TRANSCRIPT Report - Originally Aired: Nov. 12, 2009
10 Years After Independence, East Timor Still Rebuilding
Special correspondent Kira Kay examines East Timor's ongoing effort to rebuild itself, 10 years after winning independence from Indonesia. The report is part of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting's Fragile States project, a partnership with the Bureau of International Reporting.
KIRA KAY, special correspondent: There are very few people in East Timor who didn't lose a loved one in their two-decade fight for independence. So, this ceremony, reburying the bones of the war dead at the national martyrs cemetery, was filled with grief. But it was also a day of pride, the 10-year anniversary of Timor's success in that push for independence from Indonesia, the neighboring country that had violently swallowed it whole in the 1970s, after Portugal abandoned its longtime colony.
Flanked by dignitaries from around the world stood Xanana Gusmao. Once a resistance fighter, he is now East Timor's prime minister, and Jose Ramos-Horta, who lived for years in exile lobbying for freedom for his country. Today, he is the president.
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: I have enjoyed it thoroughly to be reattached culturally, physically to part of my body and spirit, in spite of the difficulties we encounter in these last 10 years.
KIRA KAY: Difficulties of the past 10 years, because Ramos-Horta, Gusmao and their Timorese citizens have had to build their new country from the ground up. More than 100,000 people had died during the 24-year occupation. And when Indonesian troops finally withdrew in a spasm of violence, East Timor was left in ruins. Even today, its fragility remains obvious. Half its people live below the poverty line. Burned buildings remain on many corners. Unemployment runs as high as 40 percent. But overcoming adversity is not new to Timorese like Eduardo Belo Soares, a former guerrilla fighter now making the transition to ordinary citizen.
EDUARDO BELO SOARES: For me, myself, I have obligations. And I believe that everyone has obligations to fill independence of this country.
KIRA KAY: For Belo, that obligation meant starting a business and creating jobs. So, he took a small grant given to him by the United Nations, and made an investment.
EDUARDO BELO SOARES: My carpentry started from this wood lathe.
KIRA KAY: This is the very first thing you bought?
EDUARDO BELO SOARES: Yes, this is the very first thing I had.
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