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East Timor swears in first anti-corruption boss

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. File photo 15 February 2008
Officials in Mr Gusmao's government have faced accusations of corruption

East Timor's first anti-corruption commissioner, Aderito Soares, has been sworn in during a ceremony that was broadcast live around the tiny nation.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and senior legislators welcomed Mr Soares to his new position with a champagne toast outside parliament.

East Timor's government has faced multiple accusations of corruption with senior officials implicated.

The government has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Soares was confirmed as anti-corruption chief after winning 40 of 65 votes in the parliament on 1 February.

He insisted he had the government's support, although the opposition has accused the prime minister of blocking investigations into alleged corruption within the government.

Mr Soares earlier said that high-profile prosecutions would not be enough to end widespread corruption in East Timor. He said a long public re-education campaign would be needed.

"There are great expectations and it is a huge challenge to get the public trust. We need to handle it prudently," he told Reuters news agency.

Vast potential wealth

East Timor became the world's newest nation in 2002 after voting for independence from Indonesia in 1999, triggering a violent backlash from pro-Jakarta militia groups.

A young woman washes clothes in Dili, East Timor (file image)
Despite vast potential oil wealth, most East Timorese live in poverty

The country remains fragile and hosts a United Nations contingent to support security efforts.

East Timor is one of Asia's poorest nations but vast offshore oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea hold much potential.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2007 resulted in former Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta winning the presidency and former President, Xanana Gusmao, leading a four-party coalition called the Alliance of the Parliamentary Majority.

But Mr Gusmao's government, which faces re-election in June 2012, has been mired in corruption accusations that have implicated senior officials including Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and Finance Minister Emilia Pires.

It has also been alleged that the prime minister's daughter won a multi-million dollar food-import contract on the back of family connections.



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