East Timor: Starting with a clean slate

In 1999, after 25 years of Indonesian occupation during which one third of the population is believed to have perished, East Timor voted for independence, but Indonesian-trained militia and armed forces reacted with a wave of massacres and destruction. The countless victims included Timorese diocesan priests and sisters as well as German-born Karl Albrecht SJ, 70 (known in Indonesia as Karim Arbie) and Tarcisius Dewanto SJ, 34. On 19-20 May 2002 the UN Transitional Administration ceded power to the newly elected government. The first new country of the millennium is one of the smallest (800,000 inhabitants on 19,000 sq km) and among the twenty poorest in the world. 41 percent of the population earns less than $0.55 a day. Many families cannot afford to send their children to elementary school. But rich natural resources such as offshore oil are expected eventually to benefit the people.