FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE
June 26, 2008
Key aspect of Gusmao gun law defeated in Timor Leste parliament
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão’s de facto AMP government suffered a stunning defeat in the national parliament late yesterday afternoon, when its proposal to grant the sole discretionary power to license civilians to have firearms to the Timor-Leste National Police Commander was defeated. By a vote of 23 votes in favor, 11 against and 3 abstentions, the operative section in the draft proposed law (section 4) was deleted, said FRETILIN’s parliamentary leader, Aniceto Guterres.
FRETILIN holds the largest block of seats in the Timor-Leste National Parliament, 21 seats from a total of 65.
“An alternative motion to amend the important section 4, by considerably limiting the category of persons entitled to be authorized to obtain and carry firearms, was withdrawn during the heated and emotive debate, because the mover of the motion became convinced that the law was too liberal and should be more restrictive of who can have and carry firearms. FRETILIN is happy that the debate was so fulsome and productive that it resulted in even members of parliament allied to the AMP seeing the inappropriateness of the draft law,” said Guterres.
With section 4 struck out, the draft law is in tatters. This was the operative section, and without a substituting clause, the law has no mechanism to authorize the issuing of firearms licenses.
“Those who need to carry weapons in the course of their duties, such as the Defense Forces and Police are able to do so. They have their own laws that permit it. The public do not want to widen that category to include persons for whom it is not essential they have firearms to perform their duty effectively and lawfully. We reject totally the argument by some AMP MPs that many others are potentially in danger whilst performing their duty and should therefore be able to carry firearms. If we apply this category, then Timor-Leste will potentially be like the ‘Wild West’, where everyone will be toting guns. We don’t want that kind of society and its clear neither do our people. Like our people, we reject this ‘armed to the teeth’ approach to living,” added Guterres.
Guterres says that this episode has given both the de facto government and its parliamentary wing the chance to consult with FRETILIN, PUN, PD, PSD, KOTA/PPT and ASDT, as well as its own MPs who opposed the direction of the draft gun laws, to try to find acceptable changes.
“We need consensus on laws such as these. We in FRETILIN will always be open to dialogue towards enacting a sound, workable anti-gun law that embodies our people’s aspirations and that has been attained by consensus. We need a strong law that says, ‘Less Guns in Our Midst! Let’s End the Culture of Violence!’ That's what we all want,” Guterres said in closing.
Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080
Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389