Timor-Leste President says: “the national interest can override the law”

Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 03:55:21 -0400

MSO – Lusa
21 September 2009

Dili – The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Jose
Ramos-Horta in an interview today broadcast on TVTL, admitted that the
national interest can override the law, as has been the case with
Bere.

Questioned about whether or not the delivery of Maternus Bere, who is
indicted for crimes against humanity in the massacre of 1999 in the
Suai Church to Indonesian authorities, the Head of State responded
that “not everything that is legal can support the national interest
and the interests of the State.”

Ramos Horta, in the interview in Tetum, the language most spoken in
the country, said that as head of state his first duty is to ensure
the sovereignty and independence of East Timor and so he has to
cultivate good neighborly relations, particularly with Indonesia,
which has its own difficulties in moving towards democracy.

The President made the analogy of delivery Maternus Bere, who is
Indonesian nationality, to the agreement made with the United States
in 2002 by the government of Mari Alkatiri, which states that crimes
committed in Timor-Leste by the US military cannot be tried in Timor,
but would be handed over to the American authorities.

Drwaing parallels between the U.S. and Indonesia, Ramos-Horta stressed
that both countries, unlike East Timor, have not ratified the Treaty
of Rome, so if the International Criminal Court were to issue an
arrest warrant against a U.S. citizen within Timor-Leste’s
jurisdiction, it is bound by the agreement to deliver him to the
United States.

According to Ramos-Horta’s interpretation, in agreeing with Indonesia
to deliver Bere to them, Timor-Leste would be doing the same as if it
were an American citizen, as both the USA and Indonesia, have not
ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

The President also said that the establishment of an international
tribunal to try serious crimes committed between 1975 and 1999 in
Timor-Leste is not generally supported in East Timor, nor is it
consistent with the position of both parties, but shows the
“hypocrisy” of some sectors at home and abroad.

“FRETILIN was in power from 2002 to 2007, with a majority in
Parliament and did not want a tribunal, understanding the importance
of neighborly relations with Indonesia,” he recalled.

On the other hand, Ramos-Horta recalled that the UN had the exclusive
administration of East Timor from 1999 to 2002, as mandated by the
Security Council and “did nothing” regarding serious crimes at that
level.

“So why is that the Security Council did not adopt a resolution to
create an international tribunal at the time,” questioned the Head of
State.

During the interview, he also commented on the recent incident with
the National Parliament, which took the decision to prevent him
traveling abroad on an official visit, pending clarification on the
case Bere, but then reconsidered it.

Ramos-Horta pointed out that, constitutionally, the President, is
directly elected, and is not accountable to neither the Parliament or
to the government, so the first parliamentary decision was vitiated by
an unconstitutionality, and also said to have been itself a surprise.

“The secretary general of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri, had attended a
meeting to consider a way out and gave his contribution, showing
understanding of the relationship with Indonesia. We were surprised
that Alkatiri’s moderated analysis of the problem was not reflected in
the position taken by his party in the parliament,” he said.

Questioned about the censure motion against the government of Xanana
Gusmão, tabled in Parliament by FRETILIN, Ramos-Horta said that as
President of the Republic, he considered this to be a normal practice
in democratic regimes.

“Personally as a citizen, I Ramos-Horta, support the AMP government
100%, which I believe have all the constitutional legitimacy and have
total confidence in the Prime Minister,” he said.
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