Subject: AP/AFP: Muted celebrations mark E. Timor's first birthday [2 reports]

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: E Timor Celebrates First Anniversary With Parades, Songs

Agence France Presse May 20, 2003

Muted celebrations mark East Timor's first birthday

East Timor, the world's newest nation, marked its first birthday but President Xanana Gusmao found little to celebrate.

East Timor was Asia's poorest country when it declared independence one year ago, after 31 months of United Nations stewardship and 24 years of often brutal Indonesian rule.

Gusmao, in a national address Tuesday, summed up the problems bluntly.

"There is little food on the hearth; agricultural crops are either not sold or sold at extremely low prices; the price of imported goods are an insult to the purchasing power of the population," he said.

"There is no prospect for employment for the youth and both the legal and the infrastructural conditions of the country do not attract investors."

Half the population lacks any formal education, youth unemployment is high and two out of five people live on less than 55 cents a day.

The former anti-Indonesia guerrilla chief, in a progress report, said East Timor's 800,000 people are facing "enormous difficulties."

He took legislators, bureaucrats, politicians and the people themselves to task.

Parliament should assert its independence from the government, Gusmao said, and debate the people's problems.

"Some members of parliament have been wasting time airing their dirty laundry there, as if the parliament was a public sanitary facility..."

Many local administrators were unaware of problems because they never left their offices.

Freedom was the greatest gain from independence but "we are not making good use of democracy" and politicians are "not yet fully mature."

Every political act must respect the constitution, he said.

"And this means that there must not be any reason for violence, there must not be any desires to stage coups d'etat and, not least, there must not be any intention to shut down the port, the airport and the borders."

It was unclear what Gusmao was referring to. But organised riots in Dili last December, in which two people died and many buildings were destroyed, were described by one minister as an attempt to topple the government.

The riots were followed by attacks on civilians near the border in January and February in which at total of seven were killed. The attacks were widely blamed on pro-Jakarta former militiamen crossing from Indonesian West Timor.

The president also urged people to stop relying on foreign aid and to help themselves. "We have lost the sense of duty to participate and we expect the state to do it all."

He called for a move to grassroots democracy including the holding of local government elections.

"It is necessary that the people start to participate, that they also start to solve their own problems, that they start to feel, individually or as a group, that they are also actors in the development of the country," he said.

Speaking later at a ceremony to mark the anniversary, Gusmao said policies in the coming year "must take into account the fact that the difficult living conditions of our people are the weakest link of this increasingly more difficult process of nation-building."

Oil and gas developments in the Timor Sea will provide a lifeline in the future.

Under a treaty with Australia in March, the country in two or three years will receive revenues of around 50-100 million dollars a year -- almost enough to cover the national budget.


E Timor Celebrates First Anniversary With Parades, Songs

DILI, East Timor, May 20 (AP)--East Timor put aside its economic woes Tuesday to celebrate the country's first anniversary with patriotic songs, parades and a moment of silence for those killed during Indonesia's brutal 24-year rule.

About 10,000 Timorese gathered in front of the Government Palace in the capital Dili in a ceremony lacking the euphoria of last year, when world leaders feted the birth of the world's newest nation and crowds partied into the night.

Ballads and revolutionary folk songs wafted across the waterfront as Timorese watched their newly formed army and military march past.

The country's flag was raised and a minute of silence was held for "its national heroes" killed in the struggle for independence. President Xanana Gusmao then addressed the crowd and spoke of the country's struggles with poverty and joblessness.

Most in the crowd - young families, villagers dressed in traditional outfits and a ragtag group of ex-guerillas - said they were thrilled with their newfound freedoms and were proud to have a government that represented them.

But they also said the national holiday brought back bad memories, recalling how a son was tortured by the Indonesians, a father killed or an entire village terrorized.

Smaller festivities took place across the country, with church services and soccer matches. State-owned Timor Telecom gave free local phone calls for all.

"Today is a chance to express my happiness," said Antonio Rosario, a 63-year-old farmer who had arrived by truck with 70 others from his village of Camea, just east of Dili.

"We suffered so much in the past," he said. "We were always forced to flee the village for the forest. I know my government is weak but at least we are independent."

After hundreds of years of Portuguese and then Indonesian rule, East Timor voted in August 1999 to become independent in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.

The Indonesian military and its proxy militias responded by laying waste to the former province, killing 1,500 Timorese and forcing 300,000 from their homes.

The U.N. administered the country for 2 1/2 years and East Timor became independent on May 20, 2002. But the first year has been filled setbacks for the predominantly Roman Catholic country of 800,000.

Riots destroyed parts of the capital in December. Attacks by former militiamen in January raised security fears and the economy is expected to decline this year - causing unemployment rates to rise.

President Gusmao, a former freedom fighter who was jailed by Indonesia, said people were frustrated with their "difficult living conditions" but said the country would persevere.

"A year has passed with the difficulties inherent in the early stages of any social or political process," Gusmao said. "Of course, it is up to us, the Timorese, to plan and work tirelessly to meet the legitimate and profound aspirations of our people."

But in a speech broadcast earlier Tuesday on radio and television, Gusmao painted a more pessimistic picture.

"There is little food on the hearth," he said. "There is no prospect of employment for our youth and the conditions of the legal and (government) infrastructure don't attract investors."

He complained some Timorese were using democracy for personal gain and accused the Parliament of wasting time "airing its dirty laundry as if it was a public sanitary facility."

The pessimistic mood seemed to permeate the independence day celebrations, with many Timorese using the five-hour event to air their demands for cheaper goods in the market and more opportunities for their families.

"I fought for this independence and the government owes me something," said Luis Tilman dos Santos, an unemployed Falintil freedom fighter dressed in his old uniform. "I've come to demand a job from the government."

But others clearly were soaking up the historic moment, waving the country's red, yellow and black flag, singing along to revolutionary ballads and dancing to the sounds of traditional drums and gongs.

"I'm proud that I can serve my own people, my own constitution," said Rafael Marquen, an administrator at the country's main airport. "I have a say in building my country."

-Edited by Mary de Wet

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