The Complex Problem of Veterans in Timor-Leste
Fundasaun Mahein (FM), 16 December 2015
The future of veterans is an issue that has yet to be fully resolved in Timor-Leste, and has only become more complex of late as the government of Timor-Leste has yet to properly identify and determine which and how many individuals are eligible for status as veterans. The issue still hangs over the government, despite the recent efforts to establish a committee and legislation to register veterans and administer pension funds to qualified veterans as manners of respect.
Efforts to resolve this matter are not new. The conversation around the status of veterans first rose under the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 2001, with the birth of two programs, FALINTIL Reinsertion Assistance Program (FRAP) and Recovery and Stability Program for Ex-Combatants and Communities in Timor-Lorosa’e (RESPECT), designed to provide social assistance for veterans. However, these programs failed to fully resolve the question of veteran status over the following years.
After these two programs, the government during its mandate established a commission for registration and verification of veterans’ document in order to determine the appropriate standards of assistance and recognition for veterans. The commissions that the government established from 2002 to 2006 were The Commission for the Issue of Old Combatants (CAAC), The Commission for the Issue of Veterans of FALINTIL (CAVF), The Commission for the Issue of the Structure of the Resistance (CAQR), The Commission for Validity of Data (CVD), The Commission for Consolidation of Data (CCD), and The Commission of Homage, Supervision, Inspection and Resources (CHSRR).
Of those commissions, CHSRR was established later in 2006 and continues today with its mandate to supervise registration of veteran data and handle all claims from veterans.
The issue of veteran status has become more complex through favoritism and family practices in the administrative processes of veterans. This includes private and personal influences upon this administrative process, facilitating the manipulation of data and registration information on veterans’ history in order to receive high qualifying grades and monthly pensions.
In relation to the displeasure of veterans who continue to be marginalized from the pension policy, another point of view has emerged that those who had collaborated previously with the enemy have also received higher levels of national recognition than those who fought for national liberty.
The persistent question of veteran status also has an impact on the state finances. The petroleum funds has been considered a unique resource for funding the government’s activities on veteran status, including payment of veterans and combatants. The budget for veterans’ compensation has reached levels far greater than budgets allocated for other sectors.
The current allocations in the State Budget and the estimations of the government on veterans’ status will provide strong implications for the state budget in the coming years. The government relies on the petroleum resources of Kitan and Bayu-Undan to provide funding for Timor-Leste’s state activities, yet commissioned studies have shown that oil reserves in Kitan will run dry in 2016, and Bayu-Undan will expire between 2020 or 2022. The question must be raised: when Timor-Leste’s oil and funding run out, how does the government expect to pay veterans and maintain internal stability across the country?
FM recommends that:
1. The Homage Commission make further efforts to verify and validate its data on veterans in order to ensure a fair and quality process. FM also recommends the commission further investigate those individuals who have falsified documents to receive veteran pensions.
2. The government to make revisions to the pension law for veterans and combatants of national liberty in order to avoid any discrimination over pensions, and to also adjust a statute for the law of combatants so as to not minimize people’s contributions to national liberty.
3. The government establish a Council of National Veterans to support the state in resolving these problems, and to establish a legal process for those “false” veterans who have falsified documents to receive pensions and recognition.
For more details on this issue please contact:
Phone: (+670) 78316075 no 77561184