December 18, 2023 – The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) has expressed its disappointment over President José Ramos Horta’s decision to pardon two former government officials. The move has sparked controversy in the Timorese judicial system and society.

In a statement released on their Facebook page, Fretilin, the leading opposition party in East Timor, opposed President Horta’s decision to grant clemency to former Finance Minister Emília Pires and former Deputy Health Minister Madalena Hanjam. Both officials were previously convicted and sentenced to prison for economic involvement in business deals.

Fretilin argued that this decision undermines the fight against corruption and weakens the judiciary system. They emphasized that one of the pardoned officials, Emília Pires, had not yet served her prison sentence, highlighting a significant concern about the impact of these pardons on the justice system.

President Horta, defending his decision, stated that he would have felt like a “political coward” if he had not made this unpopular choice. He expressed his belief that the courts’ decision was unjust.

The controversy extends beyond political circles, with various non-governmental organizations and activists criticizing the decision. This incident has raised questions about the new pardon law passed in November by the Timorese parliament, which Fretilin voted against. The party fears that this law may erode public trust in the judiciary and set a dangerous precedent for future cases.

The decision to pardon these former officials is seen as a challenge to the rule of law in East Timor and a potential setback in the nation’s ongoing battle against corruption.