Subject: Timor leader says slow reconstruction a problem

Also: SMH: Identity the key to use of Portuguese: Gusmao

Timor leader says slow reconstruction a problem

CANBERRA, May 5 (Reuters) - East Timor independence leader Jose Xanana Gusmao said on Friday the slow pace of reconstructing the war-ravaged former Indonesian territory was causing problems among his people and delaying the transition into independence.

Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), said recent incidents of violence highlighted the precariousness of the situation in East Timor where unemployment is running at about 80 percent.

``(There is) drunkenness and gambling amongst organised groups of youths who are easily manipulated by third parties to commit violence to destabilise the general situation and discredit the CNRT,'' Gusmoa told the National Press Club.

``Recent incidents of violence have highlight the lack of employment and giving arise to the urgent, difficult social conditions.''

East Timor has been left in ruins after pro-Jakarta militias, backed by Indonesia's military, went on the rampage last August in a vengeful spree of killing and destruction when the territory voted for independence after 24 years of Indonesian rule.

Australia led a multinational force to restore peace in the territory and in February handed over the reins to a United Nations peace-keeping mission.

But Gusmao, widely tipped to become president when East Timor achieves full independence in about two years, said efforts to rebuild East Timor were slow due to a lack of funds.

International financial bodies have estimated reconstruction of East Timor will cost about US$322 million.

Gusmao said the hands of the East Timorese were tied as programmes aimed at reviving basis infrastructure could only commence after a World Bank meeting in Lisbon in June.

``Unfortunately we will need to wait for the outcome of a World Bank meeting where donors will receive reports on reconstruction plans and budgets,'' he said.

Australia's opposition foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton said social disparities between the 9,000 U.N. troops and the citizens of East Timor had also caused disturbances.

``Eighty percent unemployment and great social disparities between the U.N. presence and the citizens of East Timor have generated unrest and disturbances,'' he told a forum on Australia and East Timor in Canberra.

Brereton said the task of reconstruction was enormous and foreign investment was urgently required.

``And on top of all this, there is the challenge of building the democratic institutions required to serve an independent state,'' Brereton said.

Australia's involvement in East Timor adversely affected relations with neighbour Indonesia.

However in a surprise move Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid has proposed as three-way meeting with Gusmao and Australian Prime Minsiter John Howard to repair strained ties.

``Such a meeting will serve as a forum of confidence building for all three nations,'' said Gusmao, who is due to meet Howard on Saturday in Sydney to put forward this proposal.

Sydney Morning Herald May 6, 2000

Identity the key to use of Portuguese: Gusmao

By DAVID LAGUE, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

East Timor's resistance leader, Mr Xanana Gusmao, has defended the controversial proposal for Portuguese to become the national language when the territory becomes an independent country.

The proposal, supported by the Portuguese-educated elite in the struggle against Indonesian occupation, is unpopular with many younger East Timorese, but Mr Gusmao said yesterday that the language of the former colonial power had become fundamental to East Timor's identity.

The colonial influence of Portugal had given East Timor an identity distinct from the rest of the 13,000 islands and 220 million people of the Indonesian archipelago and this had opened up the right to self-determination, he said.

He told the National Press Club in Canberra that Portuguese had been adopted as the language of the resistance movement, and a new East Timor would want to join the group of Portuguese-speaking nations in the same way that Singapore and Malaysia had joined the British Commonwealth.

"Ironically, Portugal's presence gave us this identity, historical, cultural and religious, that allowed us to be different from the Indonesian archipelago. It is not nostalgia; it is fundamental to our identity."

Younger East Timorese complain that the resistance leadership and the traditional elite families of East Timor insist on the use of Portuguese because it will allow them to dominate politics and the commerce.

Many of the younger generation have been educated in Bahasa Indonesia, the common language of Indonesia, and would prefer this to be the national tongue. Others would prefer English to be adopted so East Timor could improve its ties with Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Mr Gusmao said the local language, Tetum, would be inappropriate in the short term because there were four major variants spoken, and it would take up to 15 years to modernise it as a common language. East Timor needed a language now that could cope with the terminology of science and politics, he said.

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