Subject: AN: Xanana urges regional natural disaster detection cooperation

East Timor president urges regional natural disaster detection cooperation

March 11, 2005 6:30am

Text of unattributed article headlined "East Timor wants regional cooperation to anticipate natural disasters" by Indonesian news agency Antara web site

Jakarta: East Timor, the country that obtained sovereignty on 20 May 2002 is also prone to natural disasters, so the Timorese government wants to cooperate with neighbouring countries in the region to anticipate any [future] natural disasters.

The president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, raised the matter during his keynote speech at the "Lake Toba Summit", the high-level world regional conference in Medan on Thursday [10 March].

Being a small country, 19,000 sq km wide, does not mean East Timor is free of destructive environmental influences in the world.

"As a small country, we are concerned about global warming which is a result of industrial countries not clearly responding to huge, threatening disasters that spook this planet and humankind," said Xanana.

The Timorese government has actually formed a unit to handle natural disasters however the unit is not yet able to work effectively, even against a small natural disaster.

Whereas, said Xanana, at the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, although we have not been hit with a tsunami, our country has on occasion experienced natural disasters in other forms, such as floods, drought, and earthquakes.

East Timor has also frequently experienced landslides resulting from farmers' deforestation [activities]. They use old methods to clear land, such as the slash and burn method.

"Here regional cooperation is important, where we can exchange information with neighbouring countries who have more sophisticated equipment to detect potential natural disasters to assist our government in facing natural disasters and minimize their impact," said Xanana.

East Timor, the newest country with 925,000 residents, has also experienced difficulties in determining development priorities for the community, among other reasons because health and the economy still dominate.

Malaria, dengue fever, tuberculosis and diarrhoea are general illnesses found among the East Timorese community who also experience malnutrition.

In the economic field, said Xanana, the majority of residents have an income of 50 cents per day.

"From here we can see why it is now difficult to determine priorities," he said.

Nevertheless, explained Xanana in 2001 East Timor produced "Vision 2002" which entailed the community's wishes, including good governance, transparency and a policy to combat corruption.

The East Timorese community also want education, access to health services, and infrastructure to connect community activities, electricity, water and decent housing.

At the end of his speech, President Xanana invited the Lake Toba Summit participants to take a close look at the situation in East Timor and offered to host the next summit in Dili, the capital of East Timor.

Source: Antara news agency, Jakarta, in Indonesian 11 Mar 05

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