government for the last 10 years has taken the strategic position that Timor-Leste cannot and will not take the lead in pursuing justice against senior Indonesian military leadership and their Timorese partners from the crimes committed between 1975 and 1999.  This position is due to the fact that Timor-Leste reliance on good relations with Indonesia outweighs the requirements for justice.  While this may be understood and to come extent grudgingly agreed with by many Timorese, many are also disappointed that the Government goes too far sometimes in giving into Indonesia’s pressure on the subject.  The Government states that unless Indonesia or the international community take the lead then it is impossible for Timor-Leste to call for justice.

However the matter of justice and impunity for crimes is not just a matter that complicates the relationship between Indonesians and Timorese, but increasingly it is a matter of concern for relations between Timorese and other Timorese, inside Timor-Leste.

Since 2001 and the Restoration of Independence a worrying trends has appeared.  Over the past decade there have been large and small security disturbances for which the vast majority of perpetrators have not been required to pay the legal penalty for their actions.

These security incidents include but are not limited to the following:

1.     The 2001 house burnings in Quelicai
2.     The Sagrada Familia – Colimau-2000 confrontation in 2001 in Maliana
3.     The Baucau police station attack in November 2002
4.     The Dili riot in December 2002
5.     Martial arts fighting in Ainaro in 2004
6.     The PNTL-FDTL confrontation in Lautem in 2004
7.     The March 2005 attempted armed robbery of ANZ Bank in Dili
8.     The 28 April 2006 Petitioner protest/riot
9.     The May 2006 violence
10.  The community violence throughout Dili from June 2006 until Feb 2008
11.  A number of the PNTL and the F-FDTL discipline related crimes from 2008-2011

Additionally, a there is a trend that sees important people not having to pay the penalty for their actions.  A number of politicians and their relatives have been involved in fatal vehicle accidents since 2004 but have never had to follow the law.

While the story is one of increasing impunity in the ordinary day to day life in Timor-Leste it is actually more complicated.  The socio – economic hierarchy in our community drives the decisions behind how and when the legal rules will be bent in order to maintain harmonious relations or to “protect” people from the law.

The case of F-FDTL solider Armindo da Silva convicted in killing PNTL officers in May 2006 he spent some time in “house arrest” and was then forced to retire from the army.  However the army ensured that his retirement was enacted in an honorable manner so as to protect his reputation.  This was done due to the fact that he was a 24 years veteran of the armed struggle in FALINTIL and a close associate of senior F-FDTL leadership despite his relatively low rank.

In the case of former Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato convicted of corruption in June 2012 she was made an example of for a number of reasons.  She was politically weak and the establishment sought to punish not only her but also her political party the PSD.  PSD subsequently imploded in the July 2012 election and is no longer a political force in Timor-Leste.  However, Lobato comes from a senior and important political family in Timor-Leste and she is the niece of the first Commander of FALINTIL and the second President of Timor-Leste Nicolau Lobato.  As such imprisoning her for the 5 years that she was sentenced is proving politically difficult and she continues to walk free to the present.  Interestingly, her husband has also been convicted of company embezzlement and is also at large.

Other examples are that a number of high level former soldiers, armed civilians, and the PNTL officers actively engaged in the violence of 2006/2007 have become members of Parliament, senior civil servants, Ministers, and business people.  For some – crime has been good business and highly profitable.

These are but a sample of some of the examples of domestic Timorese style impunity.  Why it can be understood that much of this is necessary for short term political stability reasons it is a very worrying trend if its becomes a chronic pattern and part of our culture.

This behavior is not what 200,000 Timorese died for.  What do you think? 

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