Media Release

December 11, 2007

FRETILIN MPs, with the support of the National Unity Party (PUN), have warned that the State Budget debate in the parliament is too short, and thus undemocratic and would legally invalidate the Budget. They petitioned for a timetable that fulfills the parliament’s regulations and the constitutional requirements for parliamentary oversight of the government.

On December 6, 2007, the de facto government’s supporting parties in the parliament – the Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Association, and the Prime Minister’s party CNRT – rejected the proposals by FRETILIN and PUN (National Unity Party) for an alternative timetable.

FRETILIN MP and Deputy Leader in the Parliament, Francisco Branco, explained that the Regulations require a minimum of 38 days for the budget process, but the parliament has voted for just 13 days. “Chapter VII, Sections 151 to 158 of the regulations of the National Parliament clearly stipulate that the committees have 15 days from the tabling of the proposed State Budget Law to examine and deliver their report to Committee C, Economy, Finance and Anti-Corruption. The committee then has 10 days in which to deliver its report to the parliament following discussion amongst its own members of the proposals and comments from the other committees. The parliament then has a ‘minimum of 3 days’ to debate the proposed budget law in its generality and a maximum of 10 days to debate the proposed law in the specificity,” said Mr Branco.

“The parliament and its members have a duty to exercise the oversight function which the Constitution, and the voters, have entrusted us to undertake. The budget law is the single most important piece of legislation to come before the parliament each year because it legally authorises the collection of the revenue and spending of monies by the Executive,” Mr Branco said.

“The parliament’s role is not merely to approve the law, but to oversight the spending, especially in comparison to the previous budget, as part of the exercise of determining if the Executive is properly performing its financial and public administration functions, and therefore the nature and extent of future spending approvals for those functions for the coming year,” said Mr Branco.

“Yet this Constitutional role of parliament is being severely curtailed by the de facto government’s proxies in the parliament, in breach of the parliament’s own law, its own regulations. These regulations were designed to enable we members of parliament to properly serve the people who elected us by examining what the government proposes for the financial functioning of the state in the coming year. In breaching this law, the parliament is turning itself into a rubber stamp for the government. This is illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic. FRETILIN will not tolerate it and will seek legal redress to ensure this breach is remedied,” added Mr Branco.

The FRETILIN petition for an alternative timetable to debate the proposed budget law, also pointed out that, according to section 175, 1 of the Parliament’s own Regulations, failure to comply with these sections enforcing timetables for the examination, debating and approval of the proposed State Budget Law would render the process null and void.

“Once again the parliamentary majority has demonstrated its complete disregard for the Constitution and the law. This was also done with the transfer of petroleum fund savings during the debate for the transitional budget, and with the approval of a line item allocation in the budget for the proposed anti-poverty task force in the office of the President of the Republic,” said Mr Branco.

“On those occasions FRETILIN protested loud and clear against the blatant breach by the parliament majority of the law and the Constitution. Our latest warning to the parliament is in the interests of ensuring compliance at all times with the Constitution and to promote the Rule of Law in our country, no matter how inconvenient it may seem to some people at times.

“We will continue to stand up for these vital principles because only by doing so will we bring peace and stability to our nation, and protect our young democracy,” Mr Branco concluded.

For further comment: Francisco Branco MP +670 728 7080


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