Subject: KY: Institute for Tetun development opens in E. Timor

Kyodo News Service Institute for Tetun development opens in E. Timor

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

DILI, East Timor, Jan. 1 Kyodo

An institute for development of the widely spoken dialect of Tetun in East Timor was set up Saturday with support from a group of Japanese nongovernmental organizations.

The East Timor Language Institute, which opened after a three-day conference on the Tetun language in Dili, aims to upgrade the local dialect as an official language for the new independent country of East Timor, institute director Benjamin Corte de Real said.

The institute will be administered by a university in East Timor to be established in the near future after the bureaucracy system in the territory starts operating, said de Real, a former head of the English Department at East Timor University.

East Timor's education infrastructure, including the university, was wrecked in a campaign of killing, burning and looting by pro-Jakarta militias in early September following the territory's vote for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-run referendum Aug. 30.

The institute is badly needed at a critical time when the territory is looking for an official language, but the local dialect has disadvantages compared with Portuguese, the language of the territory's former colonial power Portugal, or English, de Real said.

'Tetun as the lingua franca of Timorese people has been effective since the early time of the Catholic Church here but nobody cared to use it in written form, so it could not accommodate modern technology,' he said.

As a linguistic expert, de Real said Tetun was mixed with Portuguese, which was widely used during the 400-year colonial period and again with Bahasa Indonesia when East Timor was under Jakarta's rule for 24 years from 1975.

'We don't want to purify it but study how to enrich the language' in order to advance communication, he said.

The institute has submitted a proposal for its first year of operation to the Japanese government, including a request for 50,000-80,000 dollars in financial support.

Tomiko Okazaki, a member of Japan's House of Councilors and secretary general of a Diet forum on East Timor, along with a group of Japanese nongovernmental organizations, helped facilitate the proposal to Tokyo.

The first job of the institute is to publish in 2000 a Tetun dictionary, which would be updated annually, said Michio Takahashi, secretary general of the Japan Support Committee for Darwin East Timor School, who has advocated Tetun for years.

He said his organization has supported the publication of three books on Tetun since 1996, which covered grammatical use and Tetun-English translation.


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