“FM Urges Fresh Thinking from the New Members of Committee B”

“FM Urges Fresh Thinking from the New Members of Committee B” post thumbnail image

Photo FM: Committee B National Parliament -IV Legislature

Fundasaun Mahein welcomes the new session of Committee B, the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense, and National Security. The nine confirmed members of the Committee are:

• Adérito Hugo da Costa (CNRT), President
• Cornélio da Conceicão Gama “L7” (PLP), Vice-President
• Leandro Lobato (CNRT), Secretary
• Maria Rosa da Cãmara “Bisoi” (CNRT), Member
• David Dias Ximens “Mandati” (FRETILIN), Member
• Lídia Norberta dos Santos Martins (FRETILIN), Member
• Abílio Quintão Pinto (FRETILIN), Member
• Luís Roberto da Silva (KHUNTO), Member
• Elvina Sousa Carvalho (PD), Member

Committee B is a permanent oversight body charged with giving advice and makaing recommendations to Parliament on defense and security matters. Its jurisdiction is far-reaching. Among other things, Committee B is responsible for helping to develop security-related legislation, overview defense and security budgets, monitor defense and security expenditures and equipment procurement, review government defense policy, consult on international treaties, and advise on the use of force abroad.

As its new term begins, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) recommends that Committee B retain a substantive focus on several key issues areas. First, it should review and revise the government’s Strategic Concept for Defence and National security to ensure that it accounts for Timor-Leste’s evolving strategic environment. This means identifying the main threats facing Timor-Leste today and confirming that defense and security policies and budgets are adequately responding to these challenges rather than those of the past. Second, the Committee should clearly delineate the responsibilities of the various institutions tasked with providing security, including the PNTL, F-FDTL and intelligence services. Even more importantly, it should advise the Government on how to actually enforce these distinctions so that security sector actors do not duplicate their efforts in certain areas while leaving other tasks unfulfilled.

Third, the Committee should ensure that the defense and security budget is being managed as efficiently as possible. This will require close monitoring of how defense and security dollars are being spent and whether the money is having a real impact on the ground. The Committee should also consider releasing public reports evaluating the efficacy of defense spending so as to increase transparency and accountability. Relatedly, the Committee should monitor an audit of weapons inventory and procurement, bringing on technical advisors experienced in such matters where possible. Finally, the Committee should provide guidance to the Government as the F-FDTL works towards developing and sustaining the capacity to contribute to UN-led international peace and security operations.

FM also urges Committee B to consider ways that it can promote transparency and professionalism in the way that it carries out these duties. First, Committee B should be proactive in promoting public debate on defense issues. The opacity of internal debates within Committee B makaes their conclusions less convincing to the general public. Why has Committee B decided on this path over alternatives? Members of Parliament (MPs) are ultimately elected officials and must answer to their constituents. Explaining key decisions to the public allows the people to better understand the logic behind Committee decisions and to makae informed choices when casting their vote.

Furthermore, FM recommends that Committee B find ways to strengthen relations with civil society. In particular, the committee should solicit input from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), community and business leaders and other relevant stakeholders on key security issues. Doing so can help ensure that security actors are responding to the shifting ne’eds of the people and that defense and security policies are being developed in a collaborative, inclusive manner. The Committee should also seek to identify ways in which CSOs can get involved in furthering the objectives of defense and security.

Finally, FM urges the members of Committee B to be disciplined in their public messaging. In the past, members have made offhand comments to journalists or members of the public that are inaccurate or inconsistent. Some have even made jokes that are then confused with official policy, causing public alarm. FM recommends that Committee members come up with clear, coherent decisions, present a unified public front, and ensure all statements are accurate and consistent. Moreover, members should refrain where possible from influencing policy through media appearances and instead issue formal reports meant to advise key decision makaers or inform the public. If Committee B wishes to successfully promote transparency, accountability and professionalism in the security sector, it should also promote these qualities in its own ranks.

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