Subject: SCMP: UN Chief Boosts Morale, Raises Rebuilding Hopes

South China Morning Post Monday, February 21, 2000


UN chief boosts morale, raises rebuilding hopes


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit last week gave a much-needed morale boost to the East Timorese as they struggle to rebuild their land.

"The presence of Kofi Annan in East Timor means he is paying respect to our people and recognising us as a nation," said Dili-based doctor Fernando Bonaparte. "We are happy about the visit because it is important that the whole international community respects us as a nation."

Mr Annan was the first UN Secretary-General to visit East Timor. Although he was there for less than 24 hours, he met independence and church leaders and visited the town of Liquica, the site of extreme militia violence before and after last year's UN-sponsored vote on independence.

Many Timorese recognise the Secretary-General as having a long-term personal interest in their country.

"Mr Annan has really been concerned about East Timorese suffering," Carlos Manuel Guterres said. "When he became Secretary-General, he supported us by sending special representative Jamsheed Marker here to see what was really happening."

Mr Guterres said he hoped the visit would speed up the reconstruction of East Timor by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet).

"Wherever I go, people are asking when will the transitional administration begin? We are hoping that Mr Annan's visit will make Untaet act faster than it has done for the last three to four months."

Mario dos Santos, an orphan who was taken into Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo's care when he was a child and who now works as the bishop's assistant, agrees. "The visit is important because of the slow situation now in East Timor," he said. "Hopefully the reconstruction will become faster."

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