Subject: New boats under fire

The Australian

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New boats under fire

Mark Dodd

EAST Timor's opposition Fretilin party has demanded the Xanana Gusmao-led Government explain the unbudgeted purchase of two Chinese-made patrol boats for $28million -- almost twice the impoverished country's annual defence allocation.

It is understood there was no consultation between East Timorese defence officials and Australian defence advisers in Dili regarding the purchase.

Senior Australian defence officials say the decision caught them by surprise and they have questioned the suitability of the vessels.

Senior Fretilin official Jose Teixeria told The Australian the purchase was unbudgeted and raised fears the nation's petroleum fund would be used to cover the cost.

``From a legal point of view, as well as from a transparency point of view, it is necessary to have these (boats) budgeted first; then you go out and seek to purchase,'' he said.

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