Monthly Archives: July 2008

Lack of Timor aid a shame and more

Various letters to the editor in various publications – JMM

Letters to the Editor

The Canberra Times

July 27, 2008

Lack of Timor aid a shame

IT IS a crying shame that wealthy Australia has reserved in
Australian medical schools a mere eight placements for
poverty-stricken Timorese students while far-flung Cuba has offered
the Timorese 700 such places.

All this despite the fact that East Timor is Australia’s next-door
neighbour and the poorest Asian nation on earth.

As a Portuguese-Australian, I believe it’s high time that Australia
does something concrete in return for the military help the noble
Timorese gave to our diggers and other servicemen and women during
World War II.

Failure to render assistance to the tiny nation of Timor will result
in her seeking help from other more generous nations like Cuba,
China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, etc. This in turn will lead to Timor’s
quitting our sphere of interest.

Martinho de Souza, Giralang

The Australian Magazine

July 26, 2008 Saturday

FEEDBACK – HAVE YOUR SAY

* Paul Toohey’s profile of Angelita Pires (“Lover or Fighter”, July
12-13) paints a fascinating portrait of a troubled and pathetic
woman, but it also needs to be looked at from another perspective.
Some in East Timor may have seen her lover, Alfredo Reinado, as a
folk hero but in reality he was just another one of those jumped-up
junior officers, who have brought their countries to rack and ruin
whenever they have come to power or influence. Reinado was given
ample opportunities to face genuine justice (under the aegis of a
substantial United Nations peace-keeping force) but chose to stay in
the bush, even after a new parliament was freely elected. The fear
and instability his lowgrade insurgency created, and the divisions it
fuelled, kept thousands of families in camps for the internally
displaced for years. They included many poor and innocent women who
have never come close to having even the modest opportunities enjoyed
by Ms Pires. While she has the same right to expect due process as
anyone else, adults also need to realise that if you choose to play
with fire, you are likely to get burned.

Michael Maley

Queanbeyan, NSW

New Statesman

July 28, 2008

The situation in Indonesia following the downfall of General Suharto
is more complex than you suggest. In West Papua, the army’s presence
is pervasive and intimidating. Two men are serving sentences of ten
and 15 years for subversion for flying the Papuan flag. In Maluku,
one man has been sentenced to life for a similar offence, while 19
others were given sentences of between ten and 20 years.

Looking on the brighter side, it is untrue to describe the 2004
elections as having been marred by rigging. This overlooks the
peaceful nature of the elections and the participation of a large
number of parties that had emerged from the wreckage of the Suharto
era. But the brightest side of all is Aceh, where a peace accord was
signed between the government and GAM, the armed resistance movement,
in 2005, after nearly 30 years of conflict. Here, the elected
governor and his deputy are both independents who spent years in
prison under Suharto.

The dark cloud is the candidature of the retired general Wiranto for
president in next year’s elections. He was indicted in 2003 by an
international panel for crimes against humanity in Timor Leste during
1999. The estimated death toll was 1,400. The Indonesian government
has so far ignored requests for Wiranto’s extradition to face trial
in Timor Leste.

Carmel Budiardjo

Tapol (Indonesian human rights campaign)

Thornton Heath, Surrey

Fretilin party says ETimor failed to consult on biofuels

ABC Radio Australia

East Timor’s Fretilin Party says the government has failed to consult the public about its plans to develop a biofuel industry.

The party’s Jose Teixeira says the government is planning to use 300 thousand hectares of land in East Timor for the production of biofuels.

Radio Australia’s reporter in Dili, Christine Webster, says Fretilin MP Jose Teixera says it is concerning the government wants to use more than half of East Timor’s arable land to produce biofuels.

He says this land should be used to cultivate food crops such as maise, rice and cassava.

“There is quite clearly now a policy , which has been implemented of giving large tracts of arable land for the purposes of biofuel agriculture. That is unacceptable because there has been no public debate about it.”

Mr Teixera says mechanisation is still not used in East Timor when it comes to crop production.

He says it would be extremely difficult for these people to make the transformation to large scale agriculture.

East Timor is currently experiencing a food crisis like much of Asia.

Mr Teixera says the focus should be on addressing the food shortage rather than producing bio fuels.

JSMP: Justice Not Served by Truth and Friendship Commission

I agree with the main body of the email below but would like to make
some comments.

It’s pretty clear that while the CTF report makes recommendations for
heads of states to apologise (we know the Indonesians are not going
to do this, I again state can’t understand why the
Timorese heads of state were asked to apologise for the murder and
mayhem caused in Timor Leste, this recommendation in itself shows a
complete disregard for victims of the violence,) the whole process
seems, as pointed out,to be ‘aimed at protecting leaders
who were directly or indirectly involved in the humanitarian crisis
that resulted from occupation by Indonesia.’ Western leaders were of
course indirectly involved, they like the Indonesian leaders who
carried out the mandate should be prosecuted. – Perhaps this has
more to do with the reports ‘lack of teeth’ than anything else.

Whilst I agree the lack of grassroots education about the CTF has lead
to confusion, would add that confusion is also caused by the many, many
initials for various groups and reports – it would be more helpful to
give full titles, or perhaps I’m just easily confused. (the email I’m
replying to does give the full title).

Would further add it was up to the investigators to inform and educate
the people on the report and indeed surely it was up to the
investigators to find and interview people who had been directly
affected by the violence in all districts. On information I have this
has not been done successfully.

It is certainly ‘incumbent on the architects of the CTF process, both
Indonesian and Timorese,to make of it more than a rhetorical gesture’
but it is also imperative that westerners do not once more close
their eyes and ears to further injustices against the people of Timor
Leste.

Calls should be made on Western governments to impalement an
International Tribunal – as a first step can I respectfully suggest
that activists and other interested parties living in Great Britain go
to see their MP’s (or at least write to them). Of course one can
always write directly to various government departments, but
personally I have always found that a visit to the MP’s office gets
better results.

Lidia
Tyneside East Timor Solidarity.

JUSTICE UPDATE
JUSTICE NOT SERVED BY TRUTH AND FRIENDSHIP COMMISSION
JULY 2008

Last week saw the much-anticipated release of the Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF) final report. The Commission was established by the governments of Indonesia and East Timor. It sought to establish the truth about violence that surrounded East Timor’s independence vote. JSMP has conducted a series of interviews on the CTF with victims and community representatives from several districts, which inform this analysis of the outcome.

Reviewing evidence examined by previous investigations into the conflict, the report draws some familiar conclusions. Most notably, it finds that in 1999 the Indonesian military directed Timorese militia campaigns responsible for gross human rights violations. This is worth celebrating as a reversal of the official Indonesian position that the violence was solely a result of internal conflict.

The report is also evenhanded in recognising its own limitations. Echoing previous statements by JSMP and other commentators, the process of hearing testimony is acknowledged as flawed. Findings appear to reflect some Commissioners’ frustrations with the grandstanding and evasiveness of witnesses, and with the inability to pursue sensitive lines of questioning.

The CTF was empowered to recommend amnesties for those perpetrators it called who showed remorse and cooperated fully. It is a measure of the incomplete and often self-serving narratives put forward by such individuals that it was concluded that in no case had the criteria been satisfied, and so no such recommendations for amnesty could be made.

The Commission’s mandate did not extend to reparations, as did the more rigourous CAVR before it. Useful though it is to have an agreed history of events, the process is seen by many as further sidelining the voices and interests of victims. Even the report’s laudable recommendation for a public apology by heads of state – an important symbolic symbolic step toward redress – has seemingly met with official resistance.

Father Ernesto Barreto, whose parish in Suai still suffers many ill effects from the 1999 violence, told JSMP “The CAVR had the integrity to pay attention to the victims and their families. However, the CTF is aimed at protecting leaders who were directly or indirectly involved in the humanitarian crisis that resulted from occupation by Indonesia. They should be ashamed of this attempt to protect themselves – victims will continue to suffer this trauma forever and the CTF brings them no benefits at all.”

Others have indicated a lack of grassroots education about the CTF process that led to much confusion and likely also to an incomplete assessment of the impact of pre-independence violence. Martinho Amaral, who was injured during attacks in Covalima during 1999, said “We are ordinary citizens who don’t really understand it; we thought that the CTF is a continuation of the CAVR because many of the people are the same .”

The report recommends investigation of disappearances from this period and documentation of the conflict – these are laudable measures. However, instead of emphasizing the creation of new legal processes and entities, critics feel that it should instead provide more practical, compensatory measures.

Speaking with JSMP, victims spokeswoman Anita Tilman dos Santos said “For families of the victims of 1999 like us, the existence of the CTF makes us feel as if those who died are not being given any value by the government. This is only for the leaders of our nation – ordinary citizens like us can only sit and look at the ground and ask: when will we get justice if the government lacks the good will?”

Among those interviewed, there were many who felt that the need for strong diplomatic ties between Indonesia and East Timor should not supersede the call to bring perpetrators to justice. Liquica district coordinator Alberto Gomes told JSMP “the relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste can be nurtured as per normal, which doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the truth finding process and justice through the courts.”

In accordance with the Commission’s terms of reference, the report did not name those responsible for coordinating the violence; nor does it advocate prosecutions. A number of those polled by JSMP spoke of their belief that too many questions yet remain unanswered in the interest of political expediency.

Maubara resident and 1999 victim Filomena de Jesus Santa said that in her opinion “justice should be upheld by a court that is open to the public. There is no reason to have good relations with a nation that has committed serious human rights violations if they don’t want to reveal the truth before a court. Why should our country be afraid of them?”

The CTF was intended to put an end to national debate over the cause and effect of East Timor’s troubled rise to nationhood, though clearly it has not quelled public outrage. Politicians on both sides have played down the prospect of a tribunal to further investigate the crimes against humanity that were unquestionably visited upon the Timorese people. Despite the unwillingness of government, community support for a court-based approach is unyielding.

Domingas Mouzinho, a survivor of the Suai church killings in 1999, pleaded for “justice through the courts – I don’t care if it is an international or national court, the important thing is the perpetrators of crimes need to be brought to justice so the victims like us can feel satisfied.”

It is now incumbent on the architects of the CTF process, both Indonesian and Timorese, to make of it more than a rhetorical gesture. Whilst the report contains some difficult truths, it will take a more sustained effort to fully confront the legacy of violence and injustice with which so many still live. Much as political leaders may wish to leave the past behind, for many this will not be possible until justice is delivered to the victims, and served upon the perpetrators.

Rita Pereira dos Santos, who lost several family members to militia attacks on Liquica, summing up her views on the Commission, said “We, the family members, will be very upset if our demands are not realised and if our own government does not listen to us. It is like we are being killed all over again, not in a direct sense like the victims of 1999, but maybe this type of suffering is even worse because it is enduring and we will think about it forever”.

For further information, or an interview, please contact:

Timotio de Deus
Director, JSMP
Email: timotio@jsmp.minihub.org
Mobile phone: +670 729 2909
Land line: +670 3323883

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Importing Arms

Read the attached [ see
http://thediliinsider.blogspot.com/2008/07/gun-tax.html for scans of ad
in STL in Portugues and English] very carefully – you will find that
the Government has slid in an excise for importing weapons and
munitions into Timor-Leste. Is it legal yet for civilians/non
government or PNTL / FDTL to import weapons and munitions into the
country.

As advertised in the national newspapers a couple of days ago


Posted By The Dili Insider to The Dili Insider at 7/24/2008 03:18:00 AM

Extraordinary Plenary Meeting of July 23, 2008

[translated via google. Portuguese original
follows english text. this translation is
unofficial; anyone reposting should include this notice. – JMM/ETAN]

Secretariat
Office of Public Relations

No. agenda. 121/II

Extraordinary Plenary Meeting of
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Plenary Session of today was chaired by
President of the National Parliament, Fernando de
Araujo La Sama assisted by the Vice-President of
the Parliament Mr. Vicente da Silva Guterres, the
Secretary of the Bureau, Sra. Maria Terezinha
Viegas and the Deputy Secretary, Sra. Maria da Costa Exposto.

It was attended by the Prime Minister Mr. Kay
Rala Xanana Gusmão and members of the government.

In the period on the agenda was scheduled the
only issue, “Discussion and vote in the specialty
of the Draft Act in 10/II (First Amendment to the
Law 10/2007 of December 31, which approved the
general budget for 2008 of the State” ).

It was conducted with the following information:

Continuation of the discussion and vote in the
specialty of the Proposed Law on the 10/II ( “the
First Amendment Proposed Law 10/2007 of the
December 31, which approved the general budget
for 2008 of the State”). After the reviews made
by gentlemen on the proposal of the general
budget of the State AB 2008, was held to vote on
the Proposed Law 10, Annex I, which was approved
with 42 votes in favour, 20 against and 1 abstention.

Discussion and vote in the specialty of the
proposal in the Amendment 1 on the “category of
Goods and Services unit of the National Parliament.”

The vote was 25 votes in favour, 37 against and 4
abstentions. This proposal was not approved the Amendment.

Discussion and vote in the specialty of the
Proposal for Amendment 2 on the “category of
Minor Capital body of the National Parliament.”

The vote was 23 votes in favour, 37 against and 3
abstentions. This Proposal for Amendment was not adopted.

Finally the plenary session was closed by Sr.
Presidente of the National Parliament. Its
continuation will be tomorrow, Thursday, July 24, 2008.

The Economic Stabilization Fund

The Government plans to establish a $240 million Economic Stabilization Fund to ensure that the price of food, fuel and construction materials does not spiral out of control. The money allocated for this is nearly as much as the original budget for 2008, but Parliament has not been told what it will do, how it will be managed, and by whom it will be managed. A, so far undisclosed, decree law has been passed to establish this Fund rather than a more consultative parliamentary law. Although we understand the Government wants to reduce prices of imported goods, the Fund will make the State pay for imports.
Using data from the budget document “Orçamento Rectificativo 2008” (OR2008), as presented to members of Parliament, we can work out the following:

Goods worth $182 million dollar will be imported
Outside of the money allocated to this Fund, the Ministry of Finance will pay $4.6 million in import taxes for rice1 acquired under this Fund (explained on page 36 and 83 of the OR2008). We do not know why this expense shows up as a separate Ministry of Finance increase. Using 2.5% import tax according to the new law, when we calculate back the value of imports for this $4.6 million it comes to $184 million in imports through this fund alone over the next six months.

Goods sold against 25% of import price
The receipt out of sales of subsidized rice and other goods is anticipated to reach $39.4 million (table 4.4, OR2008). Selling imported goods worth $184 million for less than $40 million is like subsidizing 75 centavos of every dollar. Next to subsidizing rice, the Government plans to subsidize other goods like construction materials but the Mid-Year Budget Update does not talk about it. Assuming that 50% of this $184 million is used to buy rice2, against the current subsidized price of $16 per 35-kilo bag, this comes to over 43,000 tons (43 million kg) of rice for a period of six months, or more than seven thousand tons per month. If more than 50% is used to buy rice this number only goes up.

The Fund imports twice as much as regular channels
The Government anticipates import taxes for 2008 to be $6.5 million (page 22, table 4.3, OR2008). But $4.6 million in import tax on this Fund is equal to more than 70% of total tax income. The same table hides the fact that income on import tax will actually decrease over the next years, due to lower import tariffs, even when import volumes might increase. Table 4.2 shows not only an active Fund this year but also $49.4 million in sales of rice for each year starting 2009 until 2011. That is a lot of imports. It is actually twice as much as the average yearly merchandise imports for this country over the years 2003 to 2006 (table 2, IMF Country Report June 2008). Who will manage import administration, quarantine guarantees, warehousing, transport to districts, and storage in districts? The Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce is supposed to spend $3 million to build silos to store 40,000 tons of food (page 40 and 106, OR2008); where and when will they be placed, and who will manage them?

Effects of the Fund
The Fund is big, both in money it uses and in volumes it imports. We cannot say what the exact impact of the Fund will be as we do not know the mechanism behind the Fund. However, there is significant danger that buying and selling of goods through the Economic Stabilization Fund will:

Compete with existing import channels; the Fund imports volumes of rice equivalent to more than the expected3 shortfall. All channels through which rice was normally imported (private business and food aid) will cease to exist and be replaced with a government-owned import and wholesale structure.

Compete unevenly with local markets; the uneven competition in pricing and availability will destroy any progress made in making this country more food secure.

Overwhelm local infrastructure capacity; importing volumes three times as much as normal will put a strain on existing port, customs, warehousing and administration mechanisms. Capacity for warehousing, transportation to districts and storage at district level is insufficient to manage this amount of goods. Currently, about 30,000 tons of local food production per year is lost due to pests and bad storage conditions.

Create increased import dependency and increased future budget deficits; as the budget document shows, there are anticipated sales through this Fund for future years until 2011 worth $50 million each year. Calculating back this is equal to over $200 million of new money into the Fund every year on top of total expenditure for those years (page 28, table 5.2, OR2008).

This press statement has been prepared by the members of the Core Group on Transparency. Electronic copies of this statement can be obtained from the Secretariat, redetransparensia@gmail.com, or from http://www.laohamutuk.org/econ/MYBU08/RDTLMYBU08.htm.

Participating organizations are:
Asosasiaun Hak
ETADEP
FONGTIL
Fundasaun Balos
La’o Hamutuk
Luta Hamutuk
Mata Dalan Institute

Fundu Ba Estabilizasaun Ekonómika
Guvernu planeia atu estabelese osan miliaun $240 kona-ba estabilizasaun ekonómika atu nune’e bele fo’o garantia ba folin ai-han, ba folin kombustivel nomós ba material konstrusaun nia folin, atu labele ses husi kontrolu. Osan ne’ebé mak atu aloka ba ida ne’e besik hanesan ho orsamentu orijinàl ba tinan 2008, maibe Parlamentu seidauk hetan informasaun kona-ba osan ne’e atu maneja oinsá no se mak atu maneja. Konselho do Minitros pasa tiha ona Dekretu Lei ba estabelese Fundu ne’e, maibe seidauk publika, no diak liu karik Dekretu ida ne’e muda ba Lei liuhusi aprovasaun Parlamentu, ne’ebe konsultativa liu. Maske ita hotu hatene katak Guvernu hakarak reduz presu ba sasan importasaun sira, maibé liuhusi Fundu ne’e ba oin Estadu sei gasta osan barak.
Refere ba dokumentu “Orçamento Rectificativo 2008” (OR2008), ne’ebé aprezenta ba Parlamentu, tuir mai ita bele hatudu faktus hirak hanesan ne’e:
Folin sasan importasaun sei sa’e miliaun $184 resin
Alein de osan ne’ebé aloka ba Fundu ida ne’e Ministru Finansas mos sei selu osan hamutuk miliaun $4,6 ba taxa importasaun fos nian1 (esplikasaun iha pajina 36 no 83 husi OR2008). Ita la-hatene tansá maka despeza ne’e mosu iha despeza Ministeriu Finansas. Maibe, Guvernu antisipa ona katak taxa importasaun iha tinan 2008 hamutuk osan miliaun $6,5 (pajina 22, tabela 4.3, OR2008). Uza pursentu 2,5 no baseia ba nivel taxa importasaun foun, se ita kalkula fila fali milliaun $4.6 nudar osan tama taxa importasaun, ne’e hanesan miliaun $184 nudar valor total importasaun ba fulan neen tuir mai.
Faan sasan ho folin pursentu 25 husi presu importasaun
Osan ne’ebé hetan husi faan foos no sasan seluk-seluk tan ne’ebé antisipa bele sa’e miliaun $39.4 (tabela 4.4, OR2008). Faan sasan importasaun mak folin miliaun $184 ho presu menus husi miliaun $40 hanesan fo subsidíu sentavus 75 ba kada dolar ida. Subsidíu laos ba foos deit, maibe Guvernu mos planeia atu fo subsidíu ba sasan seluk tan, hanesan material kontrusaun, maibe iha Orsamentu nia laran la-koalia barak kona-ba ida ne’e. Ho hanoin ida katak pursentu 50 husi miliaun $184 ne’e atu uza para hola foos2, nomós uza presu subsidíu ida daudaun mak foos kilograma 35 nia folin $16 saka ida, ita bele sura katak hamutuk foos tolenada 43.000 (foos kilograma miliaun 43) ida iha fulan neen nia laran. Ne’e hanesan ho fos tonelada rihun hitu kada fulan. Karik liu husi pursentu 50 sei uza ba hola foos2, nomós sei bele sa’e tan.
Importasaun husi Fundu ne’e hadalas dala rua duke importasaun bai-bain
Guvernu antisipa ba taxa importasaun iha tinan 2008 hamutuk osan miliaun $6,5 (paj.22, tabela 4.3 OR2008) Maibe, osan taxa importasaun miliaun $4,6 iha Fundu ne’e hanesan total pursentu 70 husi taxa importasaun ba sasan hotu-hotu. Iha tabela ne’e mos subar faktus katak taxa importasaun agora tuun daudaun, volume sasan sei sa’e maibe osan tama husi taxa importasaun iha tinan hirak tuir mai sei tuun. Iha tabela 4.2 hatudu katak Fundu ne’e laos para tinan ida ne’e deit, maibe ba mos faan fos hamutuk miliaun $49,4 mak kada tinan hahu husi tinan 2009 to’o tinan 2011. Se ita kalkula fila fali ida osan ne’ebé mak tama liuhusi Fundu ida ne’e, ne’e hanesan miliaun $200 nudar valor total importasaun iha kada tinan. Ida ne’e importasaun ne’ebé barak teb-tebes. Tuir lolos, faan sasan importasaun hadalas dala rua tinan ida husi importasaun regular iha nasaun ida ne’e (tabela 2, IMF Country Report, iha fulan Juñu 2008). Se los mak atu hala’o administrasaun importasaun ne’e, fo garansia ba karantina nian, armajem nian, transportasaun ba distritu nian, nomós abastesimentu iha distritu hotu-hotu? Ministeriu Turismu, Industria no Komersiu tenke hasai osan miliaun $3 para halo armajem atu nune’e bele rai ai-han tonelada 40.000 (paj. 40 no 106, OR2008); iha ne’ebé no bainhira mak sira bele rai, no se mak atu jere ida ne’e?
Efeitus husi Fundu ida ne’e
Fundu ne’e boot, hare’e husi nia valor ne’ebé uza osan nomós iha nia volume importasaun. Ita la-bele hateten saida mak efeitus realmente husi Fundu ne’e, tamba ita lahatene lolos mekanismu saida mak iha Fundu ne’e nia kotuk. Hola sasan no faan sasan husi Fundu Estabilizasaun Ekonomia ne’e perigu teb-tebes tamba bele:
Kompete ho kanal importasaun lolos; volume importasaun foos husi Fundu ne’e hanesan ka boot liu husi nesesidade volume ai-han mak ita persiza iha tinan ne’e3. Kanal regular importasaun foos (setor privadu ka ajuda ai-han) sei lakon no sei troka ho estrutura importasaun no faan husi Governu.
Kompete ho merkadoria lokal bai-bain laiha balansu; laiha balansu folin bai-bain no mos disponibilidade, no sei estraga progresu seguraransa ba ai-han ne’ebe iha ona iha rai ida ne’e.
Fo difikuldade ba kapasidade infrastrutura lokal nian; Halo importasaun ho volume hadalas dala tolu husi normalmente bele ha-todan iha ponte cais, alfandega, armagem, nomós ba mekanismu administrasaun nian ne’ebe iha ona. Tanba kapasidade rai sasan, muda ba distritu no abastesimentu iha nivel distritu la-to’o atu jere sasan sira ne’e. Agora deit, tonelada 30.000 foos husi produsaun lokal lakon tanba peste no kondisaun abastesimentu ne’ebé ladiak.
Kria dependênsia importasaun nomós aumenta defice orsamentu iha futuru; tuir dokumentu orsamentu ne’e hatudu katak antisipa faan sasan husi Fundu ida ne’e iha tinan oin to’o tinan 2011 nia valor hamutuk osan miliaun $50. Se ita kalkula fila fali ida osan ne’ebé mak tama liuhusi Fundu ida ne’e, ne’e hanesan miliaun $200 nudar valor total importasaun iha kada tinan.

Statement ne’e perpara husi membru Rede Transparensia (Core Group Transparency). Kopia Elektronika (iha lian tetum no ingles) bele hetan hosi Sekretariadu, redetransparensia@gmail.com, ka hosi http://www.laohamutuk.org/econ/MYBU08/RDTLMYBU08.htm.

Organizasaun ne’ebé mak partisipa :
Asosiasaun HAK
ETADEP
FONGTIL
Fundasaun Balos
La’o Hamutuk
Mata Dalan Institute

Radio Akademika Hits the Air; Pilot Journalism Course Starts

The Universidade Nacional de Timor-Leste’s (UNTL) radio station Radio Akademika is now on the air at 90.0 FM. Radio Akademika’s debut broadcast was the highlight of the signing of an agreement between UNTL and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)­co-funded by USAID and AusAID­to offer a three-month pilot journalism training course starting July 1, 2008.

About 100 people attended the ceremony, including Minister of Education and Culture Dr. João Câncio Freitas, Ambassadors Hans G. Klemm of the United States, Peter Heyward of Australia, and João Nugent Ramos Pinto of Portugal.

“This is an outstanding example of cooperation between international and national institutions to strengthen a key foundation of democracy­the independent media,” USAID Representative Mark White said in his remarks.

In 2001, the Portuguese government built and equipped the radio station for the university, but a series of problems kept it off the air. ICFJ returned the station to working condition as part of its agreement with UNTL. In addition, ICFJ provided new computers with internet access for the classroom adjacent to the radio station to serve as an electronic newsroom for journalism students.

The debut broadcast of Radio Akademika featured a lively round-table discussion between the guest speakers facilitated by Knight Fellow and veteran Australian radio journalist Maria Gabriela Carrascalão-Heard. The facilitator smoothly shifted between three languages–Portuguese, English and Tetum. One interesting piece of information shared by Ambassadors Klemm and Heyward during the panel discussion was that they had both been campus broadcasters in college. The diplomats encouraged the students to take full advantage of UNTL’s facilities and hone their broadcast skills.

Meanwhile, more than 50 students have signed up for the journalism course, which focuses on the management and operation of a radio station, as well as reporting for print and electronic media. The teachers’ pool includes ICFJ staff members and veteran Timor-Leste journalists who have been working with ICFJ since late 2006, as well as visiting instructors from other organizations, including the U.N.

“We are really excited about working with UNTL students,” said David A. Bloss, ICFJ Country Director. “This project came about because so many people worked together to make it happen.”

http://timor-leste.usaid.gov/DGHighlights1.htm