Subject: East Timor woos Indonesian investors

also: East Timor invites Indonesia to set up language center

The Jakarta Post June 13, 2003

East Timor woos Indonesian investors

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

East Timor has called on Indonesians to invest in the country, saying there are a number of business opportunities open to investors.

East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said on Thursday that tourism, trade and manufacturing were among the sectors that could be attractive to Indonesian investors.

He said to lure more investors, especially from Indonesia, the East Timor administration was preparing a legal framework to help business thrive.

Alkatiri said his government was considering adopting Indonesia's investment law, rather than the package of law laid out by the United Nations's transitional administration.

"The incentives (contained in the law formulated by the UN transitional administration) are just not attractive enough," Alkatiri said during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Trade (Kadin) and the East Timor Business Association.

For example, he said, the immigration law proposed by the UN administration imposed barriers on investors wishing to enter the country.

"All foreigners who enter East Timor through its main gateways have to pay a fee worth US$25," he said.

Alkatiri is here for a four-day state visit.

East Timor, which was formerly part of Indonesia, officially gained independence more a year ago. It has reported huge unexploited oil and gas resources, but today agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy with coffee, rice and maize the main commodities.

Kadin chairman Aburizal Bakrie said East Timor was a lucrative market for Indonesia, citing the high demand for Indonesian products in the country.

He said Kadin members were keen to supply foods, oil and to invest in the construction of low cost housing and infrastructure in the new country.

"If possible, we also want to take part in the exploration of East Timor's reserves of oil and natural gas," Aburizal told reporters.

He also said a member of Kadin planned to set up a garment and cement factory in East Timor, but did not provide details.

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The Jakarta Post June 13, 2003

East Timor invites Indonesia to set up language center

Endy M. Bayuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

East Timor has invited Indonesia to set up a library and a cultural center as part of the two countries' efforts to widen bilateral ties beyond economics into cultures.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, however, stressed that in spite of the wide use of Bahasa Indonesia among his people, his government would continue to insist on using Portuguese as the medium for teaching at schools in his newly independent country.

Alkatiri ended on Thursday a working visit to Indonesia to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries, as well as to address outstanding issues from East Timor's separation from Indonesia in 1999.

"We have proposed to Indonesia to set up an Indonesian language institute in Dili, perhaps a library or a cultural center," Alkatiri said.

He said the Indonesian language was widely used in the country and would likely remain so, noting that some 2,000 East Timorese were currently studying at Indonesian universities.

The proposal was one of several items discussed by officials from the two countries during Alkatiri's three-day visit.

East Timor's constitution specifies Portuguese and Tetum (the local dialect) as the country's official languages, but the government also recognizes Indonesian and English as working languages.

The abrupt change from Bahasa Indonesia, the official language used when East Timor was ruled by Jakarta between 1975 and 1999, to Portuguese has reportedly caused problems among children in the country. Dili has flown in Portuguese teachers to help with the change.

Alkatiri, who spent his years in exile in Mozambique before returning to East Timor in 1999, admitted that it was easier to learn Bahasa Indonesia than Portuguese, and that there was some resistance among East Timorese to learning Portuguese.

Portugal ruled East Timor for over 400 years until 1975.

Alkatiri said the government's decision to use Portuguese as the country's official language was grounded in historical as well as strategic reasons.

"For a small country, in order to survive, we have to be different, we must not become simply an extension of another country," he said.

Asked whether using Portuguese was only making the country an extension of Lisbon, he said Portugal was a long way from East Timor.

"We're not looking to kill Bahasa Indonesia," he said.

"Five to 10 years from now, we will reintroduce Bahasa Indonesia in our primary schools.

"Bahasa Melayu, I think it is better to talk about Bahasa Melayu (instead of Bahasa Indonesia), will be the lingua franca of this region," he said.


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