Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Portugal to help preserve its heritage in Indonesia

JAKARTA (JP): In a move to improve Portuguese-Indonesian relations, Portuguese Ambassador Ana Gomes promised on Tuesday her government would assist with the preservation of its colonial heritage here.

"There are so many Portuguese buildings in Indonesia as a result of our hundreds of years old relationship.

"We will provide funds to conserve and restore our heritage," she said as quoted by head of the City Protocol Office Margani.

"We have also published a book on Indonesian-Portuguese relations which we expect will strengthen our ties," she added.

Gomes paid a courtesy call on Governor Sutiyoso following her appointment as the first Portuguese ambassador to Jakarta since the restoration of diplomatic ties between both countries last December.

Portugal cut its ties with Indonesia in 1975 following Portuguese Timor's integration into Indonesia, now known as East Timor.

Gomes expected that the East Timor issue would not pose a threat to the newly restored diplomatic ties.

"The problem (of East Timor) is only a small part of our long relationship. Besides, it's already over," she said, alluding to the UN-sponsored popular ballot in Aug. 31, 1999.

Gomes also asked the governor's permission to renovate Portugal's deserted embassy building on the corner of Jl. Indramayu and Jl. H.O.S. Tjokroaminoto in Central Jakarta. It was deserted when Portugal cut diplomatic ties.

"We'll assign a portion of the building for Indonesians to know more of our country, such as learning the Portuguese language," she said.

Commenting on the plan, Sutiyoso said he would first consult with his staff because the building was located in Menteng, a preserved area in the city.

Traces of Portuguese influence are strong in some places of Indonesia. In the province of Aceh, there is a region whose residents are believed to be of Portuguese descent. The Tugu area in North Jakarta has a noticeable Portuguese background.

Portuguese forts and other buildings are spread throughout Indonesia. In Jakarta alone, there are two churches which display Portuguese influence: the Tugu church in North Jakarta and the Sion church in West Jakarta.

The word 'church' -- 'gereja' in Bahasa Indonesia -- comes from the Portuguese 'igreja.' The word 'tent' is tenda in both languages, while Indonesian's martil (hammer) comes from Portuguese's martelo.

Portugal's influence in the region started in the 16th century, long before the Dutch arrived, after it seized the port of Malaka in 1511. This enabled it control of ships loaded with spices along the Malaka Strait.

It moved from Malaka directly to the Maluku islands to gain control of the lucrative spice trade there. In 1580, however, its colony in Indonesia was decimated when Portugal fell under Spanish rule. The Spanish king left them only the eastern part of Timor island, known today as East Timor.

Portuguese held on to East Timor until 1975, when its last governor-general fled the capital Dili. East Timor was then integrated into Indonesia in 1976. In 1999, however, the East Timorese decided to secede from the republic following a popular ballot amid strong international support for independence. (nvn)