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There are 'attacks on the Portuguese language', says Alkatiri

Reuters - December 10, 2008

Dili – The Secretary General of Fretilin and former Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri, said today in Dili that there are "attacks" against Portuguese as official language in Timor-Leste.

"Today we are witnessing the successive attacks against Portuguese as official language," Mari Alkatiri accused in the II National Congress of Education, which runs until Friday in Dili.

"They want to create a new conflict of generations in our country instilling ideas against our language policy already reflected in our Constitution," accused the leader of Fretilin.

"Are we witnessing a new colonization? I hope not, "said Mari Alkatiri, recalling the "strategic choices" of East Timor in the field of language.

"They have been made. Tetum and Portuguese as official languages to mark our difference identity (together and in interaction with other national languages) and 'Bahasa' Indonesian and English as working languages for the deepening of relationships with the region and world, "said Mari Alkatiri.

"The option bilingual (Tetum and Portuguese) is option that has nothing to do with the whim of the old generation. It is an option that aims to defend national independence and thus defend the interest of all generations, "added the former prime minister.

The leader of Fretilin, the largest opposition party, said that "an increasing number of young East Timorese begin to speak and write Portuguese."

"We are seeing a process of cultural back, maybe better, resurrection of cultural and linguistic, reaffirming what is ours rather than what is imposed on us," he added.

Mari Alkatiri said the Portuguese as "an instrument of colonization which later became a weapon of resistance."

The leader of the Fretilin II spoke in Congress on Education of "The identity of the people of East Timor and the Portuguese language" and recalled the evolution of languages in the territory and the Malay archipelago.

"The repeat attempt to Indonesia in East Timor with what the Portuguese did with the Dutch in the post-independence Indonesia," said Mari Alkatiri.

"The prohibition of the use of the Portuguese opened the door to the Catholic Church in East Timor had opted for language Tetum as liturgical, contributing it to the top of a more systematic process of development of the Tetum-square," said Mari Alkatiri.

"In the development of Tetum for liturgical use, the Portuguese found a way to resist submerged and survive in the world of Tetum," argued the former prime minister.

"A truly strategic vision of development necessarily entails strengthening of our difference, not for its dilution in search of ways supposedly easier," said Mari Alkatiri.

"We have nothing against the English. We also want to have the field without it being dominated by it, "he explained.

Mari Alkatiri concluded his remarks saying that does not understand "much controversy" surrounding the official languages. "We did not understand because they say we want to help. Is it? "Asked the former prime minister.