first Tetun paper hits the streets!
East Timor's first Tetun language news paper hit the streets on Jan 18. The weekly, titled Lalenok was distributed free in Dili. The following is an English translation of the editorial titled "Leno An" or Shadows:
Editorial Lalenok, Dili 18-25 Jan, 2000 Editor-in-chief: Virgilio da Silva Guterres
Four months have passed. The year 1999 was important and indeed a turning point for the people of Timor Lorosae. Right, now we ought to be happy because what we have always dreamt of and fought so hard for with our lives is already here. An overwhelming majority of Timor Lorosae people decided not to accept Indonesia's offer of a "special autonomy".
But problems persist.
And we cannot ignore present realities. We had expectations that after the referendum new hope will be born in 1999. But that never happened and in fact the problems of that year have now been carried over into the new millennium.
1999 left behind a host of problems for Timor Lorosae people. The problems ranged from political reconciliation to rebuilding, from scratch, the country's economic, political and social infrastructure.
The year 2000 is supposed to bring in globalisation and so-called democratisation. On the other hand, however, we have to be on guard for if we not vigilant and fail to have time for self-reflection we might enter an era of neo-colonisation -- this time by outside forces beyond our control.
Interfet, UNTAET, UNHCR, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) etc have been in Timor Lorosae for the past four months. But to date, despite the presence of these bodies and agencies, workable systems are yet to be implemented in the country.
In many parts of Timor Lorosae, we've heard of cases of people dying of malnourishment, because the intended aid from UN agencies did not reach them in time.
CNRT, too, keeps Timor Lorosae people in the dark. The people eagerly await to hear CNRT's plans for kick-starting the economy and political reconciliation, but to no avail. To date they have kept silent, and have yet to clarify their stance on these important matters. In the cases of language and currency, it's clearly a matter of a tiny minority trying to impose their will on a majority.
While Tetun is the lingua farca, these political elite insist on Portuguese and the adoption of the escudo. So what will be the country's currency -- escudo, dollars or rupiahs?
If we want a truly democratic Timor Lorosae, all parties and players in the country have to be open and transparent with one another.
Our political leaders have to respect the rights of the people to be in the know of what decisions that are made in their name and in the name of Timor Lorosae. They have the right to be informed and the right to question.
When we talk of national reconstruction, let us not forget social reconstruction, too.
In Timor Lorosae, now, there is massive social dislocation and disintegration and the tasks of social reconstruction are immense and complex. Social reconstruction requires the allocation of resources to rehabilitate the social infrastructure and institutions to provide people with health care, education and other services. This is a precondition not only for people's survival, but also for enabling them to contribute to the overall rebuilding process.
For a people who have suffered over decades of extreme hardship under the Indonesians, we long for a good life free from misery and brutality. For that good life, we need to search within ourselves and within our country. Don't depend on everything that comes from Australia, Portugal or the United States. And don't let Bank Mondial or Branco Nasional Ultramarino Portugal dictate terms on how our economy should be kick-started, ignoring advice from others.
At this crucial moment in our history, we have to search within ourselves in order to realise our mistakes and shortcomings and then make efforts to correct them. Only then can reconciliation happen. But the harsh reality still remains: we, at last, won in the referendum, but still remain unable to govern ourselves and our country. Why? The simple reason: We are NOT given the opportunity to be leaders in our own country!
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