Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace, Dili, 19 October 2020
President Francisco Guterres Lú Olo expressed concern about the involvement of veterans in the forgery of documents in order to be recognized by the state and qualify for the corresponding veteran benefits.
According to the Head of State, veterans should constitute an example to other citizens for their contribution to the national liberation struggle.
Speaking to the press after his meeting with the President, the Prosecutor-General José da Costa Ximenes said that multiple veterans have been identified in connection with this scheme and that some are already serving prison time.
On 16 October, the Dili District Court sentenced a number of veterans to prison and payment of restitution in the amount of $93,547. The Prosecutor-General believes that the Ministry for Affairs of the National Liberation Combatants should take strict measures, warning that there are also irregularities in the awarding of infrastructure projects to veterans.
With regard to the case of the Timorese citizen arrested with 3.53 kg of drugs on 14 January and sentenced to five years in prison, the Prosecutor-General mentioned that the Public Prosecution Service has already appealed the decision, questioning the lack of experience of the Dili District Court judge who imposed the sentence as he has only recently started his career.
‘It used to be that one kilo would get you 10 years [in prison]. Now, three kilos get you five’, he added, claiming that this decision only contributes to Timor-Leste’s continued use as a drug transit point.
‘Why is Timor-Leste a transit point? Firstly, because of our poor monitoring system. Secondly, because of the legal framework. And lastly, because of the light penalties. Three kilos of pure drugs correspond to three million US dollars. This sentence can open the country even more to the entry [of drugs]’, he said.
With regard to the 145 infrastructure projects that the state is alleged to have to pay, the Prosecutor-General made it clear that, where there is no contract, the state is not obligated to pay. However, he noted, the problems arise when the project is concluded even in the absence of a contract,
‘They build a bridge over a stream. They finish the construction work, but there’s no longer any stream. What are they going to claim payment for? There’s no contract. Any state in the world would oppose the obligation of payment if there’s no contract. No contract, no payment.’
Mr José da Costa Ximenes has also asked the National Parliament to speed up the approval of the law on asset recovery for the administration of assets seized by the State The Office of the Prosecutor-General, the National Directorate of State Assets Management, and the PNTL are soon scheduled to hold an auction of 153 motorcycles which have no associated documentation and were therefore considered state property.