16 July 2014

TL and CPLP should not welcome a corrupt dictator

Portuguese-speaking leaders are gathering in Dili for the Tenth Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP). One of the most important and controversial items on their agenda is the acceptance of Equatorial Guinea as a full member of CPLP.

Dili residents are talking a lot about the preparations for the VIP visitors -- widespread emergency construction and high spending -- but La'o Hamutuk thinks we should also pay attention to what will happen at the Summit itself. Yesterday, La'o Hamutuk and many other Timorese concerned about human rights sent an open letter (Tetum original or Portuguese translation) to President Taur Matan Ruak and other RDTL leaders, reminding them that "many people do not agree that Equatorial Guinea, a non-Portuguese-speaking nation, should join CPLP" and asking the Summit "not to approve this accession or at least to make it conditional on significant improvement in human rights and reducing corruption."

1995: protesting Suharto's visit to New York City.
During the Suharto dictatorship's brutal, corrupt occupation of Timor-Leste, friends around the world protested when Suharto visited their countries. Together with the leaders of many Portuguese-speaking countries, they campaigned to isolate his regime from international legitimacy. We believe that the people of Equatorial Guinea deserve the same support, as they struggle under the regime which has ruled them for 35 years.

La'o Hamutuk has posted a page on our website with our letter and reference materials. The following are the main reasons we think Timor-Leste and CPLP should not welcome this dictator to our country and community:
  • No democracy and many human rights violations, including killings
  • Little freedom of the press or tolerance of people expressing their views
  • Widespread poverty in one of Africa's most oil-rich countries
  • No transparency about government finances
  • One of the most corrupt regimes in the world.
Equatorial Guinea has fewer people, more oil, and deeper poverty than Timor-Leste, and is seen as the textbook case of the 'resource curse.' However, Dictator Teodoro Obiang is bringing 80 people here with him to the CPLP Summit. We have been told that his plane is too large to land in Dili, so they are chartering two planes from Singapore.

Timor-Leste's Constitution says that RDTL will extend solidarity to people around the world who struggle for national liberation, but the CPLP Statutes say that members cannot "interfere" in the internal affairs of other members. If Timor-Leste and CPLP accept Equatorial Guinea as a member, we abandon our commitment to the human rights of the people who live there.

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