Subject: Justice the aim for East Timor politician

Justice the aim for East Timor politician



A leading member of East Timor's emerging new generation of political leaders will speak at the ACT Legislative Assembly this evening. Parliamentarian and leader of East Timor's National Unity Party, Fernanda Borges, is visiting Canberra this week for discussions with Federal Government and Opposition parliamentarians.

The first female leader of a political party in East Timor, Ms Borges' declared priorities are advancing justice and combating corruption in her small, still impoverished country.

''East Timor won't be able to develop, we won't be able to go forward unless we uphold human rights, and ensure there is accountability not only for atrocities during the Indonesian occupation, but also for more recent crimes and rights violations'', Ms Borges told The Canberra Times.

As chairwoman of the East Timorese Parliament's human rights committee, Ms Borges has been a strong supporter of calls for the Indonesian military and militia groups to be brought to account before an international tribunal for human rights abuse in East Timor. Unlike many prominent East Timorese leaders, Ms Borges' political career began long after the 1975 Indonesian invasion.

Ms Borges was only six when her family fled East Timor in late 1975, first seeking refuge in West Timor and then Portugal before arriving in Australia in 1976.

Educated in Darwin and at Wollongong University, Ms Borges pursued a career in the banking sector, working with National Mutual Royal Bank, which was bought out by ANZ Bank, and later Westpac.

She became actively involved in the East Timorese independence struggle after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre. After the Indonesian military left East Timor in 1999, she successfully lobbied ANZ Bank to establish a presence in East Timor and help rebuild the country's devastated economy.

Ms Borges served as finance minister in the East Timorese interim government in 2001-02, frequently clashing with then chief minister and Fretilin Party leader Mari Alkatiri.

In 2002 she resigned from her post, citing ''failures by the government to implement principles of good governance, the lack of transparency in developing policy and the personalised process of decision-making''.

Seven years later, Ms Borges says much greater government transparency and accountability are essential if East Timor is to benefit from the gas and oil revenue from the Timor Gap.

''Without this, the oil and gas money won't be spent properly, nor will foreign governments be confident that aid money will be spent to alleviate poverty,'' she said. ''Corruption is a very difficult and growing problem in East Timor.''

Ms Borges will give a public talk organised by the non-government organisation East Timor Women Australia at the ACT Legislative Assembly at 6pm today.

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