Subject: Ramos-Horta calls for more Australian aid

ABC News

Ramos-Horta calls for more Australian aid

Posted Fri Oct 31, 2008

The President of East Timor says his country is vulnerable to becoming a staging ground for people smugglers unless the Australian Government does more to help Timor's maritime police.

Jose Ramos Horta made an address to the NT Parliament last night.

During his speech, he said his country's 'weak and small' maritime police force recently stopped two people smuggling boats that were headed for Australia and New Zealand.

He says the Timor Sea is vulnerable to illicit operations unless more help is given.

"Timor Leste alone or with only modest assistance from Australia will not be able to defend itself and to uphold its responsibilities to its neighbours."

During the speech, President Ramos Horta hit out at negative reports about his country's progress, saying they're exaggerated and over simplified.

He says reports of a divide, and tensions between the east and west of his country, have been blown out of proportion

"I believe I have a good degree of understanding of the nature of the conflict, somewhat better than those who pay short visits and write up fancy academic papers or newspaper articles, mostly for casting dooms day scenarios for our nascent and vibrant democracy."

The East Timorese President also questioned why Darwin residents don't visit his country more, saying Dili is safer than many other cities in the region.

He says UN police studies show in some areas Dili rates well compared to other regional cities.

"Timor Leste, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, crime rate in Timor Leste, homicide is far, far lower than any city in the region.

"Compared with Darwin, Dili for instance doesn't have dangerous crocodiles."

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