Subject: Hand of friendship held out
Fri, Nov 12, 2004
Hand of friendship held out
By DI THOMAS
FREEDOM gave East Timor the chance to rebuild friendships which had been kindled with Australia during World War II, the countrys Consul General to Australia said yesterday.
Mr Abel Guterres addressed a public meeting in Wodonga last night during an inaugural visit to the city at the invitation of church groups and Rotary clubs.
He has travelled around NSW and Victoria promoting the Friendship Relationships program between local government in Australia and East Timor.
Mr Guterres said the program was about local government in Australia sharing with the East Timorese its expertise in issues of governance, democracy, town planning, responsibility and accountability.
"We are the worlds youngest democracy. Local government can help in nurturing and entrenching the democratic system in East Timor," he said.
"We hope to have a two-tier government when our budget will allow us to have local government in place.
"Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries in the southern hemisphere which have long democratic traditions which is why East Timor wants to learn from their experience in local government.
"We need to make our people understand what local government is and its responsibilities and once they learn that they themselves can have input."
Mr Guterres said the links between local governments in Australia and East Timor would then extend to ties with schools, churches and other community groups in both countries.
He said councils in Australia were strengthening their friendship by selling coffee from East Timor and assisting fundraising efforts for local communities in the fledgling nation.
Mr Guterres said the program had met with a good response from Australian councils, which were building their relationships into potential economic links between the countries.
"There is enormous goodwill around Australia to ensure that East Timor succeeds in establishing its economic viability and democratic government," he said.
Mr Guterres said he was at an early stage in negotiations with the Wodonga council but was hopeful it would decide to become involved.
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