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TIMOR LESTE – MPs, attend parliament, allow debate on draft law on domestic violence!

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member in Timor Leste, the Judicial Monitoring System Program, has
issued this statement on April 21, lamenting that the second day of
debate on the Draft Law Against Domestic Violence was postponed due to
lack of MPs present in Parliament.
FORUM-ASIA's member in Timor Leste, the Judicial Monitoring System Program, has issued this statement on April 21, lamenting that the second day of debate on the Draft Law Against Domestic Violence was postponed due to lack of MPs present in Parliament.

The Draft Law Against Domestic Violence No. 31/II/2009, which was tabled for discussion in a plenary session of the National Parliament, entered the discussion phase in a specialized session before Committee A that deals with the Constitutional Affairs, Law and Justice, Public Administration, Local Government and Legislation.

On Wednesday 14 April 2010 Committee A engaged in the first day of discussion in the conference room of the National Parliament. 8 of the 12 members of Committee A were present. Several members from other Committees also took part in this discussion. Civil society groups, including national and international NGOs, have been actively engaged in preparing the draft Law Against Domestic Violence and were eagerly following the discussion taking place between the elected members of the National Parliament. In addition, the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, Mrs. Idelta Rodgriques, led a small group who also participated in the debate.

On the first day members of Committee A and members from other committees enthusiastically shared their views on the draft law.  However, once again several members of Committee A did not comply with Article 10 (a) of the National Parliament Rules of Procedure which states that: "The duties of a Member of Parliament shall be as follows: a) To report punctually to and attend sessions of the Plenary and meetings of the committees he or she serves on". According to the agenda for Committee A, the debate or discussion should have started at 3pm, but it was delayed until 4pm. When the debate started the President of Committee A asked for the members of this committee to stay longer to discuss the draft law, but several members of Parliament were critical of this suggestion because they believed that the debate should finish within normal working hours, rather than continue past 6pm. Committee A therefore only had a very short time to debate the draft Law against Domestic Violence, and only articles 1 and 2 were voted on.      

On day two of the debate the President of Committee A and several members of parliament gathered in the Conference Room of the National Parliament at 9am. They were joined by members of the media and civil society who were present to monitor the activities of Committee A. However, by 10.30 only five members of Committee A had appeared. As there was no quorum to continue debate or take a vote the members of parliament eventually decided to disperse, as it was getting close to lunch-time. 

In response to this situation MP Fernanda Borges in her position as the President of Committee A and President of the Political Party PUN stated that a member of parliament who has failed to attend without justification can be replaced by another member of parliament through the head of his/her political party to enable the Committee to establish a quorum and continue debate and vote as necessary. This provision is set out in Article 5 of the National Parliament Rules of Procedure that states: (Temporary replacement) 1. A Member of Parliament who is to absent himself or herself for more than three consecutive days on substantiated grounds may, through his or her political party, submit a request for an early justification of absence and temporary replacement of office.         

JSMP believes that several MPs do not fully understand their functions and roles as set out in the National Parliament's Rules of Procedure. Furthermore, several members of Parliament have failed to fulfill their responsibilities as members of an organ of sovereignty that represents all Timorese citizens and is vested with legislative supervisory and political decision making powers, as set out in Article 92 of the RDTL Constitution. In JSMP's view, they have failed to uphold their institutional responsibility to participate in a special debate on the Draft Law Against Domestic Violence, which has been eagerly anticipated by large sections of the community, and who await the speedy approval and enactment of this law.

Members of parliament have a duty to properly fulfill their responsibilities, particularly their constitutional powers to represent, defend and exercise legislative supervisory and political decision making powers. The fulfillment of these duties should in turn make a positive contribution towards the development of the nation.

For this reason, with due respect, JSMP would like to humbly request and appeal to the honorable representatives of the people to truly observe and understand the role that has been entrusted to them in the Constitution and place the common interests of the people above all other personal interests.

JSMP hopes that such delays will not be experienced again in the future, and requests Members of the National Parliament to uphold the expectations of the people to truly represent, defend and guarantee their interests.