Subject: KY: Reconstruction of E. Timor public buildings begins

Reconstruction of E. Timor public buildings begins

06/16/2000 Kyodo News

DILI, East Timor , June 16 --

The United Nations has started reconstruction of public buildings in East Timor that were systematically looted and destroyed late last year ahead of the Indonesian military's pullout from the territory it occupied for 24 years, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday.

Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), told reporters the rehabilitation of the Central Payments Office, only a shell of which remains, began Thursday and is expected to be completed in two months.

"This is the first major reconstruction project on a public building carried out by UNTAET," she said.

Reis said an Australian company, TIC East Timor , will restore the building at a cost of $416,000 from the $31 million UNTAET Trust Fund, which will also cover installation of high-standard security systems and reinstalling bank vaults.

After the Aug. 30, 1999 vote for independence, East Timor 's public banking system was systematically dismantled. Every vault of any size was destroyed, the bank buildings were burned or wrecked, and records and assets were reportedly removed to various parts of Indonesia.

Other buildings in Dili to be reconstructed in the transitional period with money from the trust fund include a judicial affairs office, the Court of Appeal and an employment service center.

In Baucau, East Timor 's second largest city, rehabilitation works are to be conducted on the prison, district court, public prosecutors office and market.

Public buildings appear to have been specifically targeted throughout East Timor.

But most still have walls remaining due to their solid construction and relatively thick plaster that have protected the concrete walls from structural fire damage.

UNTAET officials said rehabilitation of buildings through local contractors will not be possible in the short term since the contracting industry was in the hands of Indonesian firms, all of which have left East Timor and taken their equipment with them.

While building destruction took place throughout East Timor , the level of damage differs from place to place, with buildings in communities located away from surfaced roads having suffered less.

East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao had earlier questioned some of the world body's priorities in reconstructing public buildings, calling for a more balanced approach to be taken between public buildings in Dili and those in the outlying districts.

Reis said UNTAET is consulting closely with Xanana's National Council for Timorese Resistance on the reconstruction issue, and that UNTAET staff have been visiting districts to hear local priorities.

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