Subject: TLGOV: Government corrects report about ammunition purchases for the National

REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DE TIMOR-LESTE

PRIME MINISTER

PRESS STATEMENT

Government corrects report about ammunition purchases for the National Police.

“The Australian” newspaper published in its 7 July 2005 edition a report about supplies of ammunition to the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) that is contains false information and requires clarification.

It is not true that the supplies of ammunition to the PNTL by the company Cavalo Bravo followed a decision by the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri. According Gregório Silva, deputy director of the Procurement Division with in the Ministry of Planning and Finance (the entity responsible for all Government purchases), the Cavalo Bravo won a public and international tender in 2002 for a public contract to supply ammunition to the Defence Force of Timor-Leste (FDTL). Five companies participated in this tender. Cavalo Bravo put forward a proposal to supply ammunition at USD 12c less per item than company that was ranked second. According to the Procurement Division rules, they can return to a company that has satisfactorily provided goods, for FDTL, in the 2003/04 fiscal year, and for PNTL in the 2004/05 fiscal year. It was with this contract renewal mechanism that Cavalo Bravo agreed, already in this year, to provide PNTL with 300,000 rounds of 5.65mm ammunition and 40,000 rounds of at a unit price of US37c, at a total cost of $US125.800. Deputy Gregório Silva said: “This situation is foreshadowed in the law is transparent and there does not exist a monoply with the Cavalo Bravo company.”

António Freitas, director-general of Budget for the Ministry of Planning and Finance, said this acquisition had a “Budget provision” and was done in accordance with the rules set out in the State Budget. The Interior Minister, Rogério Lobato, who has responsibility for PNTL, said that this was an effective purchase, with authorization from the from the Ministry of Planning and Finance, and its services, seeing that it had a budget allocation, triggered the process of returning to the mechanisms for purchasing set out in the law. In this case, they returned to a company that had already provided a similar service.

The FDTL’s chief, Major-General Taur Matan Ruak, denied that the company Cavalo Bravo, owned by the youngest brother of the Prime Minister, has a mandate to purchase military equipment in the name of the Timorese State, such as tanks, patrol boats and attack helicopters, contrary to what was reported in the newspaper. “It is a lie, it is speculation,” the major general said. And he said the FDTL had other priorities. “We have many other things to do.”

The secretary of State for Defence, Roque Rodrigues, said the priorities of the country are not to buy tanks or helicopters. “It is completely riduculous to speak of the purchase of tanks. What we are going to do is invest in the fight against poverty, in improving the conditions of the veterans, the widows and orphans. We are not buying armaments without examining in detail the likely threat. We are not spendthrifts.”

Mr Rodrigues added: “This country has an international image of good governance. Because of the oil, the Prime Minister deals with millions and millions of dollars. It would be ridiculous that he be involved in a scandal for a few hundreds dollars.”

And he underlined that Cavalo Bravo does not represent the State: “This company does not have a monoply and neither does it have any mandate from the Timorese State. I deny it categorically.”

The Interior Minister, Mr Lobato, said the purchas eof ammunition was essential for the formation of the PNTL: “Following the “downsizing” of the United Nations peacekeeping forces, the Timorese State has to occupy some positions. We have to prepare our forces and it is necessary that we do some training. The guns need ammuniotion and the people need continous training to use the guns safely.”

The PNTL numbers referred to in the articles are also not correct. At present PNTL has a total of 2977 officers, with 292 in the Border Patrol Unit, 217 in the Rapid Intervention Unit, 82 in the Police Reserve Unita, and 152 in the Personal Security Unit. All of these were trained by the UN. Interntional cooperation in the development of the police in Timor-Leste has been intense. PNTL officers are still being trained by police from Australia and the United Kingdom.

This is the second time that the journalist Mark Dodd has added to the register of innaccurrate reports that must be denounced. At the end of 2003 he said that Timor-Leste was going to buy arms from North Korea. Time has shows that this was not correct.

At that time, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr José Ramos-Horta, said, with reason, that Mark Dodd’s story was "biased, irresponsible and unethical". Time shows that Ramos-Horta is indeed correct.

Díli, 7 July 2005


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