Subject: AP: Investors Wary Of E Timor On Weak Judiciary - Foreign Min

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Investors Wary Of E Timor On Weak Judiciary - Foreign Min

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug. 13 (AP)--East Timor took control of its legal system from United Nations administrators too soon and weakness of the judiciary is hurting investor confidence, Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Tuesday.

"Our judiciary is very, very weak," Ramos-Horta said during a visit to Malaysia. "We should not have rushed into the handover from international staff to East Timorese. None of our judges, prosecutors have any prior experience or training."

East Timor became an independent country in May after two years of U.N. administration following the territory's breakaway from Indonesia after two decades of sometimes brutal rule.

The half-island territory is currently aid-dependent and the government is struggling to kick-start the economy based on agriculture and future exploitation of offshore oil and gas reserves.

Foreign investment is considered vital, but Ramos-Horta said the weak legal system "is creating a loss of trust" among potential investors. He didn't elaborate.

The U.N. set up a fledgling court system that has handled dozens of cases, including issuing 117 indictments and 25 convictions related to violence fueled by the Indonesian military after East Timorese backed independence at a 1999 referendum.

"Right now we are harvesting some hasty decisions in transferring full responsibility of the judiciary to the Timorese side," said Ramos-Horta, who is accompanying East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on a five-day visit to Malaysia to promote bilateral relations and trade.

Ramos-Horta said East Timor wouldn't apply to join Southeast Asia's main economic grouping - the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations - for three to five years, although it wants to become a member of the group's broader security forum as soon as possible.

Just attending ASEAN's busy schedule of meetings would cost "the whole foreign ministry budget," he said.

East Timor has been ambivalent about joining ASEAN, which stood by when Indonesia invaded in 1976 as the territory was obtaining independence from Portugal. ASEAN was also slow to respond to the pro-Indonesian rampage in 1999.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It meets annually for security talks with other Asia Pacific nations including the U.S., China and both Koreas at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Ramos-Horta said East Timor wants to become a full member of the security forum soon, and to contribute to fighting trans-border crime such as human smuggling, drug trafficking and terrorism.


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