Monthly Archives: January 2009

Silencers for police guns – another step towards a secret police state



Media Release

Dili: Friday, January 9, 2009

Silencers for police guns – another step towards a secret police state

A move to equip Timor-Leste police with firearms silencers is more evidence of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão’s intention to establish a police capability to undertake secret operations, FRETILIN warned today.

FRETILIN Vice President and MP, Arsenio Paixao Bano, said the party would oppose a government proposal to buy silencers for the police “Rapid Intervention Unit”.

“As Minister for Defence and Security Gusmao is in command of and directly responsible for the police.

“He apparently intends to give his police force the capability to undertake clandestine ‘hit’ or ‘dark’ operations. Why would you seek to acquire the capability to shoot people quietly, unless you did not want the shooters identified?” asked Bano.

Bano said the proposed budget for 2009, approved by Gusmão’s Council of Ministers, contains a request for USD $421,000 for the purchase of “equipment to maintain public order” described as “special operations equipment” such as “laser illuminator”, “night vision optical” and “silencers” noting this “equipment to be used by the Rapid Intervention Unit” (see Item 830 Security Equipment, in the Minor Capital section of the 2009 Budget Proposal for the Ministry of Defence and Security).

Bano, a leader of Timor-Leste’s youth resistance during the Indonesian occupation said PM Gusmão seemed intent on creating a “secret police state” as the main law and order authority, by-passing the rule of law and human rights.

“In January last year Gusmao threatened to arrest journalists for writing against him and his government (see ‘Gusmao threat to arrest E Timor media’, The Australian, January 18 2008). The following month the police, under Gusmao’s ministerial responsibility and command arrested a senior FRETILIN MP without cause, illegally and in breach of an MP’s parliamentary immunity.

“Police use of excessive force against peaceful student demonstrators drew a protest from Amnesty International on July 7 last year. Then on September 28 Gusmao threatened on television to arrest any person participating in FRETILIN’s planned lawful Peace March.

“Gusmao’s proposed gun law would give the police commander the discretion to authorise civilians to obtain and carry weapons, including automatic weapons. That legislation was twice defeated in parliament last year, but is still on the table. Now we find a budget proposal to buy silencers for police weapons,” Bano said.

“The PM has shown himself ready to use the police against anyone who lawfully dissents against his regime. We know that networks of ‘special agents’ or ‘spies’ have been planted around the country to collect ‘intelligence’ for the Gusmão administration and that many of these persons are armed.”

Bano said the proposed purchase of silencers for police weapons should be seen in the context of a leaked United Nations report describing the Timor Leste police force (PNTL) as “dysfunctional”.

The report by UN Assistant Secretary General, Dimitry Titov was revealed by The Australian newspaper on 23 December 2008:,25197,24835967-31477,00.html

The UN report said attempts to create a credible and unified national police force following the breakdown of the police force and law and order in May 2006 had failed. “Tremendous institutional gaps persist, including weak management and command and control, lack of core capacities (e.g. investigations) and an almost total absence of logistics and systems maintenance capacity,” it said.

Bano said: “There is a lot of frustration within the police force with the way the government is mishandling and strongly politicising the role of the police. There are many good and dedicated police officers who just want to do their job and they complain to us almost daily that they have all sorts of political barriers placed in their way in their attempt to do their job independently and professionally.”

He said the Gusmao government was pressuring the UN to hand over full police powers when the UN mandate expires in March this year.

“But the PNTL is not institutionally ready to take full responsibility for policing. It is highly politicised and the government has failed to address critical institutional problems such as putting in place a strong and professional command untainted by allegations from the 2006 crisis,” Bano said.

“Right now only the Timor Leste army (F-FDTL) and the UN Police are providing a positive influence for the maintenance of law and order. We certainly need a UN police presence for another year or two.”

Bano said FRETILIN was particularly concerned that local authority elections due to be held in September this year would not be free and fair because the PNTL under Gusmão’s complete control would engage in and permit intimidation and harassment of opposition parties and their supporters.

“There can be no free and fair elections with the PNTL under Gusmao’s total and sole, armed with automatic weapons and silencers. People are already talking about the fear and intimidation that would mar the elections. I and many of my colleagues lived under an authoritarian police state during the Suharto years and I fear we will be living under a similar state soon unless there is some progress towards reforming the police.”


Scientists Find Whale, Dolphin Hot Spot Off East Timor

By Tara Ravens

DARWIN, Dec 31 AAP – Thousands of dolphins and whales have been
sighted in the deep waters off East Timor, with scientists hoping the
migratory corridor will jump-start the tiny country’s tourism sector.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has conducted the
country’s first major boat-based survey of cetaceans in a joint
project with the Timor-Leste government.

“The dolphins and small whales were literally jumping out of the
water all around us, it was hard to know which animal to photograph,”
said Timorese researcher Jose Monteiro.

Working on board a traditional 20-metre wooden Indonesian vessel, the
scientists were surprised to uncover a global hot spot of whale and
dolphin activity.

They identified about 10 species of cetaceans, including blue whales,
beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon headed whales and six
species of dolphins.

In one day alone, more than 1,000 individuals in eight separate pods
were spotted over a 50-kilometre stretch of coast.

“This is among the highest level of cetacean abundance ever
recorded,” said principal scientist Karen Edyvane.

“We were all amazed to see such an abundance, diversity and density
of cetaceans.”

Prof Edyvane said the findings confirmed that the deep oceanic waters
off East Timor – along the Wetar and Ombai straits – were a major
migratory route for marine wildlife moving between the Pacific and
Indian oceans.

Celestino Barreto de Cunha, director of fisheries management within
East Timor’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, said the marine
hot spot could hold the key to the developing nation’s tourism industry.

“The government recognises the enormous potential for marine
ecotourism along its coast and will proceed very carefully in the
development of this industry,” he said.

“We are committed to ensuring that this marine biodiversity is
protected and we will continue to look to Australia to provide good
scientific advice on developing a sustainable marine ecotourism industry.”

AIMS project leader Dr Mark Meekan said ecotourism had become one of
the world’s fastest growing marine industries and could provide a
much needed boost to East Timor’s economy.

“There are absolutely huge numbers of cetaceans, that is whales and
dolphins,” he said.

“It is probably a global hot spot for biodiversity of these animals –
it’s really quite striking.”


Major cetacean hotspot found off E. Timor

JAKARTA, Dec. 31 (Kyodo News) — A major migratory corridor of
dolphins and whales has been found in the deep oceans off East Timor,
according to a media release on Wednesday.

Australian and East Timorese scientists have identified 10 species of
whales, including blue whales, beaked whales, short-finned pilot
whales and melon-headed whales, and six species of dolphins,
according to the release.

”This is among the highest level of cetacean abundance ever
recorded,” said principal scientist Karen Edyvane of the environment
department of Australia’s Northern Territory government.

”We were all amazed to see such an abundance, diversity and density
of cetaceans,” she said.

Edyvane said several cetologists had long believed that the deep
oceanic waters off Timor Island, along the Wetar and Ombai straits,
are a major migratory route between the Pacific and Indian oceans for
marine wildlife.

The survey was conducted by scientists of the Northern Territory’s
environment department, along with East Timor’s Agriculture and
Fisheries Ministry and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Project leader Mark Meekan said it was the first major boat-based
survey of cetaceans, following a six-month intensive aerial survey of
marine wildlife along East Timor coasts.


Joyo Indonesia News Service

Literacy Campaign with Cuban Program Advances in Timor-Leste

Literacy Campaign with Cuban Program Advances in Timor-Leste

HAVANA, Cuba , Dec 18 (acn) Timor-Leste carried
out its second National Literacy Teaching
Graduation, a campaign developed with the Cuban program Yes I Can.

The Head of State of this Asia- Pacific nation,
José Manuel Ramos, a Nobel Peace Prize winner,
presented a group of 400 graduates from 13
districts with their certificates, during a
ceremony held at the Ministry of Education in Dili, the capital.

Also participating in the ceremony were Education
Minister Joao Cancio Freitas; the Secretary of
State for Culture, Virgilio Smith; Cuba ’s
ambassador in that country, Ramón Hernández, and
other personalities, the Granma newspaper reports on Wednesday.

This new graduation is the result of the second
stage of work that began in April, with the
arrival of 35 Cuban advisors that are offering
their services in these territories.

After the ceremony, the president, like the
Education Minister, thanked the Cuban people and
government for the help provided to his country
in the fields of education and public health.

For his part, Hernández highlighted the efforts
made by the students, facilitators, Cuban
advisors and coordinators in Timor Leste to achieve this goal.

He also underlined the call made by the President
to declare Timor-Leste a territory free of
illiteracy in a two year term, with which it
could become the first nation in Asia-Pacific and
the fourth in the world to accomplish this
objective, after Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Avanza alfabetización en Timor Leste con programa cubano

Czech Republic, East Timor offer asylum to Burmese rebels

Czech Republic, East Timor offer asylum to Burmese rebels

by Mungpi

Thursday, 18 December 2008 19:53

New Delhi (Mizzima) – East Timor and the Czech
Republic have ‘in principle’ agreed to offer
asylum to 34 Burmese ethnic rebels, who are
currently lodged in Kolkata’s presidency jail in
India and facing trial for alleged gun-running.

Soe Myint, Editor-in-Chief of Burmese Independent
News Agency – Mizzima – who is appointed by the
Calcutta court as interpreter for the rebels
said, the two countries have agreed to offer
asylum in order to avoid deportation to
military-ruled Burma, if they were found not guilty under the Indian law.

“Now that the trial is almost over, and if they
are found not guilty, they cannot remain in
India… But repatriating them to Burma could be
dangerous for them so these two countries have
offered to provide shelter to avoid repatriation,” Soe Myint said.

But he added that in order to resettle the rebels
to these countries, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)
needs to intervene and recognise them as refugees.

With the case of the Burmese ethnic rebels –
Arakanese and Karen – drawing to an end, 38
Burmese organisations including the National
Unity Party of Arakan (NUPA) and the Karen
National Union (KNU), of which organisation the
detained rebels belong to, have written an appeal
to the UN High Commissioner for Refugee in Geneva to intervene into the case.

The 38 organisations include armed resistant
groups, political groups and parties that have
been living in exile and struggling to restore democracy in Burma.

In their letter to Mr. Antonio Guterres, the High
Commissioner for refugees, the groups said, the
34 rebels, even if acquitted of the current
charges, if denied UNHCR protection and promised
resettlement to third country, could continued to
be detained for charges under the foreigners act.

The groups said the worst would be for India to
deport them back to Burma, as they would be
executed or jailed by the military-rulers, whom
the rebels have fought for years.

Akshay Sharma, one of the defence counsels of the
rebels, said the prosecution has so far failed to
provide sufficient evidence to prove the charge.
But with at least three to four court schedules
still pending, the trial could continue for another six months.

“Within this period the court will make a
judgement,” Sharma told Mizzima during an interview earlier.

“We have all the positive prospects,” Sharma said.

However, the last court session, scheduled in
late November was adjourned to January 15 to 21,
2009 by the court saying the prosecution was
unable to bring some of the resources.

The 34 rebels, belonging to armed rebel groups
the NUPA and KNU, were arrested in February 1998
by Indian armed forces after they had come to
India’s eastern archipelago of Andamans.

The rebels, who would be completing 11 years of
detention in February 2009, said they had been framed by the Indian military.

They said, they have been associated for long
with Indian military intelligence, and have been
used to watch Chinese naval activity and movement
of northeast Indian rebels on the Arakan coast in
western Burma, until India’s relations with the
Burmese military junta improved in the late 1990s.

According to the rebels, the Indian military
intelligence had made an offer to them to come
and set up base in the Landfall islands of the
Andamans. But when they came in two ships, six of
their leaders were killed in cold blood and the
rest were arrested and put in jail.

They were arrested and kept in Port Blair without
being charged until October 2006, when they were
ordered by the Supreme Court to be moved to
Kolkata, after a leading human rights lawyer
Nandita and her associates filed a petition and to conduct a day-to-day trial.

With defence counsels confident that the charges
will be dropped as the prosecution failed to
present adequate witnesses and evidence, Soe
Myint said, they need a place where they can have
asylum, because if they are not convicted under
Indian law, and are not resettled to a third
country, Delhi might deport them back to Burma.

“If they [the rebels] are sent back to Burma,
they might even be executed,” Soe Myint added.

The Walk through Chega! Exhibition

The Walk through Chega! Exhibition was opened by President
Ramos-Horta on Monday and has been highly praised by the President
and other visitors.

It is a permanent exhibition, open to the public from now and throughout 2009.

Viewing hours are: 9.00 – 12.00 and 2.00 – 5.00 each week day (with
the exception of public holidays).

Bookings are recommended: Tel (+670) 3310315 or email

Our tour guides are Gaspar and Vina. They would love to show you around.

Pat Walsh

Is there Rule of Law in Timor-Leste?

Tempo Semnal

Is there Rule of Law in Timor-Leste?

The Minister of Justice launches attack on Tempo Semanal.

Potentially a precedent setting use of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste’s anti-defamation law by a senior member of the Government against the free press in Timor-Leste.

Dili, Timor-Leste, 18 December 2008 – In a widely anticipated move, on 12 December 2008, the Office of Prosecutor-General served notice to the Tempo Semanal weekly newspaper that it is to appear on 19 January 2009 to answer defamation charges brought against Tempo Semanal by Lucia Lobato, the Minister of Justice. When asked by Tempo Semanal to be given a copy of the charges the Office of the Prosecutor-General stated that this would be impossible seeing as the relevant documents were confidential. Thereby depriving Tempo Semanal of due process, and this is only the beginning.

On 12 October 2008 Tempo Semanal published a story alleging acts of corruption regarding Government contracts by the Minister of Justice. The story can be viewed in Tetun at this link; and in English at this link. These were based upon a series confidential interviews and a large number of text messages sent and received by the Minister of Justice on her publically financed Government mobile phone.

The content of these messages was made available to Tempo Semanal by a confidential source. Tempo Semanal intends to protect its sources.

These messages were sent and received by a Government phone used by the Minister of Justice, paid for by the State of Timor-Leste, and are therefore the property of the people of Timor-Leste. These messages indicated that there were strong suspicions that the Minister of Justice was providing inside information and indeed possibly favourable conditions to business people in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The contracts involved Ministry of Justice projects relating 1) to renovation of the Becora Prison perimeter wall, 2) uniforms for the prison service [insert video] and 3) the design, issuance and management of national identity documentation. The relevant stories can be found at the following links via Tempo Semanal online site.

FRETILIN condemns secrecy on consultants’ fees



Media Release

Dili, Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finance Minster’s ‘mates rates’ for well-connected Australians

FRETILIN condemns secrecy on consultants’ fees

Money from Timor Leste’s National Petroleum Fund, as well as scarce donor funding is being squandered on exorbitant salaries and fees to under-qualified foreign and local consultants with political and/or personal connections to government ministers, FRETILIN MP and Party Vice President, Arsenio Bano, said today.

Bano, who was also a former Minister in the FRETILIN government said that de facto Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao had refused to release details of the number of consultants as well as copies of their contracts, despite repeated requests by FRETILIN and other MPs in Parliament to his Finance Minister, Emilia Pires.

“The government is providing jobs for ‘mates’, both Timorese nationals and Australian citizens born in Timor-Leste. They are receiving exorbitant salaries and consultancy fees, and many are woefully under-qualified, especially in the Ministry of Finance,” Bano said.

“We understand more than 70 advisors have been hired for the Ministry of Finance alone this year.”

They included a Sydney-based Australian lawyer paid more than US$80,000 for just over one month’s work in the first months of the AMP de facto government as an advisor on Timor-Leste’s petroleum law – despite having no specific legal experience in the petroleum sector.

“His only skill as far as we can gauge is knowing the right people in the government and having connections with diplomats and Timorese businessmen,” Bano said.

“We also know of a laboratory technician with no experience or qualifications in public finance or related fields being paid over US$10,000 per month to advise the Minister for Finance.

Bano added: “The new fashion is ‘jobs for the boys’, and in some cases ‘the girlfriends’.

“Many of these shysters are being paid from the state budget which is almost totally funded from the Timorese people’s Petroleum Fund.

“Perhaps this is the Minister of Finance’s latest poverty eradication program for the politically connected and already economically privileged.”

Bano said FRETILIN first argued against payment of exorbitant consultants’ fees during the budget debate last December. He said that this is being repeated with the AMP’s 2009 proposed budget that is currently being discussed in the parliamentary committees.

“Repeated attempts to get basic details of the numbers of consultants, their skills and experience have been refused, as if the information was a state secret rather than a matter of public interest.

“These are basic public accounts details the government is constitutionally and legally bound to provide to parliament to enable it to perform its budget oversight role effectively.”

Bano said that thanks to revenue from the FRETILIN government–initiated Petroleum Fund, the Gusmao government had an annual budget equivalent to the seven annual budgets available to previous governments.

“This bounty should be spent on health, education and agriculture, the prime movers of real human development, which receive less than 15 per cent of the current budget. Neither should our donors be giving funds to pay people without suitable or adequate qualifications. Those funds can be better spent on our people’s development,” he said.

For further information, please contact Arsenio Bano on +670 741 2447 or
Jose Teixeira on +670 728 7080