Subject: East Timor pushes controversial plan to adopt Portuguese language

Deutsche Presse-Agentur August 2, 2001

East Timor pushes controversial plan to adopt Portuguese language

Dili, East Timor

East Timor's transitional government on Thursday moved forward with a controversial plan to adopt Portuguese as the country's official language by announcing it would recruit 723 Portuguese language teachers.

The education division of the department of social affairs said it would be recruiting the teachers for primary, junior and secondary schools nationwide from August 3 until August 11.

The plan is widely controversial, especially among many of the country's students, who were educated in Indonesia and are fluent in that language.

English is also rapidly increasing in popularity among young East Timorese who see it as a prerequisite for a well-paid job with the U.N. mission administering the territory and foreign companies now setting up businesses.

In addition, many Timorese in the countryside only speak Tetum, the primary local dialect.

However, senior leaders including independence fighter Xanana Gusmao have strongly supported adopting Portuguese, the language of their former colonisers, saying it gives East Timor a cultural identity.

East Timor is preparing for full statehood later this year, beginning with the selection of a constituent assembly on August 30, which will then become its first-ever parliament. dpa md jc js

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