Subject: LUSA: Back from Oe Cusse, Gama Inaugurates Portuguese Cultural Center

East Timor: Back from Oe Cusse, Gama Inaugurates Portuguese Cultural Center 17 Jan-20:25

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama inaugurated on Wednesday the new Portuguese Cultural Center in the East Timorese capital Dili, after returning from a trip to the north coast Oe Cusse enclave.

Gama used the occasion of the ceremony to discuss the needs of Oe Cusse during a meeting of more than half an hour with East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao and chief UN transition administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello, among others.

The Cultural Center is an initiative of Portugal's Camões Institute and will be the 17th worldwide and the 7th to be opened in a Portuguese-speaking country.

Among dignitaries present at the ceremony was the president of the Lisbon-based Camões Institute, Jorge Couto.

"All of us in the CPLP (Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries) felt year after year that our Asian component was missing, that the CPLP would not be complete without East Timor", Couto said, adding that the facility would primarily be a "Portuguese language cultural center".

With the central goal of supporting "cultural actions", the center's library already counts more than 1,500 volumes, a video section and multi-media room. Its program is also to include art exhibitions, Portuguese-language film cycles, seminars and meetings to promote the use of Portuguese, and support for Portuguese-language authors and East Timorese artists.

Earlier Wednesday, Gama had visited the isolated Oe Cusse enclave, promising Lisbon's help to re-establish transportation links to Dili and recover from anti-independence militia destruction.

"If there is one place that deserves renewed friendship and commitment to cooperation between Portugal and East Timor, it is Oe Cusse", Gama told local leaders, recalling that the enclave was where Portuguese navigators first landed on the island in the 16th century.

Gama, who began a four-day visit to East Timor Tuesday, pledged to raise the sensitive issue of transport links with the territory's UN transition administration in Dili and with Portuguese aid officials.

A first step, he said, could be the use of two patrol boats recently offered by Lisbon as the nucleus of a future Timorese naval force.

During his visit to the enclave, which is wedged into the northern coast of Indonesian West Timor, Gama heard much criticism from local leaders that Portuguese aid promised by Prime Minister Antonio Guterres on a visit last April was slow in coming.

The people of Oe Cusse currently have only one weekly boat link to Dili, which frequently triggers protests and conflicts over the 50 available places.

Jose Ramos Horta, who holds Dili's foreign affairs portfolio and accompanied Gama to Oe Cusse, said he would again raise the issue of a land corridor when he visits Jakarta next week.

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