Subject: East Timor may be late for its millennium

East Timor may be late for its millennium

DILI, East Timor, Dec 30 (Reuters) - When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, East Timor will herald the start of the next millennium as the newest nation on earth.

The problem is deciding which midnight to celebrate in the ravaged territory only just released from 23 years under Indonesian control.

Its past rulers, the argument goes, put it in the wrong time zone at eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Its geographic location should make it nine hours ahead.

There are no clear records to say who or what is behind the anomaly.

Some say the decision was made by the Portuguese colonial rulers, but most blame their successors, Indonesia, who allegedly turned the clock back one hour for military expediency.

``They (Indonesians) moved the time one hour back so it would coincide with the time in Bali which was the military headquarters of East Timor...so it was done for the convenience of the military,'' said Juan Federer, executive director of Timor Aid.

Now economic expediency is the rule in the impoverished region.

The United Nations transitional administration in East Timor, or UNTAET, is toying with the idea of winding the clocks forward an hour.

``The days would be longer and there would be less need for electrical lighting,'' said UNTAET chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

``There would also be some advantages, especially in the urban areas to put East Timor in a time zone which is geographically correct,'' he said.

UNTAET is helping lead the territory to independence in two or three years.

But Joao Carrascalao, brother of the former governor of East Timor, believes most East Timorese are accustomed to daybreak at 5 am and dusk at 6 pm and want to leave the time as it is.

``Portugal tried to change the time forward in 1974 because the sun rises too early but the suggestion raised a lot of problems with the Timorese and I still don't think it would work today because it conflicts with their way of life,'' he said.


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