Subject: Timor Marks 3rd Anniversary

Also - RT: UN peacekeepers end East Timor mission; KY: E. Timor commemorates 3rd independence anniversary

East Timor President Marks 3rd Anniversary

By GUIDO GUILLIART, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 8 minutes ago

DILI, East Timor - East Timor's president marked the tiny country's third anniversary Friday with a somber speech warning that patience and sacrifice are still needed in the face of a moribund economy, stifling poverty and a declining U.N presence.

President Xanana Gusmao ­ a former freedom fighter jailed by Indonesia during its 24-year occupation ­ told thousands of citizens gathered at a soccer stadium in the capital they should be proud of their country, but that "much more needs to be done" after gaining independence in 2002.

East Timor now faces the additional task of administering its porous borders without the help of U.N. peacekeepers. They ended their mission Friday as part of a larger reduction in U.N. forces from about 900 to about 275 staffers.

The smaller mission will remain for another year, after Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the country still needed international assistance.

"We are 3-years old but our path ahead is still fraught with many challenges, in various aspects of nation-building, development and in reducing poverty," Gusmao said in his nationally televised speech.

"Building a nation implies working hard, making sacrifices," he said. "But we are a resilient people and we understand that independence is a long process."

East Timor's 800,000 people voted for independence in 1999 in a U.N.-organized referendum. The Indonesian military and its proxy militias struck back, unleashing a wave of violence that killed 1,500 people and left 300,000 homeless.

The world body administered the territory for 2 1/2 years, then handed it to the Timorese on May 20, 2002. While democracy has taken hold, East Timor remains one of the poorest in Asia, dogged by double-digit unemployment. Its greatest hope for economic growth ­ billions of dollars in oil revenue ­ has been delayed over an ongoing border dispute with Australia.

Grumbling over the country's lack of progress has sparked periodic, anti-government demonstrations, including a 19-day protest involving about 3,000 people that ended earlier this month.

"I am very proud to witness the raising of our flag, but I'm also unhappy because so many people are still hungry," said Nerinha Pumpido Pereira, a 21-year-old university student. "They need food, they need money, and the young people need job opportunities where they can earn a few dollars to sustain their life."

The mood on Friday, though, was largely festive. The crowd ­ a mix of families, former freedom fighters and political supporters of the governing Fretilin Party ­ cheered their leaders and enjoyed traditional dances and patriotic songs.


UN peacekeepers end East Timor mission

DILI/JAKARTA (Reuters) - The last United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor will pull out on Friday, ending a mission to stabilise the former Portuguese colony following its bloody 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia.

The pullout coincides with a visit to Jakarta by U.N. legal experts conducting a fact-finding inquiry into the 1999 carnage as well as Jakarta's accounting for the violence.

The U.N. mission in East Timor, which numbered 11,000 troops and civilians when first authorised, is expected to soon decline to 130 administrators, police and military advisers. For the past year there have been some 450 peacekeepers in the country. "They have been leaving over the last few days and all will be gone today," a U.N. spokeswoman in the East Timor capital Dili said.

She said security remained an issue in the country but added "there was more importance placed on the need to train and transfer knowledge to the police and border patrol units".

The peacekeeping mission will be replaced by the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste, or UNOTIL, which will operate until May 20 next year, a U.N. statement said.

It will include 45 civilian advisers, 60 police advisers, 15 military advisers and 10 human rights officers.


Friday May 20, 1:42 PM

E. Timor commemorates 3rd independence anniversary

(Kyodo) _ Thousands of people gathered Friday at a soccer stadium in the capital Dili to celebrate the third anniversary of East Timor's independence.

President Xanana Gusmao, addressing the crowd during the ceremony, said although the country has made significant progress in peace and security in the past three years, more nation-building efforts are required, especially in the economic field.

"We are three years old but our path ahead is still fraught with many challenges in various aspects of nation building, development and in reducing poverty," Gusmao said.

He said East Timor must create more jobs for the young people, encourage more foreign and domestic investment and develop agriculture, the country's largest industry.

Gusmao expressed appreciation for the role that the United Nations has played in securing and maintaining peace and stability in his country since it split from Indonesia through a U.N.-organized referendum on Aug. 30, 1999, and became fully independent May 20, 2002 after a U.N.-led transition period.

He welcomed last month's decision of the U.N. Security Council to establish a "follow-on political mission" in East Timor to assist the country for another year with international technical advisers, including military and police advisers.

[This message was distributed via the east-timor news list. Write]

Back to May menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu