Fundasaun Mahein, 4 October, 2010
In the 12th Mahein’s Voice (Mahein Nia Lian), in this edition, FM provides an in-depth analysis on the work of the Committee B of the National Parliament, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security issues. On the other hand, FM identifies the role of the Committee from a political and contextual standpoint. At the end, FM presents a summary and recommendations that focus on lessons learned and challenges encountered by the Committee in implementing its roles.
In the history of the Timor-Leste National Parliament, the Committee B, Committee for foreign affairs, defense and national security issues, was established in July 2002. It has eleven committee members who have a lot of work with very broad areas to cover. Generally, in most national parliaments of a democratic country, there are almost always made up of representatives of political parties, who then establish and become members of permanent committees, including committees such the committee B. Permanent committees national parliament are pillars of the national parliament, because they represent the people, through their elected representatives, that can scrutinize executive activities and civil services in order to exercise accountability processes within the government system.
In regards to their level of understanding, the members of the committee B in a learning process; they are learning from qualified direct experience related to the Committee portfolio. Further observations in other areas are that the national parliament has limited resources to support this sovereign institution to become strong and credible in exercising their roles. With these limitations, people tend to see that there is lack of checks and balances in the works of legislative and executive branches. There is a lack of cooperation between the legislative branch and executive branch. Some facts illustrate that some legislations were developed in bedrooms. Timorese people feel that their interests are not adequately represented by the parliament. As demands inundate the parliament; these add more difficulties to the parliament as they lack a proper research division. Additionally, a limited number of staff in the secretariat of the parliament creates an unfavorable condition for the members of parliament to effectively and constantly communicate with constituents.
Members of the national parliament Committee B and civil society, are both actors on the front line, directly accountable to the people who should exercise control over policy. The media outlets have not adequately monitored the performance of the democratic systems. Civil societies are still in the learning phase of how ordinary people and interest groups in the community of can make an effort to contribute and influence policy and legislation related to Committee B. Civil society and the media must demand that Committee B carries out its legal authority and exercise checks and balances over proposed laws and security policies.
In Timor-Leste’s political culture, a civil supremacy tradition is non-existent. Many people consider that FALINTIL-military are the fighters; they are the liberators and in any circumstance, should be respected. In addition, there is a lack of civilian regeneration that poses a difficult understanding in military and security issues. As a result, we can see that only a small number of public officials, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) activists, academia, and journalists have the capacity to manage the security sector, to provide a control function and to help educate the public on defence and the policy of national security in Timor-Leste.
Such a legacy is further strengthened in some development programs which hinder civilian in monitoring the performance of security sector, for instance, the current incidents at the border in Oecusse, where the Indonesian military (TNI) destroyed a vulnerable community’s houses. This experience serves as a lesson for the Timor-Leste government on how to manage the border and the culture of the people who live in border areas of Timor-Leste near Indonesia. On the other hand, anti-state groups, such as ninjas, still exist; and although the government has paid the veterans, some of them still demand their rights. In this circumstance, the government is implementing the development process of the government structure, setting up laws, producing new laws and developing the the relationship between the army, police and civilians.
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Director of Fundasaun Mahein
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