Timor Leste a lawless state not worthy of ASEAN entry

Ted McDonnell

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Timor Leste a lawless state not worthy of ASEAN entry
November 04, 2014 • Leave a Comment

By Ted McDonnell

THERE have been many arguments in recent times as to why Timor Leste should be allowed to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), however, recent developments in the tiny nation show why it is not yet ready — and may never be ready.

It’s been a decade, since Timor Leste began lobbying to join ASEAN, successive unstable governments and the violence of 2006/2007 ensured the application would sit on the back burner.

In the past two years, Timor Leste led by its Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has reinvigorated the charge that his country should be allowed to join ASEAN.

However, Timor Leste’s credibility as a democratic country has taken a dramatic dive over the past 12 months ensuring it will be sitting on the sidelines for some time to come.

If Timor Leste is admitted to ASEAN it would possibly damage the credibility of the respected Association.

The final straw for many came just over a week ago when on the eve of yet another embarrassing loss in its own Courts in its ongoing tax fight with ConocoPhillips, the government sacked all foreign judges and foreign anti corruption advisors.

The decision, led and manipulated by current Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, has left international legal observers shaking their heads in disbelief.

One senior Portuguese judge, who was dismissed by the Timor Leste PM, believes there is potential for Timor Leste to become a “lawless state” run in a “dictatorial manner by a man who believes he is the only law his people should listen to”.

“They do not want to abide by the judicial decisions especially when it comes to oil tax assessments and corruption trials. The government led by Mr. Gusmao is tearing up its own constitution.

“The timing of the sackings need to be looked at by the International judiciary and other democratic governments.

“We are deported. That’s the justice system of Timor Leste.”

The senior judge did not want to have his name published in fear of reprisals against close associates in Dili.

For a number of years now Gusmao has led an anti-foreigner drive in his country — that is apart from his close Indonesia allies.

The sacking of the judges comes off the back of the Timor Leste Parliament referring its media law bills back to the President Taur Matan Ruak for promulgation. The President has no option but to pass the law.

The archaic media laws will prevent local and international reporting on Timor Leste’s financial and government management; and widespread corruption rife throughout the Gusmao government.

The sacking of the judges and implementation of the farcical media laws comes at a time when Timor Leste’s unemployment and underemployment sits at more than 50%; poverty and malnutrition are endemic throughout the nation; health care is virtually non-existent and corruption continues unabated.

Gusmao has also orchestrated “trumped up” show court trials against adversaries Mauk Moruk and former presidential candidate Angela Freitas. Moruk has been held in Becora prison since March. Both say they have been ‘set up’ by the government.

At the same time, PM Gusmao has continued to stand by his closest ally Finance Minister Emilia Pires who is facing corruption charges. Gusmao continues to echo Pires’ pleads of innocence over a $2 million contract for hospital beds award to her Melbourne based husband’s business. That trial may now never see the light of day, according to legal observers, now that PM Gusmao has “taken control” of the judiciary.

Opposition Party Fretilin, the one time political powerhouse in Timor Leste, in recent days came out and declared its grave concerns about the management of government in Timor Leste.

Fretilin’s statement read: “Makes an urgent appeal to the President of the Republic to take up his constitutional role and ensure the normal functioning of the Constitutional Sovereignty Bodies and State institutions.

“Demands that the National Parliament stop purporting to deliberate on issues that have nothing to do with their powers as embodied in the Constitution.

“Urges the Government and the Prime Minister not to exceed the limits of their powers and to support the Justice Sector, and to avoid making decisions that simply contribute to inhibit the justice professionals and that causes institutional conflicts. ”

Currently, Timor Leste is all but a lawless state with its judiciary under fire and those under scrutiny of corruption protected by the all powerful Xanana Gusmao.

Timor Leste has now seemingly abandoned its fight for freedom of speech and freedom of expression; it has also abandoned the rule of law and separation of powers between the government and the judiciary.

No doubt worse is to come for this tiny nation as its Prime Minister continues his attempt to hijack democracy in his country.

As for ASEAN, sadly Timor Leste does not deserve entry until it has a change of government or the very least change of Prime Minister.

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