Subject: Lusa: Portuguese usage 'generalized' in less than decade - Ambassador

Also: Bishop Belo urges 'intense' action on behalf of Portuguese language

East Timor: Portuguese usage 'generalized' in less than decade - Ambassador

Bragança, Portugal, Oct. 4 (Lusa) - The use of Portuguese should be "generalized" throughout East Timor in less than a decade, given the combined efforts of the government and Lisbon, forecasts Dili's ambassador to Portugal.

Noting that Portuguese was being taught in grades one through six, Ambassador Pascoela Barreto told Lusa Monday that "within five, six or seven years, Portuguese will be a generalized reality in East Timor's daily life".

Barreto said the campaign to "reintroduce" Portuguese in East Timor, one of the newly independent country's two official languages, alongside the local Tetum, had made great strides since Indonesia's withdrawal in 1999.

Progress had been achieved, she said, despite "some resistance" from parts of the population that were educated in Bahasa under Jakarta's occupation, a 24-year period in which the use of Portuguese was banned.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Lusophone forum in the northern Portuguese city of Bragança, the ambassador said that Portuguese usage had already risen to about 25% of the Timorese, from only 5% to 10% six years ago.




East Timor: Bishop Belo urges 'intense' action on behalf of Portuguese language

Bragança, Portugal, Oct. 6 (Lusa) - The former leader of East Timor's Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Ximenes Belo, has called on Lisbon and Dili for "intense" action to reintroduce the use of Portuguese in his homeland.

"Naturally, there is a desire to learn, to conserve, but, on the other hand, there is a need for help and policies to maintain the language in East Timor", Bishop Belo said on the sidelines of a Lusophone conference in northern Bragança.

In comments to Lusa Tuesday, the prelate said it was "not enough" for Portugal to send language teachers to East Timor, whose government has chosen Portuguese as one of its two official languages, along with the local Tetum.

"It is necessary to train Timorese, set up libraries and infrastructures and, above all, to keep some radio, television and newspapers to make the language enter the minds of people spontaneously", he said.

Belo called for "more investment", "something intense" on the part of both governments in the campaign to reintroduce the language following nearly a quarter century of prohibition under Indonesian occupation.

In addressing the conference, Belo recalled that his people had paid a high price for their attachment to Portugal and the former colonial power's language under Indonesia rule.

"You want the Timorese to speak your language", he said, "but the Timorese were beaten, tortured, for speaking your language".

Earlier in the conference, Dili's ambassador to Lisbon, Pascoela Barreto, underlined recent progress, forecasting the "generalized" use of Portuguese within less than a decade.

Reintroduction of the language has been a major part of Portugal's significant aid programs in East Timor since the withdrawal of Indonesia in 1999.



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