Veteran Registration Fraud in Covalima Reveals Ongoing Problems with National Veteran Support
Fundasaun Mahein monitoring has revealed that an unnamed group in the city of Covalima has been running a fraudulent veteran registration scheme to cheat veterans in the greater Covalima area of money and resources. The group has claimed to be an operating council of veterans conducting registration and re-registration for FALINTIL veterans in the national pension system. In addition, the “council” has claimed to be supported by Rai Lakan, a former FALINTIL commander who returned to Timor-Leste from Indonesia a few years ago. This is a fraud to cheat veterans out of their money—this group is in no way involved with the National Commission for registration of veterans. FM’s investigation has revealed that the group has been operating in Covalima for approximately two months, and is continuing unabated as of the publication of this report.
The group’s operation is targeting older veterans in the Covalima area. The group has been promoting itself as a council of veterans offering easy and simplified registration for veteran pensions for all veterans in the area. The group also claims to have the backing of Taur Matan Ruak, President of the Republic of Timor-Leste; Xanana Gusmao, former Prime Minister of Timor-Leste; and Lere Anan Timur, Chief Major General of the F-FDTL. The group has claimed that these three will personally be taking charge of the registrations in Covalima and offering pensions to veterans in the area.
FM spoke to several older veterans who engaged with this group in the hopes of an easy registration process for the national veterans’ pension fund. According to FM’s sources, the group has advertised itself publicly to veterans in the area, and asked veterans to come to Covalima for registration for veterans’ pensions. When the veterans arrive in Covalima from their hometowns, they are charged “registration” fees for the pension fund by this group—typical amounts charged to veterans for the registration ranged between $5, $20, and $50. (One source was even forced to provide a buffalo for his “registration.”) Fundasaun Mahein estimates in just two months’ time since the group began its illegal operations, they have already approached and swindled over 200 veterans in the larger Covalima area.
FM’s investigation into the matter in Suai revealed that no action has yet been taken against this group by the government nor the police. FM’s sources have reported that although the PNTL in Covalima is aware of the illegal operation, no efforts have been made to identify the criminals behind the scheme. Even worse, the local administration of Comissão de Homenagem, Supervisão de Registo e Recurso (CHSRR), the national commission responsible for identifying and registering veterans for pensions, was completely unaware of the operation’s existence when FM reached out for further information.
Why have veterans in Covalima been so easily drawn into this false registration scheme? FM believes this is both the product of continued inefficiency from the national commission (CHSRR), and a present inactivity from government and security officials to put an end to this fraudulent operation.
Fundasaun Mahein has published reports in the past detailing the ongoing issues with national registration of veterans. The process has been slow and inefficient, and left many veterans on the outside of the registration process. A large number of veterans in the districts remain unregistered with the national pension fund, either due to incomplete documentation or a lack of communication with the commission. Even though the CHSRR has been working on registration for ten years, there are clearly many older veterans in the Covalima area who are still seeking assistance from the government, and thus have been easily manipulated by this group.
Secondly, the operation has continued unabated in Covalima without any pushback from authorities. The PNTL as of 10 May, 2016, has made no effort to investigate the matter and prevent further manipulation of older veterans by this illegal group. If this continues, even more veterans who will be cheated over false hopes of pension registration.
FM recommends that:
1. The PNTL and local government take an active role in investigating this operation and pursuing justice for Timor-Leste’s veterans who have been manipulated by this group;
2. The CHSRR refocus its efforts, both in Covalima and on a national level, on proper communication with and education of older veterans on the pension registration process.