East Timor needs to sort itself out first
EAST Timorese Deputy Prime Minister Mario Viegas Carrascalao yesterday rejected an Australian proposal to process asylum-seekers.
Mr Carrascalao said East Timor had too many problems of its own to deal with Australia's as well.
"Timor Leste is not a colony of another country. We have sovereignty and our people have rights to decide for themselves what they want," he said.
"We don't want another country to dictate to us. We're already independent and won't be a puppet of any other country."
Julia Gillard is negotiating with the government in Dili about her plan to establish a regional refugee processing centre in East Timor to handle asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by boat.
The migrants generally pay Indonesian people smugglers to arrange the dangerous trip to Australian waters in unseaworthy boats, and many die or need to be rescued each year as they try to make the crossing.
East Timorese MPs voted on Monday to reject Ms Gillard's proposal, and several government and opposition leaders have expressed strong objections.
But President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao have not ruled out the idea, and Ms Gillard says she is determined to win their approval.
Opposition within Mr Gusmao's government appears to be growing, however, with Mr Carrascalao echoing fellow Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres's earlier rejection last week.
"My personal opinion is that I am against the proposal as our people have many problems to be solved and that's enough for us. Don't find more problems from another country which will trouble our development," he said.
"Australia is a big and vast country. There should be a place for the refugees there."