FRETILIN: Gusmao government trying to shutdown parliamentary inquiry on =?UTF-8?Q?=E2=80=9CRicegate=

FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
*
*
*FRETILIN
*
*Media Release*

Dili, September 3, 2009

FRETILIN: Gusmao government trying to shutdown parliamentary inquiry on
“Ricegate”

Two members of the Timorese Parliament withdrew their signatures from a
formal request for a parliamentary inquiry into the ‘Ricegate’ scandal,
during the parliamentary session on September 1, 2009. They had been
part of a majority which signed the request on August 25, 2009. The
FRETILIN parliamentary leader, Mr Aniceto Guterres said today that he
believed the two were pressured by the government in an effort to shut
down the inquiry before it starts, but that the formal inquiry must go
ahead.

The two MPs, Teresa do Amaral from ASDT and Mateus de Jesus, formerly
from PUN and now an independent, withdrew their support, saying they
did not read it at the time and therefore did not know what they were
signing. These two MPs had previously criticised the government’s
handling of the sale of rice.

“The request was formally admitted by the acting president of the
parliament on 25 August 2009, and endorsed as being in compliance with
the parliamentary inquiry law for the purpose of establishing and
composing a commission of inquiry. All that is left is for the
commission to be formally comprised and sworn in, so it can begin its
very important work. Just this week again there are reports of a
shortage of rice in the market, and prices almost doubling in just a
few days. This is incredible given the tens of millions that have been
spent by the state from the national budget for rice acquisition,” said
Mr Guterres.

“We are concerned that this is a move to shut the inquiry down and
force us to resubmit a request which will not be dealt with until the
new parliamentary term starting on 15 September 2009. If it happens,
then again this government’s seriousness about accountability is in
grave question,” Mr Guterres said.

“There are 22 signatures required from MPs. We could have obtained those
from FRETILIN and its allies alone, but wanted to give others who
shared our concern the opportunity to make a stand on the issue.
However, it must have displeased certain people and we know of at least
one MP who was pressured by a current serving Minister to withdraw her
support,” said Mr Guterres.

“We had called for and welcomed the parliament’s decision on 25 August
2009 to accept a request by MPs from five political parties represented
in the national parliament, including FRETILIN MPs, to create a
parliamentary inquiry into the Ricegate scandal,” said Mr Guterres.

Ever since multiple large contracts were given without any tender
process last year, and rice imported by the government has plainly been
corruptly sold in Indonesia, FRETILIN has been demanding the relevant
documents be presented to the parliament, which has a formal
responsibility to oversight the budget.

In recent weeks Ricegate has become a media conflict between local and
overseas reporters and the office of the Prime Minister.

“This inquiry must still go ahead, despite these withdrawn signatures,
to be able to resolve the public concerns about these rice import
contracts, by establishing exactly what happened. It will also improve
the quality of government by demonstrating to our institutions – the
Ministers, the civil service, and the judiciary – how the laws passed
by this parliament are meant to work for the benefit of all the people
of Timor-Leste”, Mr Guterres concluded.

For further information please contact Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

FRENTE REVOLUCIONRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE

FRETILIN

Media Release

Dili, September 3, 2009

FRETILIN: Gusmao government trying to shutdown parliamentary inquiry on
Ricegate

Two members of the Timorese Parliament withdrew their signatures from a
formal request for a parliamentary inquiry into the Ricegate scandal,
during the parliamentary session on September 1, 2009. They had been
part of a majority which signed the request on August 25, 2009. The
FRETILIN parliamentary leader, Mr Aniceto Guterres said today that he
believed the two were pressured by the government in an effort to shut
down the inquiry before it starts, but that the formal inquiry must go
ahead.

The two MPs, Teresa do Amaral from ASDT and Mateus de Jesus, formerly
from PUN and now an independent, withdrew their support, saying they did
not read it at the time and therefore did not know what they were
signing. These two MPs had previously criticised the governments
handling of the sale of rice.

The request was formally admitted by the acting president of the
parliament on 25 August 2009, and endorsed as being in compliance with
the parliamentary inquiry law for the purpose of establishing and
composing a commission of inquiry. All that is left is for the
commission to be formally comprised and sworn in, so it can begin its
very important work. Just this week again there are reports of a
shortage of rice in the market, and prices almost doubling in just a few
days. This is incredible given the tens of millions that have been spent
by the state from the national budget for rice acquisition, said Mr
Guterres.

We are concerned that this is a move to shut the inquiry down and force
us to resubmit a request which will not be dealt with until the new
parliamentary term starting on 15 September 2009. If it happens, then
again this governments seriousness about accountability is in grave
question, Mr Guterres said.

There are 22 signatures required from MPs. We could have obtained those
from FRETILIN and its allies alone, but wanted to give others who shared
our concern the opportunity to make a stand on the issue. However, it
must have displeased certain people and we know of at least one MP who
was pressured by a current serving Minister to withdraw her support,
said Mr Guterres.

We had called for and welcomed the parliaments decision on 25 August
2009 to accept a request by MPs from five political parties represented
in the national parliament, including FRETILIN MPs, to create a
parliamentary inquiry into the Ricegate scandal, said Mr Guterres.

Ever since multiple large contracts were given without any tender
process last year, and rice imported by the government has plainly been
corruptly sold in Indonesia, FRETILIN has been demanding the relevant
documents be presented to the parliament, which has a formal
responsibility to oversight the budget.

In recent weeks Ricegate has become a media conflict between local and
overseas reporters and the office of the Prime Minister.

This inquiry must still go ahead, despite these withdrawn signatures, to
be able to resolve the public concerns about these rice import
contracts, by establishing exactly what happened. It will also improve
the quality of government by demonstrating to our institutions the
Ministers, the civil service, and the judiciary how the laws passed by
this parliament are meant to work for the benefit of all the people of
Timor-Leste, Mr Guterres concluded.

For further information please contact Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

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