Subject: Healing Manatuto

Oakleigh Monash/Spingvale Dandenong Leader (Australia)

November 19, 2003 Wednesday

Healing Manatuto

By Rachel Kleinman

THE stunning beach at Manatuto, East Timor, provides an ideal backyard for its youngsters on a Saturday afternoon.

But as they clamber over wooden boats on the sand and splash in the sea, their parents are trying to eke out a living at the town's market, selling everything from coffee and dried corn to roosters and fried bananas.

The town of Manatuto is on the northern coast of East Timor, about an hour's drive east of the capital, Dili. It is part of the Manatuto district, which encompasses the country's central region and is home to 37,000 people.

The town was a prime target for destruction when the Indonesians departed in 1999 because it was the home town of resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, now the country's president.

Many houses remain damaged and empty, an eerie reminder of the area's tragic and violent history, still fresh in the minds of many people who live here.

Kingston Council offered the hand of friendship to the area 12 months ago.

So far the Kingston community has raised $4000 to help Manatuto, but it has not yet been decided how the money will be spent.

Last month, council economic development manager Suzanne Ferguson and infrastructure works team leader Brian Macnamara were in East Timor and met the district administrator, as well as several sucos (sub district chiefs).

The market was a hot topic.

Ms Ferguson said the district administration was keen for the market to move.

"The market operates in the street near the beach at the moment," she said.

"But the main road between Dili and Baucau bypasses the town of Manatuto, so the market does not pick up any passing trade.

"They want to move the market to the edge of town, adjacent to the road."

But Ms Ferguson said the administration had not yet consulted the community.

"It could mean it is further for local people to carry their produce to the market so we tried to encourage community consultation," she said.

"At the moment it is a small community market but it could have potential as a wholesale market."

Mr Macnamara admitted the project would be starting from scratch.

"At this stage there are no maps of Manatuto, they don't have any design for a new market, or costings," he said.

Mr Macnamara said the council could help initially by generating a map of the district based on aerial photos.

* If you would like to contribute towards Kingston's work in East Timor, phone 9581 4735.

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