Happy Birthday, East Timor!

The reports around the world are seasoned with pessimism, the mass media highlight the difficulties for the people of East Timor. Life is not easy and there are problems to solve but nobody in East Timor forgets our fight for independence, a fight which we won, after Kissinger gave the go-ahead for the bloody invasion and occupation by Indonesia in 1975.

Today, 20th May 2003, we celebrate our first anniversary as a nation, the youngest in the international community. president Xanana Gusmao (Sha-NA-na Guz MA u) declared to the population (700,000) that not enough has been done to ensure a more comfortable standard of living for the people, 42% of whom still live below the poverty line and more than 50% of those over 15 years of age are illiterate. This is the legacy of a quarter of a century of Indonesian rule.

However, and in the words of President Xanana Gusmao, the historic leader of the FALINTIL guerrilla forces which resisted the might of the Indonesian army backed by its main ally, the United States of America, from the mountains of Timor, East Timor is stable and the next year will be better.

On the horizon, geographical and in time, there are natural resources (oil and gas) to be exploited and tourism to develop. Although the present may be clouded, the future promises to smile of this sleeping crocodile in the Sea of Timor, which is how popular legend explains how this island came to exist.

Translated from the Portuguese by Marcia MIRANDA

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey