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segunda-feira, 22 de março de 2010

Timor Leste's ambassador for education questioned Noronha's intention in keeping 15 teenagers to stay in Malaysia?

THE wife of East Timor's Prime Minister has demanded an Australian woman return to Dili 15 Timorese teenagers who have been under her care in Malaysia for several years.

Kirsty Sword-Gusmao said the teenagers, who were taken to Malaysia ostensibly for medical treatment, should be brought back to East Timor. But Sydney woman Lala Noronha, 55, has told the Herald the teenagers do not want to return. ''It's not about me. It's actually up to the kids to say what they want to do,'' Ms Noronha said yesterday.

She said she had allowed the teenagers to stay in Malaysia because they told her they did not want to ''go back and be like'' other children from an orphanage she founded in Dili 10 years ago. She had received messages from Dili saying the children from the orphanage did not have enough to eat, were not attending school and two teenage girls had become pregnant.

Mrs Sword-Gusmao, a campaigner for women's and children rights, said she had repeatedly asked the Timorese government, through its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, to establish what Ms Noronha's intentions were for the teenagers, most of whom she said had at least one parent in East Timor.

She said living in Malaysia would be ''eroding the children's sense of belonging and sense of identity''.

''There are ample opportunities for these kids in Timor,'' Mrs Sword-Gusmao said.

The Dili orphanage Ms Noronha helped establish in 1999 has been closed and more than 15 of the children there were either returned to their relatives or put under the care of other families. Mrs Kirsty-Sword was the orphanage's patron, which helped Ms Noronha attract donors. In late 2006, when violent gangs were rampaging through Dili's streets, Malaysian peacekeepers flew one of the children to Malaysia for urgent medical treatment. Over the next couple of years more of the children arrived in Malaysia for treatment.

In November 2007 Timorese authorities stopped 27 children from the orphanage being taken to Malaysia after concerns were raised by the United Nations child rights agency UNICEF. Ms Noronha was waiting in Malaysia to receive them.

Mrs Sword-Gusmao played a role in stopping the children leaving East Timor, which she said prompted the criticism that she was ''the evil witch from the West''.

Speaking in Sydney, Ms Noronha said their future had to be ''sorted out.''

''If they [Timorese] want the kids back, they have to have a plan. What are they going to do with them?'' she asked. Carmen da Cruz, the head of East Timor's child protection agency, backed Mrs Sword-Gusmao's call.
Source:SMH.COM

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