Subject: Democracy Talks
Northcote Leader (Australia)
November 19, 2003 Wednesday
DELEGATES from Melbourne councils gathered in East Timor recently to discuss grass roots democracy with their Timorese counterparts.
Representatives from Darebin, Moreland, Yarra, Kingston and Port Phillip councils attended the Timor Lorosae's fourth planning conference in Baucau last month.
RMIT academic John Jackson, Australian Planning Institute representative Steve Dunn from Knox Council and two Sydney councils' officials also attended.
They met several of East Timor's district administrators and government ministers to discuss decentralising the nation's government.
East Timor is split into 13 districts and 65 sub-districts, which at present have little spending or power of their own. The central government takes control.
Some districts seek decentralisation, similar to that in Australia, where states and councils control their own budgets and services.
East Timor vice-minister of transport, communications and public works Sesar Vital Moreira said "the dream" of decentralisation was still far off.
He said the government was still deciding whether each district would have its own parliament.
Baucau district administrator Micaela Ximenes said decentralisation must be established step-by-step and that local communities needed to be better informed than now.
She said district administrators should be elected by communities rather than appointed by central governments.
Fifteen Victorian councils, including those represented at the Baucau meeting, have friendship agreements with East Timorese districts.
With financial and in-kind support, they provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the country's rebuilding.