Subject: Same story in conflict

Progress Leader (Australia)

April 17, 2007 Tuesday

Same story in conflict

NATALIE WHITE

MILITARY action, street massacres and an undecided election have made life hard for the people of Same, East Timor.

But the country's political violence has made the Boroondara-based Friends of Same friendship group even more determined to help the region's people.

Friends of Same convenor Kate Gillespie-Jones said it was ''very disturbing'' to find Same in the centre of media and military attention. ''Needless to say, we are very concerned about the welfare of the people,'' she said.

''Our contacts report that calm has returned and properties damaged are being repaired.''

Ms Gillespie-Jones said even though the whereabouts of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was unknown, it was not anticipated he and his supporters would cause any disruption to the presidential election, which would resume in May.

''The newly independent country of Timor-Leste was born in trauma. They have lost 200,000 of their population. Many of the tensions have complex origins and remain unresolved,'' she said.

''The country and its people will need its supporters to remain steadfast as they establish as a fully-fledged democracy under-pinned by the rule of law.

''Rebuilding the country and supporting people at grassroots remains paramount for the growing number of friendship groups throughout Australia.''

The group's recent projects included bringing six young people and their leader from Same to attend the Australian Scout Jamboree.

''We also have an ongoing scholarship program which currently supports 16 students from Same to attend well-regarded colleges elsewhere in Timor-Leste,'' she said.

''It's small scale, but both projects have a positive effect on the lives of these young people and their community.''

The programs are supported by fundraising through the sale of East Timor coffee and donations.

A major fundraising project is planned for 2007 to provide much-needed equipment for the Same Hospital.

Boroondara Friends of Same was established in 2002, a joint initiative of the Australian Local Government Association and the Government of Timor-Leste.

Details: www.friendsofsame.org  or call Annette Sweet on 9278 4639.


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