Subject: AFP: Belo Criticizes Timor Apathy

Agence France Presse

January 10, 2002


East Timor's spiritual leader and Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo criticized the apathy of his compatriots which he believes is hindering economic development in the Pacific nation.

In an interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili said the Timorese needed to change their dependence mentality.

"The population is involved in building democracy and in the struggle for human rights, but I see with sadness the apathy with which they relate to the economy and the material progress of the country," Belo told the agency.

Moreover, the people were gripped by "a dependence mentality which needs to be changed quickly", he said.

"Today, while we all want independence, we have to fight that mentality, to come out of the routine of our daily existence and get involved with economic development," the bishop said.

The former Portuguese colony of East Timor was invaded by Indonesian forces in 1975 and annexed by the republic a year later.

It has been under United Nations administration since 1999 and will officially become an independent state on May 20, 2002.

In a pastoral letter earlier this week, Belo condemned the attitude of his countrymen who "pass their lives pleading for government and international handouts" and who are "totally dependent on outside aid".

"To gain our full (political) independence, we have to work hard to succeed in our economic and cultural independence," he said.

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