Subject: LUSA: Portuguese is a 'fundamental part' of national identity

East Timor: Portuguese is a 'fundamental part' of national identity- Gusmão

Viseu, Portugal, April 19 (Lusa) Despite a 24-year prohibition on its use by during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, the Portuguese language remains a "fundamental part" of the new nation`s identity, President Xanana Gusmão said on Monday.

Speaking at a conference on the promotion and defense of Portuguese, Gusmão said his country`s decision to pick Portuguese as one of its official languages had been controversial.

However, Timor`s historic links with Lisbon and other Portuguese- speaking nations and the ties of friendship between the peoples of the Lusophone word were part of the fledgling nation`s heritage, said Gusmão.

Timor`s retention of Portuguese after its breakaway from Indonesia`s quarter-century occupation made the world`s newest nation "different" among the thousands of other islands that form the Indonesian archipelago", he noted.

The reintroduction of Portuguese in Timor after Jakarta's withdrawal from the territory has been extremely difficult, said Gusmão, who pledged to safeguard the European language in Asia.

Quoting the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, the Timorese leader said: "Everything is worthwhile if the soul is not small".

Attending the three-day congress sponsored by the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) in the northern city of Viseu, Gusmão was beginning a week-long visit to Portugal.

Lisbon's aid to its former territory since its independence in 2002 has focused strongly on education and the reintroduction of Portuguese.

Gusmão will end his visit in Lisbon, where he will address a conference on "the challenges and opportunities" facing East Timor and attend the 30th anniversary celebrations Sunday of Portugal's April 25 democracy-restoring Carnation Revolution.

JLG/SAS/CJB Lusa

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