June 4, 2008
Alkatiri to pursue defamation action following US court vindication
FRETILIN today welcomed a United States District Court decision to dismiss a legal action by the US company Oceanic Exploration, which falsely alleged a competitor gained access to Timor Sea petroleum fields by bribing Timor-Leste officials and politicians.
Oceanic’s claims included an absurd allegation that former Timor-Leste Prime Minister and FRETILIN Secretary General, Dr Mari Alkatiri was paid a bribe of US$2 million to sign and push through the Timor Sea Treaty.
Dr Alkatiri said today he would pursue legal action for extensive defamation over a period of three years by Timor-Leste politicians and media, which had used Oceanic’s baseless slanders to engage in a political witch-hunt against him.
FRETILIN President Francisco Guterres ‘Lú-Olo’ said today it was noteworthy that local and foreign media, which have repeatedly reported Oceanic’s baseless allegations, had failed to report the US District Court judgement issued six weeks ago.
Oceanic and its Portuguese subsidiaries (collectively known as ‘Petrotimor’) had sought damages against US company Conoco Phillips, which operates the biggest petroleum field in the Timor Sea, alleging corrupt conduct by Phillips Petroleum (the forerunner to Conoco Phillips) in paying bribes.
On 16 April 2008, Judge Lynn N Hughes of the US District Court in Houston, Texas dismissed the 30-billion-dollar lawsuit brought by Petrotimor and Oceanic Exploration against ConocoPhillips, the Timor Sea Designated Authority (TSDA) and others in March 2004.
Judge Hughes described Oceanic’s “evidence” as “over 50 pages of trivia”, “a list of gossip and debris”, “not cogent” and “assumptions –nothing more”.
Dr Alkatiri has strenuously denied the allegations from the outset and started legal action for defamation against Timor-Leste political figures who repeated the allegations publicly.
Lú-Olo said today he always believed the allegations were politically motivated and the court would vindicate Dr Alaktiri.
Lu Olo said: “In throwing out this case the court has also called to account politicians such as the current President of the Parliament, Fernando Araujo Lasama, who defamed Dr Alkatiri at the time by demanding his resignation because of these baseless allegations. Fernando Araujo Lasama and the others should apologise to Dr Alkatiri and his family, without delay.
“These allegations were the beginning of a political witch-hunt against Dr Alkatiri and his family, aimed at forcing his resignation as Prime Minister.
“Dr Alkatiri vehemently denied these nonsensical allegations, but even foreign ambassadors repeated them in an attempt to malign the then prime minister’s good name and reputation. I want to see him get justice for the malicious campaign against him.”
Lu Olo said it would be difficult to pursue legal remedies in Timor Leste given the notoriously partisan behaviour of the highly political Prosecutor General.
“Dr Alkatiri earlier lodged a complaint with the Prosecutor General in Dili for action against Mr Fernando Araujo Lasama, then President of the Democratic Party, which was in opposition to the former FRETILIN Government headed by Dr Alkatiri. Despite repeated requests the Prosecutor General has refused to prosecute Dr Alkatiri’s defamation complaint, which under The Timor-Leste Criminal Code is a criminal offence.
“This failure, neglect or refusal to act by the Prosecutor General is politically motivated, like so many of his activities,” concluded Lu Olo.
Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080; Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389
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