Our History

The Genesis

Christopher Henry Samson, was working in the Ministry of Planning and Finance at the Public Procurement Unit in early 2003, he was assisting in the interpretation and translation of public procurement biding documents and was working very closely with some United Nations Advisors and government officers, businessmen and women, contractors, investors and ordinary shop owners coming in and out of the public procurement office looking for government contracts.

His story “Christopher said, “His Advisor Mr. Jorge Lynch told him that there was a great corruption going on in the government contracts from many ministries of the government and there was abuse of power and authority, but Timor-Leste as a new country should not start its government administration with corruption because it might pull the country into poverty, if it goes on without check and prosecution, there should be a voice now that needs to speak out against corruption in the administration of the state.

Christopher Henry Samson responded and said “I will be the Voice against corruption in Timor-Leste”. Mr. Lynch said there should be a big prize to pay, if you want to be the voice against corruption because the government may not want someone to interfere in the government business.

1.   The government will make your life very difficult

2.   The government will terminate your contract

3.   The government will find a way to stop you and they may even kill you

4.   But if you did not fall apart, then, you will one day shake hand with the Prime Minister if you succeed.

He responded and said “I choose the last one; I will one day shake hand with the Prime Minister if, I succeed”.

Corruption was a taboo topic. Many people were afraid to speak out against corruption in Timor-Leste at the time and many companies regularly wrote off bribes as business expenses in their tax filings, the graft of some longstanding heads of state was legendary, and many international agencies were resigned to the fact that corruption would sap funding from many development projects around the world including Timor-Leste.

There was no national NGO in Timor-Leste dedicated its fight against corruption. There was no government anti-corruption agency at the time, and Timor-Leste has not ratified the United Nations convention against corruption at the time aimed at curbing corruption, and no way to measure corruption at the national scale.

Having seen corruption’s impact during his work in the Ministry of Planning and Finance in the first Constitutional Government, he decided to be the Voice against corruption in Timor-Leste.

He stated by writing articles in the national newspapers about corruption, abuse of power and injustice in the state administration and sometimes appeared in the national television and national radios speaking against corruption and in June 2003 the government terminated his contract from the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

Christopher Henry Samson, together with his students from the University Muliar, set up a small organization to take on the taboo: “Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH). Which is translated as “the mirror of the people” was established on August 25, 2003, with a Secretariat in Comoro Kampoung Baru, Dili Timor-Leste. The organization would be dedicated in the fight against corruption, promote greater transparency and good-governance in the state administration.

He made himself a solemn promise that no matter what happened or how successful or not successful this organization would become in the future, he would never give up the fight against corruption or lower his standard for any reason or allow anybody or anything to distract him from the work of building up an Anti-corruption NGO in Timor-Leste.

However, he could not start the work on Anti-Corruption alone without people with a good reputation, sincere, unselfish, dedicated men and women, people who should be loyal and devoted to the vision and mission of the organization. And no undertaken could succeed without the basic support of the office equipment such as: computers, tables, chairs and other basic office equipments, especially staff that would help him in the work.

He stated the organization in his house, he used his living room for his office, the dining room for a meeting room, and converted one bedroom as the staff office and the backyard as the training room and he lived in one bedroom.

“The Mirror of the People”