Subject: Organized by LABEH Transparency and Accountability Department

[Received via KESTA list]

Opening speech
by Dr. Christopher Henry Samson
Executive Director Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH)

Organized by LABEH Transparency and Accountability Department

Dili, 31st May 2005

Excellency, Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice
Members of Parliament, Government and Diplomatic Corps
Ms. Elisabeth Huybens, World Bank Country Manager, Timor-Leste

Members of the Press,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of "Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu" (LABEH), we have the great privilege and are honored to welcome you to this "Workshop on the role of the Provedor in Fighting Corruption and promoting Human Rights and Justice"

Before I begin, I wish to extend my great appreciation to the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, Dr. Sebastiao Dias Ximenes, Congratulation to you and in particular in participating in today's Workshop!

Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH) warmly welcomes the Provedor e' Justisa; this reflects the commitment of the Government in fighting corruption and promoting the culture of transparency and accountability in the state administration after more than two years of hopelessness of searching for a Provedor e' Justisa.

We are also encouraged by the commitment of the national parliament despite the opposition has elected and voted the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice and are encouraged in this developments and lend our support to the Provedor e' Justisa. This is indeed, what I called "the power of democracy" yet, this is indeed another affirmation of the Government's commitment to combat corruption and to promote a culture of transparency and accountability in the public administration.

Though, we are also concerned that the fund allocated to the office of Ombudsman may affect the efficiency of his work and we encourage our government to consider allocating more funds to the office of Ombudsman in the next budget. We also encourage the donors to proved financial and technical support to the office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice of Timor-Leste. Further more, for the Office of the Provedor to be effective there is a need to ensure adequate working conditions are in place to enable the Provedor to function according to all expectations.

Just few weeks ago, we celebrated our third year of independence. In these three years, much has been accomplished, and we can certainly be proud of the achievements made by our government, but as we all know, there is also much still left to do.  Let us not forget that in this task of building a nation and creating State institutions, it is only natural that we will continue to be facing with challenges; a major one, that of combating corruption and instilling a culture of transparency and accountability in the government and in the civil society.

Let us not forget that we are walking through a cross roads of changing mentalities, from the lack of diligence to assuming responsibility of duties.

Let us not forget also that our country is faced with huge poverty, a major cause for corruption.  Corruption destroys the whole society and it is not part of our Timorese culture and it needs to be dropped.

In Timor-Leste vision for 2020, our people realized that without transparency, good governance and a strong policy on combating corruption, our vision will not be achieved.  This is the reason LABEH's determination in promoting transparency and in fighting against corruption is inevitable and we urge our government to be firm in it's determination to zero tolerance against corruption.

In a workshop on transparency and accountability held in Dili, our Prime Minister Dr. Mari Alkatiri stated: "The users of the public institutions must have the courage to denounce public servants who practice acts which are considered criminal or who behave dishonestly.  They should have courage to denounce those who work in the Administration and who make a point of serving their own interests instead of those of the public".

We are profoundly convinced that the threats, which face us, are of equal concerns to all. We have called this Workshop "the role of the Provedor in fighting corruption and in promoting human rights and justice because we believe that in a nation of inter-connected threats and opportunities, it is in the interest of our country that all of these challenges are addressed effectively. The fight against corruption can only be advanced if our administrative organs and public servants work together with the Ombudsman to achieve the common purpose of zero tolerance for corruption.

The main message of this "Workshop" is that the aims of the Ombudsman in combating corruption can be achieved, but only if the President, the Parliament, the Government and the Court, and all the administrative organs and the public servants abide in their duties to collaborate with the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice. Therefore, we urged the Ombudsman to pay his allegiance to the constitution, rule of law and good governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Not all would find our argument convincing. But please remember, in any event, that if we need the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice to achieve his objectives, we must also be willing to help him achieve the same. That is why LABEH is urging the administrative organs and the civil society to collaborate with the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice.

We are also glad that the Public Service Law has being passed, this also reflect another concrete step of our government towards fostering the culture of transparency and accountability in the public administration as this Service Act set the framework for accountable public services. LABEH believes that appropriate measures will now be taking, to concretely demonstrate this commitment in all administrative organs of the state.

We also commend the government, the World Bank for bringing in Mr. Bertrand de Speville, the Guest Speaker during the International Workshop on the Integrity in the State and other international agencies in their support for Timor-Leste. We specifically acknowledge the efforts of the Office of the Inspector General for conducting investigations; inspections and special examinations in the public administration though non-of his recommendations has changed the mentalities of those caught up in corruption trap.

We can not speak of corruption, transparency and accountability without touching the Office of the Prosecutor General and the judicial system. We are concerned that cases related to corruption submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor General by the Prime Minister has remained in that office without any legal proceeding known to the public in regards to the same. We ask the Prosecutor General to improve his services to the nation and to the people, uphold the rule of law, combat corruption and adopt speed approach to respond to cases of corruption and publicly announce what actions has been taking in regards to cases related to corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN).

However, to ensure transparency and accountability in the public administration, the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice and the Government must adopt an inclusive approach to making space for civil society, more especially NGOs working on anti-corruption and human rights to play their full role. The challenge in fighting corruption and abuses of human rights is too big for the government and the Ombudsman to face it alone.

The civil society and the media needs to be strengthened, more capacity development is also needed for our local media to be trained in investigative journalism, it is accepted principle that effective and independent media is a pillar for a good governance, ensuring access to information and freedom of speech.

It is also important that the government recognize the need for the civil society's involvement in monitoring corruption as an independent watchdog. Civil society is also important for linking reform measures to the aspirations and expectations of the people. The engagement of the civil society, and the private sector at large, is critical in this struggle. The NGOs are particularly important, barring any conflict of interest, to serve as an independent oversight body, which would lend significant credibility to the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice and the government's efforts towards "Zero Tolerance for Corruption".

But for this to occur, civil society needs to be strengthened.  More capacity development is needed for our local media to be trained in investigative journalism.  Clarification on media law would help to ease the confusion that currently exists in our nation, and strengthen media's participation in combating corruption. Access to information is also critical to ensuring public participation. Adopting a Freedom of Information Law as enshrined in our National Constitution would be a step in the right direction.  It provides for accountability to the people on actions taken by the Government, such as public expenditure.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, we once again pledge "Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH) support to the Office of the Ombudsman as an independent body, with broad representation, to the Provedor's efforts towards the enhancement of transparency and accountability to detect, reduce and prevent the scourge of corruption.

Finally, On behalf of LABEH and staff, we thank you all and looking forward for your continuing support on the activities of LABEH.

Thank you! And may God bless us all.


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