Subject: East Timor cabinet bans controversial hotel construction

Deutsche Presse-Agentur March 16, 2001

East Timor cabinet bans controversial hotel construction Dili, East Timor

East Timor's transitional cabinet has banned construction of a controversial hotel project on prime beach front property in the capital Dili, a United Nations (U.N.) official said on Friday.

The banning order is the first to be handed down against a major development project and signaled the start of a crack down against shaky developers trying to exploit East Timor's ill-defined land ownership laws and building codes.

"This cabinet decision sends a clear message to developers that East Timor is not a place to be exploited. We welcome investment but we want it to be environmentally sound," said Bernadette Connole, spokeswoman for the U.N. Department of Infrastructure.

The U.N. is administering East Timor, a former Portugese colony that broke away from Indonesian rule last year, as it prepares for independence later this year.

The Singaporean owners of Dili 2001 Hotel had ignored U.N. demands to halt construction since January, said Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The company, NGT Engineering and Construction, had breached environmental and procedural laws by failing to apply for a building permit, she said.

"There was no permission - they (company) just went in and started building a major construction, not just a little house on the beach," said Reis.

The building, a two-storey prefabricated steel construction, has been likened to a giant warehouse and is located close to Cristo Rei, a coastal strip that comes under U.N. environmental protection laws.

Another problem for UNTAET has been the issue of Burmese labourers brought in to help speed up construction of the hotel. dpa md jc js

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