Challenger blames old leaders for violence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am

Fernanda Borges, 38, is not the conventional East Timorese politician. In a country impregnated with machismo and where the wounds from the 24-year war for independence from Indonesia still have not healed, the Australia-educated economist is striving to offer an alternative.

'I established PUN [Party of National Unity] because the other parties are the expression of individuals or historical periods,' said Ms Borges, who was shipped out of Timor as a refugee after Indonesia invaded in 1975. 'My goal is to make people understand that the current leadership is no longer what the country needs to progress.'

Although respecting their past roles in the resistance, she labelled East Timorese leaders Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and Mari Alkatiri as equally responsible culprits in the recent crisis. 'They should be held accountable,' she said. 'We have experienced a lot of difficulties, which have been compounded by their incapacities to transform the country democratically. They have created an environment of violence.' The fiery chairwoman is confident that her party will do well at the ballot box, and rules out joining a coalition government.

'If we get sufficient seats to form a government we will do so. Otherwise we would prefer to stay in Parliament, as we do not believe that our principles and values will be upheld in a coalition with the parties running,' said Ms Borges, who returned to Dili in 1999 and resigned as minister of finance in 2002 - denouncing 'a lack of transparency'.

Among the issues her party stands for, she listed 'respect for human rights and the equal implementation of the law'. As for its platform, she said 'education, decentralisation, improvement of the health system and clean governance are at the top of the list'. Established in 2005, the unity party is one of 14 parties and coalitions competing for today's vote.