New East Timor PM flown to Singapore for medical tests

New East Timor PM flown to Singapore for medical tests

DILI, East Timor - East Timor's Prime Minister Rui Araujo was flown to Singapore on Monday for medical tests after suffering fatigue, the government said, just a month after being sworn in.

Araujo took over as premier in February from Xanana Gusmao, a hero in East Timor for leading the independence fight against Indonesian occupation, as the nation seeks to hand power to a new generation of leaders.

A leading opposition figure, it was hoped Araujo's appointment at the head of a national unity government would help ease often fraught politics in the country, which forms half the island of Timor with Indonesia.

The government said in a statement Monday that Araujo, a New Zealand-trained doctor, "is flying to Singapore for medical tests. The prime minister became unwell on Sunday evening after returning from a working visit to Ainaro (in southwest East Timor)".

Examinations in hospital "indicated the need for further tests", so doctors recommended that he be transferred to Singapore, which has world-class medical services. He was flown to the city-state in an air ambulance.

Agio Pereira, East Timor's minister of state, will assume the duties of the prime minister in Araujo's absence, the statement said.

The government said that Araujo, a former health minister, was suffering fatigue, but gave no further details about what may have caused him to fall ill.

"A team of doctors said that he is fatigued. As the equipment in East Timor is not sufficient, he is being evacuated to Singapore for further treatment," Health Minister Maria do Ceu Sarmento Pina da Costa told a press conference.

His illness comes during a major government shake up, as the country of 1.1 million people tries to move past its traumatic past and do more to lift its people out of poverty.

The cabinet has been cut from more than 50 members to 33 in a bid to slash spending and boost efficiency, with several ministers who had been embroiled in corruption replaced with new faces.

Gusmao - who had been both president and premier during the first decade of East Timor's independence - has stayed on as a minister in the new government in a bid to ensure a smooth transition.

He became East Timor's first president in 2002 when the country gained its independence.

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