Decree Law No.27/2017 May 2 issued by the President of the Republic, established 22 July as the day for the National Parliamentary election. The election campaign period will run for one month, starting on 20 June and finishing on 19 July. This will encompass 21 political parties including coalitions that have registered with the Court of Appeals.
Fundasaun Mahein’s (FM) monitoring during the first two days of the electoral campaigning period indicates that process has been peaceful so far. FM also notes that the Timorese people should recognize the national ownership and capacity demonstrated by the electoral organs, as well as the hard work and commitment of security actors in organizing a safe and secure election. This is an extraordinary step for Timor-Leste, the 2017 Parliamentary Election being the first nationally organized and run Parliamentary election after the three Parliamentary Elections conducted in 2001, 2007 and 2012 with international technical and security support.
The participation of the Timorese people in the electoral process is guaranteed by the Constitution and Timorese Law, which stipulate respect for all Timorese citizens right to participate in the election, regardless of political ideology or membership with political parties. This has been the main message of President of the Republic Francisco Guterres “Lu-Olo”, with this also being demonstrated during the Presidential Election on March 20, 2017.
However FM’s monitoring reveals an incident that occurred the day before the campaigning period began, as reported by Tatoli Newspaper – Agencia Noticiosa de Timor-Leste on 21 June. On the 19th of June, a civilian was arrested for possession of a firearm at 1845pm in Lautem. Former FALINTIL fighter Renan Selak disarmed the man during a cock fight after he threatened others with the weapon and the firearm was handed over to the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) in Lautem, whilst the suspect was detained for questioning.
The PNTL Commander of Lautem, Superintendent Marcos Sequeira explained that, “three people started provoking each other after arriving at the cock fighting arena riding motorbikes without helmets, before the man pulled a gun and started threatening the others, before the veteran Renan Selak disarmed and handed over the gun to the PNTL”.
FM believes that Renan Selak is a Timorese veteran who wants to contribute to national stability. FM urges Timorese citizens to vigilant towards such incidents, and cooperate with security actors if they believe someone intends to provoke violence or undermine stability during the electoral process. Xanana Gusmão has previoslyechoed these sentiments warning that ‘people would attempt to destabilize the Parliamentary Election.
Regarding the shooting that occurred on May 12 2017 in Pantai Kelapa, where a young man was shot and injured by unknown assailants in an unregistered vehicle, the suspected shooter is believed to be a member of the Personal Protection Company (CSP) of the PNTL. This is due to testimonies given to the Independent on May 17, 2017, which alleged that the vehicle used had CSP markings. However, the suspected shooter remains unidentified, as the PNTL has been unable to verify who was driving the alleged CSP vehicle. The PNTL must continue to work hard in their investigation to determine who discharged their weapon illegally and injured a member of the public.
It is also possible that that the suspect is a civilian that was using a PNTL vehicle, borrowed from a compatriot within the PNTL. This possibility is due to past incidents of PNTL members misusing PNTL resources. Furthermore, some of the weapons lost during the 2006 crisis remain unlocated, and FM remains concerned that those weapons could be used by people to undermine safe and secure elections through the threat and/or use of force.
The two incidents considered above took place in proximity to the electoral period, whilst another fatal shooting occurred in Bebonuk on 6 May 2017, with a young Timorese male being shot under suspicious circumstances by a PNTL officer. This fatal shooting is still under investigation and the suspected PNTL officer has not been identified.
This misuse of PNTL uniforms, weapons or vehicles by actors seeking to destabilize the election is of concern to FM, with such imposters having been captured by the PNTL before (Tatoli – Agencia Noticiosa de Timor-Leste, May 15th 2017). This could offer dissatisfied political actors and their supporters the opportunity to undermine and threaten Timor-Leste’s first nationally-owned elections, due to personal, political and/or ideological differences.
This has happened in previous elections, and the Timorese people must learn from this and be vigilant towards electoral misconduct that undermines Timorese democracy and the human rights of its citizens.
This election belongs to the Timorese people, having been organized by Timorese electoral organs with Timorese security forces being responsible for security provision. This means we must be respectful of the competing political parties ideologies and the rights of Timorese citizens to safely and freely participate in the election.