Subject: SMH: Stop-the-rot campaign helps E Timor on road to political integrity

Sydney Morning Herald August 11, 2001

Stop-the-rot campaign helps East Timor on road to political integrity

By Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili and agencies

An Australian-funded program teaching East Timorese to reject corruption hopes to make an impact on political parties competing in national elections this month for an 88-seat constituent assembly.

Representatives of more than 20 local non-government organisations took part in the week-long workshop in Dili, which ended yesterday.

The program, organised by Australian Legal Resources International (ALRI) and the East Timor Jurists Association, was built on the message "Corruption is like a bad disease".

The ALRI program manager, Nathan Laws, said he was encouraged by the high level of debate, input and enthusiasm from participants.

"This agenda and the outcomes have been recorded in Tetum [local language] producing the only known set of East Timorese anti-corruption material that will be useful for many years to come," he said.

"This is especially appropriate, considering the forthcoming election, as the opportunity of securing commitment to anti-corruption issues by the political parties contending the election has presented itself."

Sixteen parties are competing in the August 30 elections, a milestone on the road to independence expected to be granted by the UN next year.

Trainees from the workshop plan to spread the anti-corruption message by holding 12 similar workshops across the country. Corruption in East Timor was endemic during 24-years of Indonesian rule that ended in 1999. An influx of aid money to help rebuild East Timor's infrastructure destroyed during post-ballot violence has raised fears about the potential for corruption to flourish again.

As the East Timorese prepare to take another step towards nationhood, local human rights workers have expressed concern about the outlook for its relationship with Indonesia after the inclusion of military officers in the new Indonesian Cabinet.

East Timor's main human rights group, Yayasan Hak, said the appointment of a retired general, A. M Hendroprioyono, as the intelligence chief was worrying because of his links with militia groups in 1999. "He was known to have been present during meetings in East Timor when the militia were established," said a spokesman, Joaquim Fonseca.

Yayasan Hak has criticised President Megawati Sukarnoputri's support for pro-Jakarta militia during the 1999 independence vote. The group says her close military ties mean it is unlikely she will bring to justice Indonesian generals responsible for masterminding the militia violence.

"It is worrying for ... the process of democracy in Indonesia that those generals who were part of a long-standing authoritarian government are given new political roles," Mr Fonseca said.

But Mari Alkatiri, vice president of East Timor's largest political party, played down the importance of Hendropriyono's appointment. He was unlikely to remain in the cabinet for long, she said.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's appointment as chief security minister was welcomed because of the former general's close ties with East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao.


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