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Protests seek to put brakes on MP car sell-off bid

Opponents of plan to sell and replace parliamentarian courtesy cars in Timor-Leste call it a huge waste of money

Protests seek to put brakes on MP car sell-off bid

In this file photo, former Timor-Leste health minister Rui Araujo waves from his car following a meeting with the president in Dili. Parliamentarians have come under fire for wanting to replace a large fleet of official courtesy cars for new ones. (Photo by Valentino Dariell De Sousa/AFP)

August 29, 2017

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A move to sell-off and replace a fleet of courtesy cars for parliamentarians has caused an outcry in Timor-Leste, with many critics, including a Catholic priest calling the plan a huge waste of money.

They also called the plan a blatant attempt at graft.

MPs want to sell 65 cars bought for them five years ago at $63,000 each, for only $8,000 a piece. In their place they want the state to purchase a brand new fleet of cars for MPs about to take their seats in parliament following a recent general election.

The plan has met with protests in Asia's most Catholic country with critics saying Timor-Leste can ill-afford such extravagance and that the old cars should be handed over to the next batch of MPs.

Father Joao Soares, head of Dili Diocese's youth commission called the plan "a complete waste of people's money."

"Imagine, if every five years the state has to buy new expensive cars for legislators, while many people in this country only eat once a day, have no roof over their heads," he told ucanews.com, adding that the cars are still good.

Students have been especially vocal in their opposition to the move.

Max Maubere, a student's spokesperson from University of Timor-Leste, said the sell-off plan was a trick because it would only benefit outgoing legislators.

Although some politicians from various parties have agreed to hand their cars back to parliament, the students have voiced their doubts  

Maubere said seeing is believing.

"We will continue to hold protests until its confirmed the cars will not be sold," he said.

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