Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has threatened to sack everyone in his finance department over a $32 million scam involving top officials and lawyers, reports said Thursday.
E. Timor faces last polls test before UN pulls out
The UN, after presidential polls were held peacefully over two rounds in March and April, says it will pull out its remaining 1,300 troops within six months if the general election goes well.
There are concerns that violence will reignite in the oil-rich but underdeveloped state if, as predicted, none of the 21 parties wins a parliamentary majority and a fragile coalition takes power.
Following the end of Portuguese rule in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years. Some 183,000 people died from fighting, disease and starvation before the half-island state voted for independence in 1999.
The country has offshore fields of oil and natural gas. Its Petroleum Fund has swelled to $10 billion, but corruption is endemic and half of its 1.1 million people are officially classified as living in poverty.
The left-wing Fretilin party, which became synonymous with the pro-independence struggle, has a populist platform for spending the oil money to lift income and education levels.
The centre-left National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) wants rather to establish a plan for longer-term investment on major infrastructure projects.
Saturday's polls are due to be the last big test before East Timor, which celebrated a decade of formal independence in May, takes full responsibility for its own security.
The United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT) was deployed in 2006, after a political crisis in which dozens were killed and tens of thousands displaced, with a mandate to restore security.
The only major violence since then was a failed assassination attempt in 2008 on president Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel peace laureate who lost to Taur Matan Ruak in the recent presidential election.
This weekend's vote should be largely peaceful but after the results are announced, "there will be some disappointment, and that (may) give rise to some level of tension", UNMIT's Danish head, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said.
"I can only hope the political leaders will continue to convey these messages to their followers, that whatever you do, don't resort to violence," he said.
In the 2007 election, Fretilin won 21 of the parliament's 65 seats and the CNRT came second with 18. But the CNRT won out in the post-election horse-trading to lead a coalition government with three smaller parties.
There was tension for more than a month with Fretilin declaring itself the rightful winner and refusing to accept defeat at first. But CNRT president Xanana Gusmao, a charismatic war hero, has remained prime minister since.
Fretilin secretary-general Mari Alkatiri has warned that his party is "completely against a national unity government", or partnership with the CNRT.
But Gusmao has left the door open for bargaining, saying at a recent campaign rally: "CNRT supporters must respect the other political parties... we must sit in the middle and talk about the development of this country."
Ramos-Horta, who still commands popular respect, has also thrown his weight behind Gusmao and a unity government.
Residents of the ramshackle capital Dili want to see the politicians focus on using the country's natural resources to reduce the grinding poverty and the unemployment rate, which stands at 20 percent.
"Leaders should improve our living conditions," said Antonieta Magno. "We should give young people the opportunity to study," she added, pointing to a cluster of jobless youths dancing to Portuguese pop.
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