Japanese-donated radio sets handed over in E. Timor.
The Japanese government on Tuesday officially handed over to East Timor the first batch of over 8,000 solar-powered radio receivers pledged last April during a visit to Dili by Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono.
Japanese officials said about 500 radios were handed over during a meeting between Shigeyuki Hiroki, director of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's technical assistance cooperation division, and Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
The remaining receivers are currently on the way to East Timor and will eventually be distributed throughout the territory, the officials said.
Many East Timorese lost their radio sets during the violence that followed last year's vote for independence.
Last April, Kono witnessed in Dili the signing of a grant agreement worth $91,000 for a project called Listening to East Timor.
But the project has been frustrated by numerous delays in shipment of the radios, which are to be distributed to villages and towns in the areas covered by Radio UNTAET and local radio stations.
De Mello, in an interview with Kyodo News earlier this month, cited communication with the East Timorese as UNTAET's ''biggest failure.''
''I wish we had had a radio capacity here from the early stages,'' he lamented.
Despite the belated arrival of the receivers, the creation of a nationwide broadcasting system still faces difficulties, namely in East Timor's mountainous topography.
Japanese officials expressed hope that UNTAET can nevertheless meet its goal of extending Radio UNTAET coverage over most of East Timor by October.
Radio UNTAET, established in early November 1999, broadcasts 24 hours a day in English and Tetun, the local language, but is currently available to only about 50% of the population.
The programs include daily news, as well as features covering a broad range of developments in East Timor.
The former Portuguese colony's radio network was severely damaged last year when pro-Indonesia militia went on a burning, looting and killing spree across the territory following the Aug. 30 vote for independence after 24 years of Indonesian occupation.
UNTAET has repaired and used on an emergency basis elements of that network.