Last night (November 22nd) Minister of Defense and Security José Sequeira “Somotxo” declared that, “If big problems occur in our country due to the political situation, the military and police will not intervene, so that the 35 [opposition] Members of Parliament can handle it.” Disturbingly, this statement implied that the security forces would abdicate their responsibility to protect the people of Timor-Leste. This statement also attributed responsibility for public security to the 35 MPs in the opposition Parliamentary Majority Alliance, implying that because these legislators have not accepted the Government’s policy program they should take responsibility for any political conflict that follows. Fundasaun Mahein (FM) wants to unequivocally condemn this irresponsible statement and emphasize the security forces’ duty to maintain public security at all times.
FM was saddened to hear the Minister of Defense and Security speaking as though the people’s safety was a bargaining chip to be used in party politics. This kind of statement risks generating panic, increasing the possibility that conflict will actually occur. The Minister should have instead affirmed the security forces readiness to protect the people 24 hours a day.
Instead of engaging in partisan brinkmanship, Timor-Leste’s leaders should seek a solution that is in the national interest. Given that safety is always one of citizens’ primary concerns, politicians must first and foremost seek to maintain calm. A humble and accommodative approach offers the best hope of resolving the ongoing political impasse and promoting public harmony.
Timor-Leste’s politicians should learn from the example of the resistance movement that won national independence after 24 years of struggle. FALINTIL fought for the good of the nation, not for partisan interests. They waged this independence war with no salaries, enduring terrible hardship for the sake of the people as a whole. The current political leadership should try to emulate the resistance fighters’ selflessness and prioritize the welfare of the Timorese people over personal political ambitions.
In order to move towards a more productive public discourse, FM calls on all political actors to make responsible statements that focus on the national interest. Political leaders should ensure that their statements promote calm instead of panic. FM also emphasizes that the media should make an effort to avoid exacerbating the situation. Irresponsible headlines such as “If Problems Appear, the F-FDTL and PNTL Will Not Intervene” exaggerate the likelihood that the security forces will actually obey the Defense Minister’s reckless statement. Ordinary citizens can also help maintain calm by not spreading frightening rumors. Lastly, FM demands that the security institutions prioritize the people’s interest in accordance with the Constitution. The good of the nation should always outweigh partisan agendas.