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Cablegate: Gotl Defends Bere Release in Parliament Debate, Survives

VZCZCXRO1516
PP RUEHCHI RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHDT #0284/01 2890550
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 160550Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4577
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1338
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 1072
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 4126

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000284

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KAWC ID TT
SUBJECT: GOTL DEFENDS BERE RELEASE IN PARLIAMENT DEBATE, SURVIVES
NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

REF: DILI 231, DILI 233, DILI 254

DILI 00000284 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: The decision to release indicted war criminal
Martenus Bere on August 30 continues to roil Timorese politics.
Under pressure from the opposition parties in parliament, the
governing coalition acceded to demands for a parliamentary
debate and no-confidence vote on October 12. Prime Minister
Xanana Gusmao and his senior ministers made an extended
appearance in the parliament and responded to aggressive
questioning from the opposition parliamentarians in a session
that lasted more than twelve hours and was broadcast live across
the country. Although the governing coalition defeated the
no-confidence measure, the opposition scored political points in
forcing the PM to account for his actions and by successfully
highlighting the potential illegality of the August 30 decision.
Nevertheless, the debate signaled the growing maturity of
Timor-Leste's democratic institutions. Instead of spilling out
into the streets, the greatest constitutional challenge since
2006 was deliberated with great thoroughness by the national
parliament. End Summary.

2. (U) After stalling on an opposition request until after the
October 9 local elections, the governing Alliance Majority Party
(AMP) agreed to an October 12 parliamentary debate and a
no-confidence vote on the August 30 decision to release indicted
war criminal Martenus Bere under Indonesian pressure (see
reftels). Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and his senior ministers
made a rare appearance in the parliament to defend their
decision. The debate and subsequent no-confidence vote lasted
the entire day and well into the night, and was broadcast on
national television and radio.

3. (U) After the initial interventions by the representatives of
the two opposition parties, PM Gusmao gave a long, impassioned
defense of his decision to release Bere, ignoring the protests
when he exceeded his allotted time. PM Gusmao defended the
decision on the grounds of national interest, arguing that
Indonesia is a critical partner and neighbor which accounts for
75 percent of Timorese trade, hosts eight thousand Timorese
university students, strongly supports Timor-Leste's accession
to ASEAN, and with which Timor-Leste has major unresolved border
disputes. On the question of justice, PM Gusmao denied
suggestions that the governing coalition had abandoned the
principle of justice and categorically declared that it would
not present a general amnesty bill to the parliament. None of
the parties in the governing coalition, he stated, were involved
in the atrocities dating back to 1974, implying instead that it
is the opposition Fretilin party itself that stands to gain from
an amnesty. (Note: By focusing on the political parties, PM
Gusmao sidestepped the question of individual responsibility, a
difficult issue that he has highlighted privately.)

4. (U) In recounting the events that led to Bere's release, PM
Gusmao suggested that his detention and arrest by the Suai
district court may have violated a 2000 United Nations rule that
established courts with special jurisdiction for serious crimes
(Note: Opposition MPs challenged this interpretation, however,
in the subsequent debate). PM Gusmao also revealed that the
Indonesian request that the GOTL release Bere was initiated on
August 26 and not on the morning of August 30 as had been widely
believed. When no legal solution could be found, however, and
Indonesia ratcheted up the pressure on August 30, PM Gusmao
admitted that he ordered the Minister of Justice to have Bere
released.

5. (SBU) After a long and sometimes heated debate, the AMP
coalition defeated the no-confidence measure by a vote of 39 to
25. Despite surviving the vote, however, the GOTL did not
emerge unscathed. The debate left no opening for a final
solution to the unresolved Bere case with the major opposition
party Fretilin insisting that any solution be in accordance with
Timorese laws and announcing their intention to appeal the case
to the Court of Appeals. The mere fact, moreover, that the
Prime Minister - who remains a national hero and symbol of the
Timorese resistance - was forced to publicly defend his decision
and respond to vocal criticism from the opposition can probably
be considered a minor victory for the opposition.

DILI 00000284 002.2 OF 002

6. (SBU) More broadly, however, the debate in parliament can be
seen as a major step forward for Timor-Leste's democratic
institutions, particularly the parliament itself. Instead of
spilling out into the streets, arguably the most serious
challenge to constitutional order since 2006 was deliberated by
the people's representatives in full accordance with
parliamentary procedure. President Ramos-Horta described the
debate as a victory for Timorese democracy.

7. (SBU) Meanwhile, Bere remains holed up in the Indonesian
Embassy in Dili. Bilateral negotiations to formulate a transfer
to Indonesia remain bogged down. Next steps include a possible
investigation into Bere's release by the Timorese Court of
Appeals and a possible appeal to the Court by Fretilin regarding
the constitutionality of the PM's August 30 decision to release
Bere.
KLEMM

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