Dili, 26 April 2002


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will visit East Timor on Monday, 29 April, to congratulate the territory on its impeding transition to an independent nation and to visit Japanese troops participating in UN peacekeeping activities, Japanese diplomats announced today.

Koizumi’s visit is part of a regional tour that includes stops in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam. In East Timor, the Prime Minister will meet with President-elect Xanana Gusmão, Chief Minister Alkatiri, SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and peacekeepers from the Japanese Engineering Group.

Japan has been a major contributor to the international reconstruction effort in East Timor since the former Portuguese colony came under UN administration in 1999. Recent Japanese contributions include: a US$1 million donation to East Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation; a US$2.65 million rehabilitation of Dili Port; and the construction of three new markets in the capital.

In March and early April, 690 soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Engineering Group arrived in East Timor to replace departing Pakistan and Bangladesh engineers as part of the ongoing downsizing of the UN Peacekeeping Force. The Japanese engineers will be serving East Timor until the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force ends.

Koizumi is expected to express to East Timorese leaders during his visit that Japan will continue to actively support national reconciliation and nation-building efforts, a spokesman from the Japanese diplomatic mission in Dili said at an UNTAET press briefing.


Our Lady of Fatima, a Catholic relic from Portugal, will arrive in East Timor on Saturday for a month-long tour of the territory that is an integral part of ongoing Independence Celebrations, organisers said today.

Dili Bishop Filipe Ximenes Belo and Baucau Bishop Basilio Nascimento will escort the statue of the Virgin Mary from the capital’s international airport to Dili Cathedral, where a blessing ceremony will be held. On Wednesday, 1 May, the statue is scheduled to travel from Dili to the Oecussi enclave.

After an extensive tour of East Timor, Our Lady of Fatima will return to Dili on 19 May for the climax of the Celebrations – a night-time independence ceremony to be attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and delegations representing more than 55 nations.

Celebrations organisers also released today a calendar that details the dozens of cultural, religious, sporting and artistic events that span the month before independence is declared at the stroke of midnight, 19-20 May.