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Timor Leste working tongue an old one

Jakarta Post - June 6, 2007

Jakarta – Aware that the Indonesian language is spoken by most people in Timor Leste, the country's government has decided to make the Indonesian language, or Bahasa Indonesia, its working language.

Visiting Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta said that Bahasa Indonesia was even used in state offices for day-to-day communication.

"The Indonesian media may not have paid attention to my use of Bahasa Indonesia when I addressed the Parliament on May 20 and all members of the parliament also speak the language," Ramos-Horta said in a joint press conference after bilateral talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday.

Ramos-Horta, who admitted that he is not yet fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, said that he would learn to master the language. "So that I can deliver my speeches in Bahasa Indonesia on my next visit," Ramos-Horta said, chuckling.

Responding to Timor Leste's decision to use Bahasa Indonesia as its working language, Yudhoyono said that he warmly welcomed the decision as it would enhance mutual understanding between the people of the two countries.

Yudhoyono said the Indonesian government would give assistance in the establishment of Indonesian language departments in a number of universities in Timor Leste.

He said that mastering the Indonesian language would bring advantages to the people of Timor Leste. "The people of Timor Leste will also be able to communicate with people in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam," Yudhoyono said, responding to a question from a Timor Leste journalist using Bahasa Indonesia.

Timor Leste's government has declared Tetum and Portuguese the country's official languages, yet Indonesian language is widely spoken as it was widely taught during Indonesia's occupation of the country.

Bahasa Indonesia has become a lingua franca of the country through heavy use in classrooms and business. (JP/M. Taufiqurrahman)