Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Major Development Challenges

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Major Development Challenges

Article excerpt

The task of nation-building is complicated at the best of times, but East Timor has to grapple with daunting challenges of physical reconstruction, reconciliation, the development of political institutions, and virtually every conceivable development policy issue. The focus of this section is the latter, but it is impossible to ignore the political and social backdrop --- that is, a constitution has to be drafted, political parties are in the process of being established, peace in the country-side (and especially along the border with West Timor) has to be restored, and an inaugural general election has to be conducted.

A national language policy has to be decided. This is proving to be a particularly complex issue, with four languages being considered. There is Tetum, the lingua franca of East Timor, but considered to be insufficiently "scientific" for formal education and legal purposes. Secondly, there is Portuguese, which is spoken by just 5 per cent of the population, but it is preferred by much of the political élite, which has strong emotional ties to Portugal, viewing it as the only significant nation-state which sustained their struggle against Indonesian rule. The Portuguese-speaking world is making a determined effort to support the introduction of the language, including an offer to place a teacher in every secondary school. The nascent national university in Dili has a programme which plans to use Portuguese entirely as the language of instruction within a decade. …

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