Subject: KY: E. Timor defense commander calls for more Japan aid to fight poverty


Monday October 18, 5:41 PM

E. Timor defense commander calls for more Japan aid to fight poverty

East Timor's defense forces commander on Monday thanked Japan for being its biggest aid donor but called for more support as East Timorese are still fighting poverty two years after independence from Indonesia.

Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak told Kyodo News in an interview in Sendai that although the international community sees the U.N. peacekeeping operations in East Timor as successful, it is still not complete because many issues such as unemployment and lack of infrastructure remain.

"After the independence in 2002, we are still poor," Ruak, 48, said. "We still need support from the Japanese government and nongovernmental organizations."

Ruak also described Japan's peacekeeping efforts as impressive, saying the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force troops used their engineering knowledge to help rebuild East Timor and that they still have "a very strong connection with our people."

Asked about recent antigovernment demonstrations by former pro-independence guerilla members and demands by military officers for better treatment, Ruak said East Timor now has a democratic system and that people are free to express their opinions and even organize demonstrations as long as they do not use violence.

"The important thing is that you maintain the fighting spirit and never lose confidence," said Ruak, who used to command the rebel army Falintil.

Ruak arrived in Japan earlier this month for his first visit to attend a meeting of Asian military officials in Tokyo. He then traveled to Sendai in northeastern Japan where he is scheduled to give a lecture Wednesday on East Timor's fight for independence.

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