09 August 2012

Timor Leste swears in larger cabinet

East Timor Legal News Source: AFP 09 August 2012 0108 hrs DILI: Timor Leste's president swore in the nation's new coalition cabinet Wednesday, announcing three additional ministerial posts that the opposition has dubbed an "unnecessary" use of the poor nation's money.

President Taur Matan Ruak announced 16 ministers, three more than the former government. Six are from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), which leads the coalition government after winning the general election in July.

"I am satisfied with this structure. But what I ask of you all, the new ministers, is that you work efficiently. I also ask that you don't repeat the mistakes made by past ministers," Ruak said, after corruption allegations marred the former cabinet.

Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo, president of the minority Democratic Party (PD) that joined the coalition after the CNRT failed to win an absolute majority, will be deputy prime minister and minister for social welfare.

Jose Luis Guterres of minority Frente-Mudanca, another ally, was appointed foreign affairs minister.

The size of the new cabinet, with three additional ministerial posts, drew criticism, especially from the ranks of the opposition Fretilin Party, which came second to the CNRT in the July legislative elections.

Fretilin said the government's creation of new ministries was wasteful for the tiny half-island nation of just 1.1 million people, half of whom live under the international poverty line.

"This will increase spending on government ministers and vice ministers, and it's completely unnecessary for such a small country," Fretilin vice president Aresenio Babo told AFP upon seeing an earlier draft list.

"The only explanation is creating jobs for friends to satisfy coalition and individual interests."

Michael Leach of Australia's Swinburne University in Melbourne said that the Timorese would judge over the five-year term whether the spending had been in the public's interest.

"Ultimately, the public will decide if their performance justifies the extra cost, or if it's seen as a form of reward to governing party members and supporters," he said.

Timor Leste won independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a bloody 24-year occupation.

Presidential and legislative elections this year were seen as key tests of the nation's stability as UN peacekeepers plan to pull out of the once restive country by the end of the year.

- AFP/fa
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