FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
June 25, 2008
FRETILIN opposes Gusmao government’s liberal and suspect gun laws
FRETILIN, Timor-Leste’s largest party, vigorously opposed attempts by Mr Gusmão’s AMP de-facto government to have parliament pass a law giving the Police Commander the sole and discretionary power to authorize civilians to obtain and possess firearms, said FRETILIN's parliamentary leader, Aniceto Guterres in Dili today.
Guterres also chaired Timor-Leste's historic Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission and sat as a member of the Truth and Friendship Commission established to investigate and uncover the truth behind the Indonesian military atrocities in Timor-Leste in 1999. “The history of firearms in the hands of civilians has contributed to all the bloody episodes in our country’s tortured history. I have no doubt every citizen rejects any notion of licensing civilians to possess firearms,” he said.
The draft of the proposed law currently being debated in the national parliament has been opposed by members of Mr Gusmão’s own coalition parties, including the President of Social Democratic Party, Mario Carrascalão, who yesterday voted against the introduction of the law in general terms. KOTA, the Democratic Party and other parties also criticized the move on the basis that the people of Timor-Leste had already been traumatized by firearms and are not ready for a law permitting civilians to possess firearms.
“This proposed law, just like most proposed laws that the de facto government is putting forward, has not been released for public consultation and comment. There has been no scrutiny by the public. Don’t they trust the people of Timor-Leste and our civil society? There is no way this draft law would have come this far had it been the subject of public consultation. Since the debate started yesterday FRETILIN has received expression of concern from many in the public and civil society regarding the proposals to permit civilians to be armed. We will fight to promote the public’s desire to prevent weapons falling into the hands of civilians,” said Guterres.
FRETILIN is also concerned that there are no oversight or appeal mechanisms over the sole and discretionary power of the Police Commander to authorize and decline licenses to people. The Timor-Leste National Police was identified as a highly politicized and weak state institution by the 2006 UN International Commission of Inquiry. The Commission of Inquiry also highlighted the impact of the breakdown of its command in the ensuing violent crisis that engulfed the nation.
“What also concerns us, given the inadequate oversight and appeal mechanisms, are that this legal discretion could be used politically and improperly - that is to allow civilians with one political inclination access to firearms and deny others access because of their political affiliations. This makes this draft law far too dangerous and very, very suspicious,” concluded Guterres.
Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080
Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389