Subject: East Timor plans independence celebrations

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

East Timor plans independence celebrations

DILI, East Timor, Feb 8 (Reuters) - With 100 days to go until celebrations begin for East Timor's independence day, a national steering committee released an ambitious plan on Friday for festivities.

On May 20, at one second past midnight, East Timor will officially become the first new nation of the millennium.

The United Nations has administered the territory since 1999, when peacekeepers stepped in after pro-Jakarta militias destroyed much of the country following a referendum that saw an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia.

The U.N. estimates the violence killed around 1,000 people.

According to the plan, independence celebrations will include theatre, film, photo and music festivals, a cultural fair and tourism programme, a trade exposition for national products, sports tournaments, and more.

"This is primarily a national celebration," Caroline O'Brien, media liaison officer for Independence Day Celebrations, told Reuters.

"Festivities are being planned at all levels, with events at sub-district, district, national and international levels."

The committee has been working on the celebrations since mid-2001.

Up to 200,000 East Timorese, one quarter of the population, are expected to celebrate at Tacitolu, a site of historical significance near Dili.

The plan calls for live satellite broadcasts to beam the ceremonies to rural areas as well as around the world.

Several internationally-known celebrities have been asked to perform, though O'Brien said the committee was waiting for confirmations before announcing any names.

A preliminary schedule is expected to be posted on the East Timor website next week.

Several heads of state as well as high-level dignitaries are expected to attend the festivities. Security would be tight, confirmed UN security officials during a press briefing Friday.

East Timor was under Portuguese colonial rule until 1975 when it gained freedom only to be invaded by Indonesia 10 days later.

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