By Ted McDonnell
FORMER NEW Zealand Prime Minister and United Nations Administrator Helen Clark is set to fly into Timor Leste together with a UN delegation to "discuss" with the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao the recent sacking of Portuguese judges and corruption advisors and rampant corruption within his government.
It is believed, however, even if Ms Clark and her UN delegation arrive in Timor Leste the Prime Minister has warned he may not see them and has warned of a potential terrorist attack.
UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul has warned that the audit of the justice sector and the dismissal of all international judicial personnel from Timor-Leste puts at risk the independence of the judiciary in the country.
“I am troubled that the decision may have been taken in retaliation for court judgments which displeased members of the Government and the Parliament,” Ms. Knaul said.
She added that the UN had already raised the issue with the authorities and urged them to reconsider their decision.
“The resolutions represent a serious interference in the independence of the judiciary,” Ms. Knaul said, stressing that the immediate dismissal of international judicial personnel could undermine the proper administration of justice in Timor-Leste, including access to justice and due process guarantees.
“It may also have a chilling effect on national members of the judiciary, affecting their independence,” she warned.
Intelligence sources in Australia say the claim of a potential terrorist attack has been fabricated by people 'close to the government' to intimidate and scare the UN delegation from coming to Timor Leste.
"If anything the so called terrorist attacked would be more like a locally based militia group close to and organised by people in the government. You have to remember some members of the Timor Leste government are former Faltinal so they could easily whip up a hostile and violet reception much like the troubles of 2006," one Canberra based source said.
"It won't be Al Quada or any such group, that's nonsense. It will be locally based and organised. The Australian Embassy and other foreign embassies are on alert."
Timor Leste’s latest political crisis came last month when PM Gusmao demanded the National Parliament agree with him to sack foreign judiciary after a string of losses in the Dili District Court in tax disputes. Gusmao won the day convincing his fellow Parliamentarians that it was in Timor Leste’s National interests to abruptly end the contracts of foreign judges and at the same time sack corruption advisors. Gusmao ordered the foreign judiciary be deported from Timor Leste within days of the National Parliament’s decision.
Five judges, two prosecutors and an advisor were promptly sacked and deported.
Many Fretilin Parliamentarians voted against the sackings stating the National Parliament was trampling on Timor Leste’s Constitution and the decision by the government grossly interfered the Separation of Powers.
The sackings also came at a time when PM Gusmao’s closest confidante Emilia Pires was to face Court for alleged corruption charges. Pires, along with former vice-minister for health Madalena Hanjam, have been indicted for allegedly granting her Melbourne based husband a $2 million contract to supply beds to Dili's main hospital.
Many observers believe the sacking of the judges is a blatant attempt by Gusmao to stop the Pires trial and end investigations into himself and other ministers for alleged corruption and nepotism.
It is believed corruption prosecutors were investigating up to eight of Gusmao’s Ministers at a time when the Prime Minister has also come under the microscope for alleged nepotism involving his daughter Zenilda and nephew Nilton over hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts.
One of the few foreign legal advisors not to be sacked by Gusmao's government is former Australian Labor Party senator Janelle Saffin. Saffin is also a close ally of Gusmao's Australian-born wife Kirsty.