Subject: Statement by Bishop Belo to International Donors

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Mgr. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B. Bishop of Dili, East Timor

25 April 2002



With the independence of East Timor on 20 May 2002, it is of the utmost importance that efforts are greatly increased to eradicate poverty from our martyred nation at the same time that peace and security are reinforced, which must be our fundamental goals.

Nearly 25 years of armed conflict and the tragic loss of one third of our people from war-related causes was followed by the terrible killing and destruction of 1999 which left few families unaffected, with hundreds of thousands forcibly uprooted and most of the territory's buildings and infrastructure destroyed. With a history like this, by any standard, East Timor has faced monumental challenges. The people of East Timor are grateful for the generous support provided by the United Nations and many countries to protect and rebuild our homeland over the past two and a half years. But the devastation of 1999 was so widespread that so very much remains to be done, both in terms of reconstruction and other human needs. I therefore appeal for the continuing support of the international community in the coming years.

This support should take various forms. Like any nation, East Timor must depend first and foremost on its own initiative, and so education and training of our people are prominent concerns. Help in these and other areas are needed, because our resources are extremely limited at present, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Although progress in rebuilding has since been made with the help of international donors, the scale of the destruction in 1999 was so great that much of East Timor, especially in the countryside, remains in ruins, with the vast majority of the population unemployed. International assistance to East Timor should, in the first place, focus on the creation of jobs, first because of the dignity of work, but also because unemployment breeds instability, which could jeopardize all the efforts that have been made to date.

Future international assistance for East Timor should be directed toward employment, especially for young people, and toward projects on health, education, environmental protection, refugee resettlement, judicial training and small business. I must emphasize that all refugees who wish to return to East Timor must be allowed the opportunity to do so.

At independence, East Timor will be one of the poorest nations in the world. The destruction of 1999 will take many years in overcome. The last thing that East Timor needs on top of all its many problems is to incur debt, which would make it much more difficult to rebuild our country and eradicate poverty. For these reasons I fervently hope that international donors will agree to continuing generous assistance for East Timor so that are new nation can refrain from taking loans. I understand that the projected budget shortfall for the first three years of independence is as much as $65 million per year. With all the reconstruction that must still take place, East Timor should not be forced to take loans to meet this shortfall. At the international donors group including the United States which will meet in East Timor on May 14-15, 2002 to decide future aid levels, I pray that participating nations will make the most generous contributions possible so that this deficit is erased.

I hope that all will work toward these goals.

With many thanks for your consideration,

I remain,

Mgr. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B.

Bishop of Dili, East Timor 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Co-Laureate

25 April 2002

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