Subject: GLW: Fretilin criticized

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Green Left Weekly June 11, 2003

EAST TIMOR: Opposition leader criticises Fretilin

BY VANNESSA HEARMAN

MELBOURNE — Fernando de Araujo heads the Democratic Party (PD) in East Timor, the second-largest party in the country's parliament. He also leads an eight-party parliamentary opposition to the Fretilin government. The opposition coalition includes parties from a diverse range of political perspectives.

De Araujo spoke at a forum organised by the East Timor Students' Association, Asialink and the Melbourne Institute for Asian Languages and Societies, on May 30.

Prior to 1999, Araujo was a leader of the clandestine student movement. He served time on charges of subversion in Cipinang Prison in Jakarta alongside Xanana Gusmao. For a brief period, he was part of the United Nations Transitional Administration's second cabinet as vice-minister for foreign affairs.

In 1999, the priorities identified for the country were agricultural development and improved health and education systems, Araujo noted. However, to date, there is little progress: "Just because a few schools have been repaired, this doesn't mean that we have made advances in developing education in our country."

Araujo charged that the government is too focused on the oil resources of the Timor Gap, as opposed to attempting to develop sectors such as agriculture. "When the oil is finished, does that mean we are finished too?" he asked.

Even though there is extreme poverty in East Timor, the government has increased consumption taxes and import duties, resulting in the price of rice, instant noodles and other basic commodities increasing.

Without discussing the legacy of UN rule and the continuing influence of the international financial institutions, Araujo declared that the government's attitude toward the question of taking out loans was "too proud" He used the analogy of the head of the family boasting that the family was "doing okay" when there was no rice in the kitchen and his children could not afford to go to school.

"We cannot be nationalists, when we see things wrong in our country, we have to say they are wrong", Araujo stated. He alleged that discrimination was rampant in East Timor, with preferential treatment being accorded to Fretilin party members.

Fretilin has introduced a system of "open government" in which senior government figures make visits to regional areas and hold direct consultations with the people. Araujo criticised this practice as one designed to centralise power in the hands of a few, as opposed to holding elections for local government.

De Araujo urged solidarity activists who campaigned for East Timor's independence to continue to follow the situation in the country. "Don't be afraid to criticise, East Timor belongs to all of us, we struggled together to bring about independence", he said.


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