October 2007 SEARCH NEWS
The violence surrounding the appointment of the
new Gusmao government in early August declined,
with FRETILIN strenuously calling for calm amid
blame from many quarters that it was behind the
strife, mainly in Dili and eastern parts of the country.
FRETILIN has maintained its stance that the
Gusmao government is illegitimate because the
process of its appointment did not follow the
Constitution. FRETILIN predicts that it will not last its full term.
The focus is back to the parliament and the
media, as the Gusmao government struggled with
widespread perception that it had too many
pro-Indonesian figures involved, and concerns
about just what policies it would adopt.
Gil da Costa Alves, Minister for Commerce and
Industry, is most notable because he was
president of a textile and a salt company
associated with General Prabowo and close to
General Suharto. These were opened in 1997 by
Prabowo’s wife, Titiek, the second daughter of
Suharto. Alves also helped the instant coffee
company owned by Suharto’s first daughter and he
also managed the branch office of PTArha, the
alcohol label monopoly company of Suharto’s grandson, Ari Haryo Wibowo.
But Alves is more notorious as the spokesperson
for the Merah Putih (Red and White) militia after
they massacred 25 people inside the church at
Liquica on April 6, 1999. Alves argued that the militia were fired on first!
Prime Minister Gusmao presented his Government
Program, which combined the rhetoric of his
election campaign of denigration of the previous
FRETILIN government program, but largely maintained that program in the detail.
The discordant aspects were the promise of tax
cuts, which would mainly benefit the wealthy few,
interest in ‘competition’ in the area of mobile
and fixed line telecommunications and electricity
generation, and promotion of private schools.
In education, the Program calls for the Church
and NGOs to promote private schooling at all
levels as an alternative to public schooling. The
Program maintains existing commitments to free
meals, school books, transport, and scholarships
for poor students in secondary schools, and aims
to extend these to church schools and institutes
run by NGOs. It maintains existing commitment to Adult Basic Education.
In relation to the judiciary, which was one of
the biggest failures of the United Nations
administration, there is a call in the Program
for more administrative resources and more
‘coordination’ between the courts and the Justice Ministry.
In practice, this has been expressed by Justice
Minister Lucia Lobato’s interference with
judicial orders in relation to the prisoner,
Rogerio Lobato, a call for some international
judges to be sacked, and an effort to stop the
execution of the warrant for the arrest of rebel solider Alfredo Reinado.
Following the high-speed parliamentary debate and
vote on the Program, the Gusmao government put
forward an interim budget for the period July –
December 2007. Gusmao wants to switch from a
financial year to a calendar year for the national budget.
The budget was for US$112 million, but provided
no detail on how the funds would be spent. This
was voted through on October 6, 2007, with 38 in
favour, 20 against and two abstentions. Its most
controversial aspect was to take US$40 million
from the Petroleum Fund without first consulting
the Independent Petroleum Fund Consultative
Council, which is required by the law. FRETILIN
argued that since there remained US$119 million
unspent from previous budget votes, there was no
need to raid the Petroleum Fund this way.
The budget also created in the President’s Office
a Task Force to Combat Poverty, when poverty
reduction is a government task. On October 8, a
further US$4 million was added to the budget to
pay for new electricity generators, making a
total for the budget promotion of US$116 million.
On Friday 27 September 2007, FRETILIN MP Elizário
Ferreira presented a Circulation Pass (Guia de
Marcha) to the National Parliament. The pass,
dated May 29, 2006, was signed by the then
President of the Republic Xanana Gusmao (now
Prime Minister) and the former Commander of the
Timor-Leste National Police Force (PNTL), Paulo
Martins. The Pass requests protection and freedom
of movement to Vicente da Conceicao ‘Rai’los’ to
carry out official duties during the crisis.
Martins, now a CNRT MP, confirmed that the pass
was genuine, raising serious questions about the
role of the President in the violent upheaval
that broke out on May 23 last year. ABC TV 4
Corners relied heavily on Rai’los in its June 19
program last year, which President Gusmao then
used to demand the resignation of then Prime
Minister Alkatiri. 4 Corners backed Rai’los’
claim that he had been armed by then Interior
Minister Rogerio Lobato and Alkatiri on May 9 to create a ‘FRETILIN hit squad’.
A UN investigation into the violence found that
Rai’los led 31 fighters into ambushes of Timorese
soldiers at the army headquarters on May 24,
2006, during which nine people were killed.
Lobato’s trial later in 2006 found Railos’s group
had been supplied uniforms and weapons on
Lobato’s orders, but that there had been no ‘hit
squad’, and that Rai’los had been in telephone
contact with both Lobato and the President’s office prior to the May 24 attack.
Police arrested Rai’los at the seaside town of
Liquica after Mr Alkatiri, now a key opposition
leader, had publicly warned that if he was not
taken into custody Fretilin members would apprehend him themselves.
Rebel soldier Alfredo Reinado remains at large,
despite the ongoing warrant issued for his arrest.