But corruption, collusion and nepotism is nothing new to the government of Timor Leste. There were other scandals earlier – The RiceGate scandal, Abuse of Power by the Justice Minister, Sra Lucia Labato. Allegations of misappropriation of funds by the Tourism, Trade and Industry Ministry. Sra Pires too had an allegation earlier involving in hiring foreign advisors to the country. Except for Sra Labato, who was convicted and jailed for 5 years, investigation procedure on the other cases is ‘vague and uncertain’. The TL Anti-Corruption Commission is new and may not have enough claws to deal with ministers and high-level government officials.
The Approval letter from the Ministry of Finance to the Vice-Minister of Health dated 8th Feb 2012 clearly states that the request for the Emergency Fund was approved by the Prime Minister. Is it true – is the Prime Minister aware of the request for the fund? Why was it a private award of contract and not an open tender – for the non-essential medical items? The MoH also seems to have a finger in the pie as they seem to have suggested that certain items are to be supplied by Mac Metal Craft whose Director is Warren MacLeod, Sra Pires’s husband . Why is the investigation delayed? This is a case of public interest and accountability and the public needs to know the process and result of the investigation just as the Finance Ministry has created a Budget, Revenue and Expenditure Transparency Portal which is open for the world to view. The people need to know whether Sra Pires is guilty or not.
I appreciate the views and comments by the Deputy Anti-Corruption Commissioner of Timor Leste, Jose Nevis. He has highlighted some important issues on the ongoing matter. But since it looks like what is seen is only the tip of the iceberg, I suggest that an in-depth and thorough investigation is conducted by an independent body, a Tribunal, comprising of ruling politicians, members of the opposition parties, academicians and members of the legal fraternity. They should look into the prima facie of a charge that may not have any doubts on Sec. 32, Chapter 4 on Incompatibility of Decree Law on the Procurement System No: 10/2005 and other existing laws of Timor Leste. The Anti Corruption Commission must work on completely neutral lines without whims or favor. There should be absolutely no interference from the administrative, legislative and judiciary bodies which may affect the constitutional and legal function of the commission,
The Independent body should also be able to conduct a study on The Declaration of Assets and Property Act that will bind every government officials to declare their assets to the Prime Minister. The level of participation of family members of Ministers and government high-ranking officials in obtaining government contracts must be studied. The existing not more than 10 percent share status of family members in business ventures should be reviewed. All qualified citizens of Timor Leste should given an equal and fair chance in obtaining government contract awards by an open tender system and not confined to close relatives and family members.
Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH) - The Mirror for the People has shown consistence in fighting for the rights of the people of Timor Leste and in adhering to their motto ‘unity, progress and freedom’.
Their vision ‘the prosperity of the people through a clean government, relentless struggle to combat corruption and to uphold transparency and accountability’ is indeed most welcome for a young and growing nation like Timor Leste. My appreciation to its Executive Director Sr. Julio Gil da Silva Guterres. The Tempoh Semanal has also conducted an intensive research on the issue and is also highlighting matters of public interest to the people.
Timor Leste achieved its independence through intense struggle with bloodshed and loss of many precious lives. Corruption and malpractices will erode the trust people have in their government leaders and will lead to conflict and power struggle. The UNAMET, UNTAET, UNMISET and UNMIT played an active role in restoring peace and order to the nation and it was one of the longest (1999 to 2012) and most expensive UN missions. A beautiful country with its unique and diversified culture, populated with very friendly people, should not go to waste and should not be devastated. Viva Timor Leste! A Luta Continua……..Iha nia fiar ba Nai Maromak!