The Asean Para Games (APG) next week will feature just 10 South-east Asian nations, instead of the original full slate of 11.
Timor Leste will play no part in the Dec 3-9 event which Singapore is hosting for the first time, after being excluded due to the suspension of its National Paralympic Committee (NPC) by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, IPC communications and media director Craig Spence said Timor Leste has been suspended since April 30.
He said: "They have not held democratic elections since April 2004.
"Under the rules of the IPC, each NPC must hold democratic elections every four years."
He added that Timor Leste will be reinstated after holding elections that are fully compliant, scheduled for next month but which will not be in time for the APG.
FAIR TO ALL
If we allow it, it will create a lot of problems from other teams and athletes because the Timor Leste athletes would be competing under suspension. We felt that it would not be appropriate for them to compete if the IPC has suspended them.
ZAINAL ABU ZARIN, Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) president
It is understood that there is also infighting between two organisations both claiming to be the authorised NPC of Timor Leste.
In a telephone interview, Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) president Zainal Abu Zarin told ST that Timor Leste's representatives were absent from the last chef de mission meeting and were unable to provide an update on the situation.
"If they had turned up, we could've gotten an explanation to see if it can be resolved," he said.
"If we allow it, it will create a lot of problems from the other teams and athletes because the Timor Leste athletes would be competing under suspension.
"We felt that it would not be appropriate for them to compete if the IPC has suspended them."
An official letter was sent from the APSF to the Timor Leste NPC on Nov 6, informing it of the decision. Added Zainal, who noted that Timor Leste is a provisional member of the APSF: "We don't want to create any controversy over these Games that could mar the event."
Timor Leste last competed at the APG at the 2011 edition in Indonesia and was absent from last year's edition in Myanmar because of a lack of funds.
Timor Leste had hoped to send four athletes to compete in table tennis and athletics.
Besides the internal leadership tussle, its NPC president Juliao Soares also noted that the association is in dire need of financial resources. "We don't get support from our government or any sponsors," he said.
"If we don't have money to go, how can we send our athletes?"
The APG is expected to feature some 3,000 athletes and officials. Singapore is fielding 157 athletes across all 15 sports.