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Timor crisis 2006

Hieronder vindt u een selectie van onze berichtgeving over de interne geweldsgolf die in 2006 uitbrak in Oost Timor. We hebben de Engelstalige berichten in hun originele versie geplaatst. De berichtgeving vanaf mei 2006 begint onderaan de index, de nieuwere berichten steeds daarboven geplaatst.


IFET Urges Fully Integrated UN Mission (28 augustus 2006) Like Brunei, East Timor Has Oil & Gas Too (26 augustus 2006) Diggers maintain control in East Timor (26 augustus 2006) Note on the Proposed UN Mission Debate (22 augustus 2006) Stop Your Government from Blocking the UN Mission (19 augustus 2006) Opinion - The Korea Times (2 augustus 2006) New Government Timor Leste (14 juli 2006) East Timor: Coup, Mismanagement, Future (7 juli 2006) Appeal to president Xanana Gusmao (29 juni 2006) Dream of democracy, like Timor's people, broken (27 juni 2006) Email van Godian Ezema, Nigeriaanse arts in Dili (30 juni 2006) President Oost-Timor wil verkiezingen (29 juni 2006) President calls for calm (29 juni 2006) The Coup The World Missed (23 juni 2006) No One Heeded Timor Warning Signs (5 juni 2006) Indonesia's silence on Timor Leste crisis (16 juni 2006) Ethnic violence or 'breakdown in social solidarity'? (14 juni 2006) The tragedy that is Timor (11 juni 2006) Imperial hypocrisy and manipulation in East Timor crisis (7 juni 2006) Steunbetuiging HIVOS (1 juni 2006) E-mail van Ruth Klaase, lerares Engels in Dili (7 juni 2006) UN OCHA Situation Report No. 4 (6 juni 2006) E-mails uit Dili (6 juni 2006) East Timor's president takes over security forces (31 mei 2006) Persoonlijk verslag van Corlien van de Meulen (1 juni 2006) Dili residents camping in squalor (1 juni 2006) Foreign troops occupy Dili (31 mei 2006) President Oost Timor grijpt macht (31 mei 2006) Solidarity with the Timorese people (31 mei 2006) Timor (31 mei 2006) Emergency rule for East Timor leader (30 mei 2006) Crisis in Oost Timor (30 mei 2006) The Timor Crisis: A quest of legitimacy? (29 mei 2006) Statement by ETAN on the Current Violence in Timor-Leste (27 mei 2006) Timorese will welcome troops (25 mei 2006) UN PRESS RELEASE (25 mei 2006) Unpopular leadership, fractured military fuels violence (24 mei 2006)

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IFET Press Release:
IFET International Federation for East Timor Urges Fully Integrated UN Mission

28 August 2006

The International Federation for East Timor (IFET) today said that the Security Council should create a new UN mission to Timor-Leste which fully integrates all international military components. "Any other arrangement will hinder the effectiveness of the overall mission and runs contrary to the preference of the people and government of Timor-Leste and the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General," said John M. Miller, IFET UN Representative. "Australia's insistence on keeping its troops under a separate, national command structure will make coordination difficult, lessening the confidence and security that the UN Mission is intended to provide for the people of Timor-Leste.

The Security Council is expected to pass a resolution today creating the new mission which defers the decision on military command structure, leaving the current Australian-led Joint Task Force in place until after the Secretary-General reports on the issue by October 25. Australia has so far refused to place its troops under UN command, and the United Nations will not create the 345-soldier military component of the new integrated mission if a separate international military force is operating in Timor-Leste. "An integrated mission is in the best interests of everyone, especially the East Timorese," said Charles Scheiner, International Secretariat for IFET "Many people in Timor-Leste already suspect the motives, capability and impartiality of the Australian forces there now, and Australia's refusal to be part of a UN force increases that distrust. Delaying this issue for another two months is unlikely to lead to a satisfactory resolution. More likely it will increase confusion and resentment in Timor-Leste."

"The new UN mission has great potential to help Timor-Leste recover from its recent troubles and continue on the path to peace, democracy and prosperity. But that potential is possible only if the UN and its member states carefully listen to the wishes of the Timorese people," he added. In a statement this week, the Timor-Leste NGO Forum and others in civil society there urged an integrated mission, saying that "there will be a greater degree of accountability for UN forces as it is a civilian led, international, neutral institution." The group statement added that "There is an inherently unequal relationship in Timor-Leste's dealings with other more powerful countries on a bilateral basis. Working through the UN would avoid this situation."

Several countries, including a number of Timor-Leste's neighbors, are willing to contribute troops but will only do so if they are part of an integrated UN mission. On August 25, the Security Council is expected to authorize the new UN mission for at least one year. It will include a large contingent of UN police, support for next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, and improving Timor-Leste's capacity to govern itself. The mission will also assist Timor-Leste to continue investigations into serious human rights crimes committed in 1999. IFET was formed in 1991 to support East Timor's human and political rights at the United Nations. It has 34 member groups from 23 countries.

Additional information can be found at
www.laohamutuk.org/reports/UN/06UNMITcreation.html and

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Like Brunei, East Timor Has Oil & Gas Too

26 August 2006

By Ignatius Stephen

Bandar Seri Begawan - "WE want to be like you," she said. "One day". There was hope in her voice and admiration. She was indeed sincere. She was part of an East Timor delegation visiting Brunei. The group had called on other Asean capitals while on an invitational trip. The visitors were apparently midlevel civil servants. That was about a year ago. Brunei, they found, was something akin to them. It was the best fit a model to follow.

The road to paradise for their much troubled nation along which to travel. "We have much in common," she said. "We are both small nations. And above all we have sizeable oil and gas reserves. We want to know how your country uses it for the good of the nation and the people, she added. "We see that everyone is happy and the country is beautiful and clean. It is so peaceful too." A fitting compliment indeed. Brunei like East Timor was not wealthy once upon a time. That is to say not too long ago. But it is now a shining light of stability, peace and prosperity. It did the right things and made the correct decisions. What then have we in common with East Timor, as the delegation member put it? Yes, some things perhaps. As far as it goes. East Timor, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is 5,376 square miles while Brunei covers 2,226 square miles. Both are, therefore, small. Its population at 1 million is more than double that of Brunei.

East Timor has also promising oil and gas reserves. That is another similarity. The country is engaged in development with Australia of petroleum and natural gas resources in the waters southeast of Timor. The Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea is the largest petroleum resource in the country. On July 7, 2005, an agreement was signed under which both Australia and East Timor would set aside a dispute over maintenance boundary. Under this treaty East Timor would get 50 percent of the revenues, estimated at US$20 billion over the lifetime of the project from the Greater Sunrise development. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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Diggers maintain control in East Timor

(SMH) 26 August 2006

Huh……. Australian troops operate in East Timor, independent from UN troops. And they get away with it …….. as they get away with their oil policies ………

foto Australian troops, REUTERS, Adrees Latif

Australian troops will remain in charge of military security and independent of a new UN mission in East Timor,the federal government says. The comments came as fresh fighting between rival gangs left dozens of people wounded in the half-island territory. The United Nations Security Council set up a new UN mission for East Timor for at least six months to help restore security and steer the country toward next year's polls. The 15-member body unanimously approved a Japanese resolution that establishes the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) for an initial six months "with the intention to renew for further periods". It decided that UNMIT would consist of a civilian component, including up to 1,608 police personnel, and, initially, up to 34 military liaison and staff officers. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the resolution and said it was a good step forward. He said the Australian military presence would continue on the basis of the invitation we received from East Timor to provide assistance.

"The Australian troops will remain independent of the UN, but support the UN operation there and of course support the East Timorese," Mr Downer told reporters in Sydney. Australia, which has some 1,500 troops and 200 police in the multinational force, which also includes contingents from Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal, expressed a preference to remain in charge of military security in East Timor. "It's not a question of us insisting, it's a question of us expressing a preference, because ultimately this is a matter for the security council," Mr Downer said. "I think it's best our troops remain under our command and it's best that we have that sort of control over them." Mr Downer said in response to the increased UN presence, Australian troop numbers would be reduced, "but we'll still keep a good number there".

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan earlier this month asked the security council to approve a year-long mission in East Timor in the wake of May's violence, which left at least 21 people dead. The vote came as the mandate of the current small UN mission expired.

The resolution directs Annan to review arrangements to be made between UNMIT and international peacekeepers, including a status-of-forces agreement to be concluded within 30 days, and to present his views no later than October 25. Just hours after the UN resolution was passed, fresh fighting broke out between rival gangs left dozens of people wounded in the island nation. Gangs clashed with each other in Wailili village of Baucau district, 230 km east of the capital Dili, leaving at least 25 homes on fire and scores of people wounded.

Mr Downer said the new, larger UN presence would help to build up East Timor's own police force and bring the situation under control. "I think by having more UN police ... that will help to fill a bit of a hole that was created when the East Timorese police ... basically disintegrated a few months ago," he said. "I think the underlying situation there is still volatile frankly, but with a significant UN police presence there, and the back up of the Australian Defence Force, that should keep things pretty much under control."

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Comment on the Australian will to controll militairy forces in East Timor. By James Dunn, Australian analyst and former UNTAET adviser, and Expert on Crimes against Humanity

Note on the Proposed UN Mission Debate

22 Augustus 2006

By James Dunn

The Security Council's decision on the new mission for East Timor has evidently been delayed, largely thanks to Australia's insistence that the predominantly Australian military force now in Dili remain separate, and under Australian command. The US and its leading Asian ally, Japan, strongly supported the Australian position, with some help from the UK. All other delegates backed the Secretary-General's view that the mission should be under UN authority.

The Australian proposal is not, however, in Timor Leste's interests. There is no good reason why our military force, which will be modest in size, should not come under UN authority, not least because an Australian officer is likely to be chosen as PKF commander. Helping Timor Leste overcome its present problems is essentially an international concern, and should therefore be addressed accordingly. It is important that the international presence not be configured in such a way as to diminish Timor Leste's standing as an independent state. The Australian proposal has already raised suggestions that the new nation will become a client state, one whose future is dependent on support from Canberra.

There is nothing in our military's past experience in Timor to justify a green helmet operation. UNTAET's PKF, in which Australian troops were the largest contingent, performed its role effectively. For our force to demand a separate status at this time will also be perceived as a slight to the UN's role, a slight that it does not deserve. In the event the role of the military in the new mission is less important than that of the international police component.

Dealing with those responsible for the current wave of violence is essentially a police responsibility. It is interesting to note that the region's major contributors, Japan aside, have supported Kofi Annan's call for an integrated UN mission. Meeting Australia's request could also be interpreted as a hint that the UN should not be given full authority for dealing with a problem that it itself bears some responsibility for. However, the UN is not really responsible for the past failures behind the present crisis. True, the mandate was of too short duration, but the brevity of its mission was largely the outcome of pressures from the major donors, and from the Timorese leaders themselves, for an early end to the mission. In one of our last conversations on this aspect, Sergio Vieira de Mello was clearly concerned about this aspect.

It is difficult to understand, let alone sympathize, with the Australian position. The fact that East Timor covers a rather small area underlines the need for an integrated UN mission. Some will see Australia's position as reflecting that of the United States which refuses to place its forces under UN command. Such a stand represents an arrogant denial, if not an undermining, of the UN's authority under the Charter, and it should not be accommodated.

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Australian Friends of East Timor (Australian Solidarity Group) calls for pressure on Australian government.

Appeal by Australian Friends of East Timor:
"Stop Your Government from Blocking the UN Mission"

19 August 2006

Dear Australian Friends,

As you're probably aware, the UN is stuck on authorizing the new, increased UN Mission in Timor-Leste. Yesterday, the Security Council extended UNOTIL for a third short-term period, until 25 August. They cannot achieve consensus on including all foreign soldiers in Timor-Leste under a UN-led, command structure.

Australia is the main obstacle, refusing to "blue-hat" your soldiers. The UK and the U.S., which insists on this policy for its own soldiers around the world, support Australia.
The UN Secretary-General, the RDTL government, Portugal, Malaysia, nearly all citizens and NGOs in Timor-Leste, the international support movement for Timor-Leste, and people of good will from around the world advocate for a unified military force integrated into the UN Mission. This is in addition to 1,608 international police, and is described in this excerpt from the UN Secretary-General's 8 August recommendations to the Security Council (see paragraph 119).

The new mission is stalled because the UN will not send soldiers to TL if there is a separate international military force there. Their experience shows that problems of coordination and responsibility create too much of an added burden, making it impossible to carry out their tasks. Australia has dug in its heels -- and Timor-Leste is forced to endure one more cycle of uncertainty and lack of support because of global politics.

Since you follow events in Timor-Leste, you know that the performance of Australia soldiers in Timor-Leste has been erratic at best. They often relate poorly to the local people, don't understand the social and political context, and are ineffective in deterring or preventing violence. Although the situation has improved somewhat in the nearly three months since they got there, it should be much better, and deficiencies in training, attitudes and command are evident almost every day.

Although most Timorese were very relieved and grateful when the Diggers arrived, the good will is wearing thin. More importantly, Timor-Leste's people need and deserve more effective and sensitive support from the international community. The UN is far more capable of providing that, and keeping it in context, than the Australian Defence Force.
The media has given some coverage to this controversy over the past week, but I have seen very little activity by Australian activists, NGOs or citizens urging your government to change its position and listen to the wishes of the RDTL government, the UN, the Timorese people and we who support them from around the world.

The UN's inability to agree has given us a little more time -- one week! This is a plea to colleagues in Australia to use whatever levers and contacts you have. Please pass this letter on.

Thank you.

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Imran Khalid is a freelance columnist and political analyst based in Karachi, Pakistan.

Opinion - The Korea Times

2 Aug 2006

Crisis in East Timor, by Imran Khalid

While facing the challenge of returning Asia's newest nation to stability after months of violence and political disarray, the appointment of Noble laureate Jose Ramos-Horta as the new prime minister is perhaps the most welcome development in East Timor. Indubitably, Ramos-Horta's success will largely depend on whether he can win support from former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's ruling Fretilin party, whose members reluctantly backed his appointment. East Timor was catapulted into instability and turmoil around two months ago when the then prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, by virtue of his Fretilin party's 55 seats in the 88 member parliament, sacked almost half the army after they protested against discrimination. When feuding branches of the armed forces collided and violence spilled over into an orgy of arson and gang war, which left at least 30 people dead, an international peacekeeping force had to be called in. Alkatiri was alleged to have mishandled the affair, but his fate was sealed by a damaging Australian TV documentary that linked him and other Fretilin leaders with a plot to arm civilian militias hunting his opponents.

President Xanana Gusmao, a widely popular liberation hero, threatened to resign himself unless Alkatiri quit. It was certainly a popularity contest he knew he couldn't lose. Although the majority party Fretilin had the right to nominate any of its members as the next prime minister, President Gusmao opted for Ramos-Horta, an independent celebrity who had worked as defense and foreign minister under Alkatiri, to take charge of the government affairs until elections next year. "I have been approached by Fretilin leaders about the possibility of accepting the job of prime minister. If they all feel that I am the one who should carry the burden between now and the next election, I would accept. The only problem is that I would hope I would not fail their expectations," is how Mr. Ramos-Horta reacted to his nomination as the new prime minister. And now he insists the country is functioning normally and that with pro- and anti-Alkatiri protests in the capital over, life would return to normal soon. ``If I am prime minister, obviously there is a lot to do in order to recreate a peaceful climate and to provide a government and services that the Timorese people deserve," he said. "There are certain steps I would take chiefly looking at the issue of unemployment, of housing that I believe can tackle some of these issues." So, Prime Minister Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his campaign against twenty years of Indonesian rule, is poised to take the bull by the horns in a country with a big question mark about its stability and survival.

Between 1999 and 2002, the United Nations-administered multi-billion dollar effort, known as Quickfixville at the time, was projected as fool-proof project that would avoid the mistakes that doomed nation-building elsewhere. But given the peculiar history and culture of East Timor, the United Nations project proved to be a failure as far as nation-building and social uplifting were concerned. With a colonial heritage of four centuries of Portuguese rule and two decades of Indonesian control, this sleepy tropical island, acquired independence under a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999. Since then, East Timor, where the Roman Catholic Church has extremely deep influence on all aspects of social issues, has been struggling to establish a viable political and economic structure that justifies the Timorese's long struggle for independence.

The four centuries of Portuguese presence is clearly stamped on the life style of the island inhabitants. Despite being at the very center of Asia-Pacific, Portuguese is the official language, and every year, hundreds of teachers are imported from Portugal to teach at the elementary schools in East Timor. The moribund and practically non-functional, judicial system was conceived and written by the Portuguese. The tiny island with just 925,000 inhabitants does not have any official currency and American dollars are used in day-to-day transactions. Much to the annoyance of the White House, the strapped medical service depends exclusively on Cuban doctors and East Timorese medical students are mostly trained in Cuba under a program initiated by Mr. Alkatiri. Indubitably, the creation of a national army and police force was among the most critical flaws in the East Timor experiment. Almost nothing to do with national defense, the building of army was simply used as a ready-solution to ``accommodate the freedom fighters with a view to provide them with regular income and barracks.

Practically speaking, a large police force would have been more than sufficient to cater to the law-and-order needs of the small nation. From the very beginning, the national army appeared to be prone to break up along ethnic and political lines. And it eventually did. Australia, the giant neighbor motivated in part by the bravery and support of East Timorese, who saved Australian paratroopers from the Japanese in World War II, was the main patron of building and training a new military in East Timor with an objective of neutralizing the growing influence of Portugal - the Portuguese had already offered to pump sufficient resources into the creation of a national army in East Timor without involving Australia.

The ethnic factions within the army and the police forces eventually led to an all-out, gang-war scenario, as the splinter groups within the army and the police force gathered around different political personalities like former Prime Minister Alkatiri, which kept the country paralyzed for several months and finally forced the government to relinquish power. Now all eyes are on the new Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who won respect from all quarters for his role as a roving peacemaker during the two months of political turmoil and violence, to steer the traumatized nation out of the current crisis. At the moment, apart from ensuring law and order, Mr. Ramos-Horta is faced with two imminent challenges. One, the impending, severe food shortages; and two, how to expedite the return of over 150,000 people (who were displaced during the violence) safely to their homes. Apparently, with the help of the World Food Program and the United Nations, Mr. Ramos-Horta may be able to manage these two issues. But his real challenge is how to put the almost non-existent economy on the right track.

The UN-sponsored nation-building project primarily focused on building government institutions and it totally neglected to improve the agriculture and dirt-poor rural economy. With the lowest productivity in Asia, the rural economy needs serious attention and Mr. Ramos-Horta will have to convince and persuade the United Nations to fund this critical segment. With virtually no economy and a 70-percent unemployment rate, it will be certainly a very difficult task to move ahead. However, the only hope is to build on the existing, solitary source of income oil and gas exploration rights in the Timor Sea that bring dollars to the country. Still untapped, the potential oil and gas reserves can turn Southeast Asia's poorest country into one of its richest within decades. Obviously, this offers a huge opportunity for him to seek secure foreign investment in this sector but, at the same time, Mr. Ramos-Horta will have to encourage small, private business by providing a safe investment environment. But it will not be possible for him to embark upon economic development until he ensure s political stability in a country where he is yet to face a parliament with the majority of its members still loyal to the former premier, Mari Alkatiri.

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New Government Timor Leste

14 July 2006

Second Constitutional Government of Timor Leste:

Dr. José Ramos-Horta

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries
Eng Estanislau da Silva

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health
Dr Rui Maria Araújo

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Jose Luis Guterres

Minister for Planning and Finances
Madalena Brites Boavida

Minister for State Administration
Ana Pessoa

Minister for Defence
José Ramos-Horta

Minister for the Interior
Alcino Barris

Minister for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Antoninho Bianco

Minister for Transport and Communications
Inácio Moreira

Minister for Education and Culture
Rosália Corte-Real

Minister Labour and Community Reinsertion
Arsénio Paixão Bano

Minister for Justice
Domingos Sarmento

Minister for Development
Arcanjo da Silva

Minister for Public Works
Odete Victor

Minister for Natural Resources, Minerals and Energy Policy
José Teixeira

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Rob Wesley-Smith is the spokesperson of 'Australians for a Free East Timor' and lives in Darwin. He has been a activist for of East Timor since 1974 is a tropical rural scientist. Comments to the article below are welcomed by the author.

East Timor: Coup, Mismanagement, Future

7 July, 2006

by Rob Wesley-Smith

The recent sad events in East Timor ('Timor Leste') came out of the blue to most people.
Yet was it a planned coup by Australia as some allege?

In an article in The Guardian 6th July Peter Symond seems in no doubt. But to use as evidence that not long before the Australian forces were invited over to quell the lawlessness they had prepared for such an eventuality is rather tenuous. Blind Freddy could see the need arising. In early 1999 I led a delegation of activists to the North Australian military command to assure them that armed intervention to save the East Timorese from Genocide was supported by human rights activists. We had campaigned on the need for armed peacekeepers since late 1998. Blind Freddy could see the need then too.

Ironically in 1999 blind Alexander Downer could not see the need for armed peacekeepers, or so he argued, so the UN was powerless to enforce its boast to stay and protect the East Timorese in the lead up to the 30th August ballot and thereafter. A couple of years ago again it was blind Alexander who argued that East Timor did not need and could not expect a modest UN delegation including military and police to stay on and help it though its early democratic pains. It is also claimed that Australia deliberately mistrained the army so it would be ineffective. Was all this grossly negligent policy an attempt to cause a failed state?

I think the jury is out on this one, but maybe. When you factor in Australia's unrelenting tough stance on negotiations over the oil and gas spoils of the Timor Sea, where the Australian government has taken from East Timor waters over 5 x what it has returned in civil aid, and is appropriating to itself half the Royalties from the Greater Sunrise oil fields, which according to the UNCLOS rules belongs 80-100 to East Timor, one sees a determined push to keep East Timor poverty stricken. They have not had an economic dividend from Independence, thus rightly fuelling discontent.

But what has Prime Minister Mart Alkatiri's role been in all this. Some Left commentators have argued he is indispensable because he did not borrow from the World Bank or anyone else, and that he drove a hard bargain on Timor Sea issues. In 2001 he and Peter Galbraith the UN negotiator claimed they were threatened by Alexander, exactly with what is not clear, but it could have been that Australia would withdraw from the UN over Maritime Boundaries, which it did in March 2002, showing a bonsai-Bush contempt for international law. But then Alkatiri with fulsome support from Jose Ramos Horta signed the Timor Sea Treaty on 20th May 2002, Restoration of Independence day, much to the delight of a beaming tricky Alexander, as he knew this would limit East Timor's negotiating position for other areas and for Maritime Boundaries.

What brought about this change of attitude? The jury is still out on this one. I hope Xanana puts a moratorium on signing or endorsing any Timor Sea agreements until after a newly elected government has a chance to reconsider it position.

East Timor as a country was devastated by the almost complete looting, burning and destruction of its towns, many villages and its agricultural resources. You would have thought the UN and international community would have taken steps to help rebuild, but apart from some government buildings and some infrastructure this was not the case, leaving NGOs to shoulder most of the burden and the East Timorese to suffer. Should Alkatiri have borrowed? Well, once Bayu Undan was locked in and substantial revenues were about to flow, then why not? This could be paid back in one year. Poverty reduction programs were urgently needed. Perhaps if meaningful poverty reduction programs had been implemented than the present discontent with the Alkatiri/Fretilin government would not have been so volatile. Whilst I blame Australia most for cutting off the funds, Alkatiri must shoulder some blame.

Again the further Left argued Alkatiri has prioritised Agriculture. This is poppycock, when the Agriculture budget was not much over 1% compared to Health being over 40%. Yet as I argued in 2000 in East Timor - Making Amends, (Lee/Taudevin, Otford), agricultural skills and resources could probably solve 80% of the Health problems by improved Nutrition (still and even more lately a desperate need); improved clean water supply (ditto); improved sanitation (ditto for refugee camps); and improved shelter (in Dili now so many houses have been destroyed by criminal acts).

I notice Peter Cosgrove arguing that soldiers not police were needed this time around. This too is poppycock, few threats existed to the wellarmed ponderous soldiers, what was needed was police who could intervene and take thugs off the streets, and to find out who were the ringleaders. They should have been working with the loyal Timorese police, not marginalising them. Where was their intelligence coming from, and what was it if they did get any? How many houses were burned in Dili after the Aussie troops arrived until now? Shades of September 1999 with Cosgrove in charge.

So is this recent unrest a coup, or simply discontent and impatience with the ruling hardline Fretilin party and its stern leader Mari Alkatiri with his negligible PR skills? Investigative journalist John Martinkus revealed that the Timor armed forces leaders had been approached by 2 Timorese and 2 mysterious foreigners about a military role in removing the government, but he didn't reveal names or nationality. So its still anyone's guess from Australia, Portugal, Indonesia, or USA - if forced to choose I would pick the USA.

Has there been planning by marginalised groups in East Timor seeing no other way out from the Fretilin juggernaut? Yes. Does this amount to a coup? Not sure, it may depend on definitions. Do many Timorese welcome a government of national unity? Definitely. This should have been installed in 2002 as President Xanana wanted. Most international support groups fought for a human rights paradise, not for one party.

Deep divisions have now been burned again into Timorese society, so what needs to be done to restore a sense of unity and the way forward? Fretilin must accept some blame for the recent unrest, as apart from its hardline approach, in 2002 Alkatiri appointed as Interior minister Rogerio Lobato who had a record of corruption and manipulation, then failed at the least to stop him arming civilians. Lobato built up the Police at the expense of the Military, which had no meaningful role at all. Alkatiri was reelected recently at the Fretilin congress by shows of hands which is against the rules, then when Lobato was sacked in disgrace he was elected Fretilin vicePresident. And now they seem to want to change the parliament rules to protect themselves, though Alkatiri says he will not seek to evade the prosecutors.

Hopefully a government of national unity will now be installed. This is what East Timor most needs, a sense of unity. Over the centuries it has been more tribal, with a 'winner take all mentality', and jealousy of the next person or group a defining factor - even now. Perhaps under the Indonesian occupation it united against the oppressor, but then faced the challenge of a complete change of outlook towards constructing a better future. The Falintil Defence Forces must be sorted out as an urgent first step, overall reduced and better educated, and provided with a meaningful role in border defence maybe, civil defence, green corps, overseas UN postings, etc but the factions must be united as an example to the nation.

The public service must be chosen on competence not politics, and be given rigorous training to be efficient and noncorrupt. A Public Service Commissioner to oversee appointments is a must. Women need to be supported for more jobs. Education must be got back on stream and improved, or many middle class students will be lost to Indonesian schools. Those illeducated jobless macho males in Dili must be got into jobs in the countryside if possible. Poverty reduction programs which build better communications, health and environment must be implemented. The border with West Timor should be open to free trade, both for competitive reasons and to foil corrupt cartels. Nationwide cultural support and sharing, and sport as intra and international activity given a chance to promote unity (Alkatiri did the opposite by banning participation in the last Arafura regional Games). Impunity for crimes especially war crimes must not be sacrificed in the search for forgiveness and reconciliation. Discrimination based on alleged loromonu/lorosae origin must be outlawed. And so on.

Meanwhile East Timor will have to accept foreign peacekeepers until some of the above gets implemented. Should these be under UN or Aussie command? Maybe UN but with an Aussie commander. What we don't need is a UN of nationalities doing training and in jobs like 2000/01 where 80 nationalities sowed confusion. Should English and Indonesian be official languages? I think so. In fact if one has to drop out it should be Portuguese. But maybe that's just my Darwinian perspective.

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20.000 FRETILIN protesters in Dili, delivered the message below to President Gusmao. This rally is 10 times the size of the anti-government protests. There are even more people outside Dili who cannot enter to support their party and government.


29 JUNE 2006


A Message to:
His Excellency the President of the Republic, KAY RALA XANANA GUSMãO

FROM: The Militants and Supporters of FRETILIN

With all respect, we the militants and supporters of FRETILIN wish to convey this message to His Excellency The President of the Republic, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, in the hope that you, as Head of State, will listen to our concerns as citizens of Timor-Leste.

We appeal

1. To our sovereign State institutions and all our citizens to follow the Constitution of RDTL, and all the laws passed by the Parliament and promulgated by the President, so as to guarantee the peaceful functioning of our society;

2. To His Excellency the President of the Republic, to receive our FRETILIN delegation, as the representatives of the political party which won the democratic elections of 2001, to discuss how an interim government should be formed, so we can act together for the good of the people and the development of Timor-Leste;

3. To His Excellency the President of the Republic, to use your power as the main person responsible for Defence and Security issues to order an immediate disarmament of the civilian groups;

4. To His Excellency the President of the Republic, to use your power to stop violent protests in which various groups attack and insult peoples' dignity, throughout the day and night;

We demand that the groups who are harassing our President and especially our Secretary-General Comrade Mari Alkatiri, as well as our militants, stop their actions;

We the militants and supporters of FRETILIN once again give this message:

* We do not want the Timor-Leste State to collapse;

* We do not want to live in hatred and vengeance

distroyed supermarket

This is not the time to point fingers at each other and compare who has committed more mistakes and who is more righteous. What is important is that we exchange ideas to find a solution so that everyone can return to their houses and live in peace and good relations with each other;

We as militants and supporters of FRETILIN have trust in the ability of our sovereign institutions to work together in order to cease our people's suffering;

We give our total support to the efforts of our leaders of FRETILIN to continue to dialogue with all the State institutions, political parties, civil society and especially the Catholic Church, in order to find a good solution for the Maubere people and to consolidate our democracy in Timor-Leste.

We as militants and supporters of FRETILIN state that FRETILIN should nominate the Prime Minister in the interim government, in accordance with our Constitution, the highest law of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

Thank you for your attention.

Below appear the signatures of representatives of the militants and supporters of FRETILIN

Dili, 29 June 2006

foto: Godian Ezema, arts in Dili

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James Dunn is a former Australian diplomat who has written extensively on East Timor. He is also the author of the well-known book: East Timor - A people betrayed.

Dream of democracy, like Timor's people, broken

Canberra Times - 27 June 2006

By James Dunn

The reluctant resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri yesterday may have eased thecrisis in East Timor, but the situation will remain very unsettled until the underlying issues have been resolved.

The violence on the streets of Dili may have subsided, but the outcome, if not handled circumspectly, could revive some divisive political differences that go back a long way.

The present crisis has gone well beyond disputes involving a discontented military, and has become a major political crisis that could still tear the nation apart if mishandled.

The issues are quite complex and interpreting them will test the skills of all parties involved, including our media, whose role so far has tended to be inquisitorial and partisan. The underlying political issues go back a long way. Fretilin's leading role in the armed struggle against Indonesian occupation gave that party an enormous advantage in the political run-up to the first election.

Not surprisingly it won a handsome majority (55 of the 88 seats) from a grateful electorate, a decisive victory which led to fears among Fretilin opponents that the new nation's government would lead to a one- party state.

During the 2001 election campaign such fears caused President Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta, who had earlier been Fretilin leaders (Ramos Horta was one of its founders) to stress their independent status, and to encourage the development of the kind of political diversity that would ensure a balance in the new nation's political establishment. They did not succeed.
By and large the opposition parties polled weakly and the outcome gave great power to Fretilin and its leader, Mari Alkatiri, one that caused disquiet, and not only among other party supporters.
Discontent increased in the first years of independence when the weakening Timor Leste economy encouraged a wave of pessimism, and growing disenchantment with the Alkatiri Government, which, in the circumstances, was doing its best.

In fact the Alkatiri Government proved itself to be a reasonably efficient manager at a difficult time for East Timor's weakling economy.

The most explosive element was the massive unemployment in a country powerless to ease the misery of the jobless with unemployment benefits. At the time of independence unemployment stood at more than 60 per cent, and, in the circumstances of the time, to reduce it was an impossible mission. Not surprisingly, the popularity of the Fretilin Party declined accordingly. It represents a pattern quite common in the histories of newly independent states, whose governing parties can hardly be blamed for failing in situations that would have defied the most skilful managers.

This background is generally poorly understood by our media, whose aggressive reporting can add to the tensions among a people already confused and disturbed. For the Timorese, democracy is a new experience, one that excited them during the UN tutelage, and at independence, but they are now confronted with the downside of the democratic experience -- the mayhem, the social disruption, that occurs when the political balance breaks down.

Hence a key challenge before Mari Alkatiri's successor will be to restore the confidence of the electorate in a system that was supposed to lead them to national cohesion, observance of human rights and greater prosperity, but let them down.

From this point of view the next weeks will be critical for the political leaders of East Timor. It is essential that the present instability should be overcome, based on a comprehensive campaign to restore popular confidence in the institutions of democracy.

This should involve the political impartial participation of the UN and other interested parties, such as Australia. We must, however, avoid partisan positions that could exacerbate the tensions ignited by recent events.

In this context, we should not regard Mari Alkatiri insensitively. His resignation was demanded for alleged misdeeds exposed by the foreign media, and not considered by the Timor Leste parliament. It may well turn out that his main misdeed was one of omission. So far the only identified bad apple on the government side has been Rogerio Lobato, the sacked minister for the interior, who is now under house arrest. Mr Alkatiri's guilt or complicity in these serious charges still has to be established, and that presumably will be the task facing UN investigators.

The most serious accusation is that a secret armed group was charged with eliminating Fretilin's political opponents. Clearly Lobato was behind this operation, but the big question is: did the prime minister authorise, or know about it?

These questions need to be answered quickly, because of the severe damage the affair has inflicted on Timor Leste's fledgling democracy, but investigating it will inevitably take time.

One solution would be an early election, but to hold an election in the present turbulent environment would be to invite unacceptable violence. It would be preferable to wait until May, the designated time for the next election.

In the meantime it should be possible to stabilise East Timorese society, minimising the risk of violence in the campaign activities of rival political parties. This crisis has clearly distressed President Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and other leaders, whose dream of a democratic Timorese society living peacefully and harmoniously in their beautiful environment has been suddenly shattered.

Many are asking the obvious question: why did Timor Leste's democratic state, which was so tenderly put together under the tutelage of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his advisers, fail to arrest the new nation's slide into violence?

The answer has nothing to do with the legitimacy of East Timor's nationhood. However, it reminds us that democracy is not built in a day. At the outset its essential principles need to be firmly rooted in those institutions with the capacity to endanger it.

naar boven Foto Asia Pacific

Volgens een radiobericht zou er begin deze week een aanval zijn geweest op één van de vluchtelingenkampen nabij Dili. We kunnen echter geen bevestiging van dit bericht vinden via bekenden die momenteel nog in Dili werkzaam zijn.

foto: Asia Pacific

Email uit Dili, 30 juni 2006

Godian Ezema (Nigeriaanse arts, werkzaam in Dili)

I was around during the demonstration yesterday and there was no such thing like an attack on any refugee camp, although I will go around to find out if such happened.

The wave of demonstrators that came yesterday were very peacefull to my own assessment, all though some few boys seased the opportunity to destroy some few shops at Bidau. They were not part of the demonstrators.

Two days ago some group of so called Loromonu (= from the western part of East Timor, Red.) burnt some houses claiming that it was in retaliation to the speech made by the prime minister at one of the district that they were not responsible for the burning and looting.

I interviewed some of the demonstrators yesterday to find out what they wanted, and they told me that their intrest is not on any personality, but that they were here to support both the party that struggled for their independence and their Government.

They told me that they are not pro Akatiri or anti Xanana but want the crisis resolved.
I think all are getting fed up with the crisis. The next thing now is what will happen to the parliament.

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President Oost-Timor wil verkiezingen

ANP - 29 juni 2006

DILI - Verkiezingen zijn de enige uitweg uit de diepe politieke crisis waarin Oost-Timor zich bevindt. Dat heeft president Xanana Gusmao donderdag gezegd. Het land is diep verdeeld na de geweldsuitbarsting van de afgelopen maanden en het vertrek eerder deze week van premier Mari Alkatiri, die voor de onrust verantwoordelijk werd gehouden.

Protest in Dili - foto ABC

Tegenstanders van Alkatiri hoopten dat zijn ontslag een einde zou maken aan alle onrust, maar woensdag werd duidelijk dat de aanhangers van de gewezen premier zich niet zonder meer neerleggen bij zijn vertrek. In de hoofdstad Dili braken schermutselingen uit tussen beide kampen. Zestien mensen werden opgepakt voor brandstichting, plundering en andere vergrijpen.

Duizenden aanhangers van Alkatiri zijn donderdag in een lange stoet auto's en bussen naar Dili getrokken om hem steun te betuigen. Hun intocht werd in goede banen geleid door de Australische en Nieuw-Zeelandse militairen die sinds enkele weken de rust in Oost-Timor proberen te herstellen. De voertuigen werden grondig doorzocht op wapens om nieuw geweld te voorkomen.

foto: Protest in Dili - foto ABC

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President calls for calm
as ex-premier's supporters camp out in Timor Leste capital

AFP - 29 June 2006

DILI : Timor Leste's president issued an appeal for calm as thousands of supporters of ex-prime minister Mari Alkatiri prepared to camp out after rolling through the capital in a major show of strength.

Alkatiri resigned as premier on Monday but afterwards rallied his supporters outside the city prompting fears of more turmoil after deadly fighting last month saw at least 21 people die and more than 150,000 flee their homes.

At least 150 trucks and cars packed with Alkatiri supporters converged on Dili, chanting his name as foreign peacekeeping troops cleared the route to try to prevent clashes. The city was brought to a standstill, with businesses and restaurants shuttered, and soldiers in armoured vehicles and police with dogs guarding government offices.

"Viva Fretilin!" "Long Live Unity!" the protestors shouted, waving large black, yellow and red East Timorese flags as the vehicles passed with horns blaring and military helicopters hovered overhead. Fretilin is Alkatiri's ruling party. Minor clashes involving stone throwing occurred between rival factions.

"I ask everyone to be calm. The right to demonstrate is the right of everyone," said President Xanana Gusmao in a televised address on Thursday evening. "This crisis is not between myself and Mari Alkatiri," said Gusmao, who demanded the premier step down last week after Alkatiri was widely blamed for the crisis. Protest leaders, who wanted to hand a letter to Gusmao, said they would camp overnight in the capital after they were stopped from going to the gate of the presidential palace by Australian troops.

Several blocks were secured near the main government offices so that the 3,000 protestors could sleep over after holding an evening rally singing songs and delivering speeches.

"We could not carry out our activities. That's why we will spend the night here," said Antonio Cardoso, a Fretilin member of parliament. He denied there was a potential for violence. "We said we would show our political maturity. Fretilin doesn't care about violence and we want a peaceful environment."

Foreign troops from a 2,200-strong contingent which arrived in May carried out rigorous searches of vehicles and protestors entering the city. Tensions were already high after houses were torched and youths threw stones at refugee camps on Wednesday in response to television pictures aired the evening before showing a defiant Alkatiri blaming others for his downfall.

Gusmao, a widely respected former rebel leader against Indonesian occupation who has been seeking to forge a path back towards peace, said that the fledgling nation must hold elections as soon as possible. "I am conscious that the current crisis can only be completely overcome through free elections to be held as soon as possible," he said in a presidential declaration dated on Wednesday.

In his televised speech later, he said he had asked parliamentarians to return to work, with a US$415 million budget for the next fiscal year still waiting to be ratified. The financial year ends on Friday. Timor Leste is due to hold parliamentary elections early next year.

UN chief Kofi Annan called on the Timorese people "to remain calm and to unite during this time of challenge and change".

Alkatiri was blamed for the May fighting between factions of the military, and between the army and police, which degenerated into gang street violence. The unrest had its roots in Alkatiri's decision in March to sack some 600 deserting soldiers - or nearly half the military - who had complained about discrimination.

In Australia, which has some 1,500 troops and police in Timor Leste, Treasurer Peter Costello denied charges that Canberra had been involved in ousting Alkatiri.

Alkatiri's supporters have accused Australia of orchestrating the premier's downfall. - AFP

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The following article - really a summary of various other articles on this website - is still readable to new readers on Timor, and has the crediility that many opinion pieces circulating did not have. This piece has been assembled by someone who has a credible history of support for Timor.

East Timor: The Coup The World Missed

By John Pilger, 23 June 2006

In my 1994 film Death of a Nation there is a scene on board an aircraft flying between northern Australia and the island of Timor. A party is in progress; two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. "This is an historically unique moment," effuses Gareth Evans, Australia's foreign affairs minister, "that is truly uniquely historical." He and his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas, were celebrating the signing of the Timor Gap Treaty, which would allow Australia to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the seabed off East Timor. The ultimate prize, as Evans put it, was "zillions" of dollars.

Australia's collusion, wrote Professor Roger Clark, a world authority on the law of the sea, "is like acquiring stuff from a thief . . . the fact is that they have neither historical, nor legal, nor moral claim to East Timor and its resources". Beneath them lay a tiny nation then suffering one of the most brutal occupations of the 20th century. Enforced starvation and murder had extinguished a quarter of the population: 180,000 people. Proportionally, this was a carnage greater than that in Cambodia under Pol Pot. The United Nations Truth Commission, which has examined more than 1,000 official documents, reported in January that western governments shared responsibility for the genocide; for its part, Australia trained Indonesia's Gestapo, known as Kopassus, and its politicians and leading journalists disported themselves before the dictator Su- harto, described by the CIA as a mass murderer.

These days Australia likes to present itself as a helpful, generous neighbour of East Timor, after public opinion forced the government of John Howard to lead a UN peacekeeping force six years ago. East Timor is now an independent state, thanks to the courage of its people and a tenacious resistance led by the liberation movement Fretilin, which in 2001 swept to political power in the first democratic elections. In regional elections last year, 80 per cent of votes went to Fretilin, led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, a convinced "economic nationalist", who opposes privatisation and interference by the World Bank. A secular Muslim in a largely Roman Catholic country, he is, above all, an anti-imperialist who has stood up to the bullying demands of the Howard government for an undue share of the oil and gas spoils of the Timor Gap.

On 28 April last, a section of the East Timorese army mutinied, ostensibly over pay. An eyewitness, Australian radio reporter Maryann Keady, disclosed that American and Australian officials were involved. On 7 May, Alkatiri described the riots as an attempted coup and said that "foreigners and outsiders" were trying to divide the nation. A leaked Australian Defence Force document has since revealed that Australia's "first objective" in East Timor is to "seek access" for the Australian military so that it can exercise "influence over East Timor's decision-making". A Bushite "neo- con" could not have put it better.

The opportunity for "influence" arose on 31 May, when the Howard government accepted an "invitation" by the East Timorese president, Xanana Gusmão, and foreign minister, José Ramos Horta - who oppose Alkatiri's nationalism - to send troops to Dili, the capital. This was accompanied by "our boys to the rescue" reporting in the Australian press, together with a smear campaign against Alkatiri as a "corrupt dictator". Paul Kelly, a former editor-in-chief of Rupert Murdoch's Australian, wrote: "This is a highly political intervention . . . Australia is operating as a regional power or a political hegemon that shapes security and political outcomes." Translation: Australia, like its mentor in Washington, has a divine right to change another country's government. Don Watson, a speechwriter for the former prime minister Paul Keating, the most notorious Suharto apologist, wrote, incredibly: "Life under a murderous occupation might be better than life in a failed state . . ."

Arriving with a force of 2,000, an Australian brigadier flew by helicopter straight to the headquarters of the rebel leader, Major Alfredo Reinado - not to arrest him for attempting to overthrow a democratically elected prime minister but to greet him warmly. Like other rebels, Reinado had been trained in Canberra. John Howard is said to be pleased with his title of George W Bush's "deputy sheriff" in the South Pacific. He recently sent troops to a rebellion in the Solomon Islands, and imperial opportunities beckon in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and other small island nations.
The sheriff will approve.

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Max Stahl is a journalist and freelance documentary film-maker. For those who do not remember, he was the one who filmed the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili (November 1991) and brought it out into the world.

No One Heeded Timor Warning Signs

The Irish Times Monday - 5 June 2006

By Max Stahl

Even as foreign forces arrive to try and quell violence and looting, East Timor is still staring into the abyss of civil war, writes Max Stahl in Dili.

While gangs of youths still roam Dili shooting and looting in sectarian attacks, the appointment, at President Xanana Gusmao's instigation, of Nobel-laureate foreign minister Joseph Ramos Horta as defence minister, appears likely to calm tensions in the divided country.

Gusmao and Horta have both the support of the army and state apparatus, dominated by the country's easterners, and are believed to have the respect of the dissident mountain people from the west who have fled the capital in large numbers.

East Timor has been staring into the abyss of civil war. Much of the capital Dili lies smouldering in ruins. Perhaps two-thirds of its people have fled to the mountains or to refugee camps huddled around churches or to foreign forces for protection from the gangs who have been torching and looting the city.

International intervention forces - 1,800 from Australia and further contributions from Portugal, Malaysia and New Zealand are back. This is less than seven years after they landed to save Timor from a scorched-earth campaign and slaughter at the hands of Indonesian military and militia and just four years after the United Nations handed over power to the leaders of the world's newest nation in an orgy of self congratulation and optimism.

Yet just weeks ago East Timor was seen as a model solution for failed states around the world. The world community invested about $3 billion here. The UN ruled this country for 2½ years, acting for the first time in UN history as midwife for a new nation and overseeing the setting up of democratic institution.

When World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz visited in April, just two weeks before this crisis began, he heaped praise on the "functioning economy and vibrant democracy".

On May 19th, the prime minister, Dr Mari Alkatiri, was re- elected by more than 90 per cent of some 600 delegates at the first open party congress of the dominant national party and party of government to be held since East Timor was invaded and occupied by Indonesia in December 1975.

May 20th was due to be the formal end of the seven-year UN mission here. By May 23rd, there was shooting in the streets of Dili. Within a week it looked like all-out war with the police fragmenting and taking on a divided army in heavy gun battles. Within days young people carrying iron bars, knives and fabricated steel darts divided up the city in vigilante gangs. Looting and criminal opportunism soon followed.

For more than 100,000 ordinary people on the run, this is the cruellest twist. Seventy per cent of them lost their homes and possessions only in 1999. Before that they lost some 180,000 dead, about a quarter of the pre-war population, through war, starvation and disease in a 24-year occupation by Indonesia. Today it appears that they are back where they started. For ordinary people it is bewildering and desperately depressing. But all-out civil war, which would make the current disaster look small, could still come.

The warning signs have been there to those who cared to see them, ignored not just by foreigners but by a government which may regret paying more attention to UN models than to its own history and people.

The trouble began in the army, the core and cradle of East Timor's independence movement.
The UN and bilateral agencies were concerned to build a non-political army. They championed the renaming of the East Timor Defence Forces. They commissioned a report from King's College London on the threat profile and an appropriate force posture and oversaw recruitment to create a strictly professional army along European lines.

But Falintil, the armed forces for the liberation of East Timor, which survived 24 years of struggle against overwhelming odds, was an alliance of regional and ethnic groups whose victory came not so much through force of fire-power, as through politics. Commanders worked with their local communities, learning to listen and lead a grassroots mass movement.

In post-independence East Timor, Falintil's history connected it to the people - for good and ill - far more closely than the recent UN-approved institutions of parliament, government, judiciary and police.

From the first recruitment into the new army, some communities felt undervalued as others were over-represented. Some veterans were ignored while sons of pro-Indonesian families - even militia - were preferred.

The stresses emerged in bitter internal conflicts. Earlier this year, almost half the army walked out accusing key commanders of abuse and regional "discrimination" in promotions and disciplinary matters.

On UN military legal advice, 595 striking soldiers were fired when they refused to return to barracks. Young people from soldiers' families and communities and then marginal political groups flocked to a week-long protest staged by the dissident soldiers. Dr Alkatiri and the speaker of parliament made no move to meet them.

The sacked soldiers and their backers embarked on a wrecking spree, attacking government buildings and torching homes.

The UN-trained police force scattered. Some stood by, some fired indiscriminately into the crowd, taking sides in the melee. Dr Alkatiri - a returned exile not popular with many veterans and young people - called in the loyal army who drove their former colleagues and their supporters into the hills in a day and a night of terror, where the fugitives claim dozens died.

The dissidents from the west fled to their home districts alleging a massacre by the easterners, more soldiers defected and were joined by many western police. Amid clashes, more than half the population of the capital followed seeking shelter in their regions of origin and giving political substance to the soldiers' claims to represent the popular will.

Through these events over the past month, the institutions created, advised or supported by the UN and then handed to the independent government have failed.

Some, like the police, fragmented and evaporated, others like the parliament and the justice system, called upon to investigate abuses, remained on the sidelines. Most of the ministries were abandoned and even the party congress of East Timor's governing party Fretelin - once a great grassroots force but which was revived top down after many years in cold storage - failed to explore or debate the issue.

Today the alienated gangs of young people, who are turning to looting and sectarian burning and killing, and the dissident soldiers in the mountains are the ones talking grassroots politics, and demanding the dissolution of the government.

International forces are back to hold the line to give time for a debate to happen which the western-style political institutions they laboured to nurture failed to hold.

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Indonesia's silence on Timor Leste crisis

Aboeprijadi Santoso, 16 June 2006

For two months Timor Leste has gone through its worst crisis since its independence. Much of the country's trade and economy depend on us. Much of the geo-political space in which it has to pursue its foreign policy, and to achieve stability and justice, depends on us. They use our language, even smoke the same kretek cigarettes as we do. And, in the most fundamental sense, they had suffered under "our" harsh occupation. Yet, with a few exceptions, many prefer to remain silent, ignoring their sorry plight. Why?

As early as March 1992, in Lisbon, I had the occasion to meet with Rogerio Lobato, the exiled Fretilin minister, who was also the brother of East Timor's, hero Nicolai Lobato, killed in the 1980s by one of Gen. Prabowo Subianto's units. Two rumors were circulating at that time: That Rogerio Lobato planned to buy arms in 1975 from China for the freedom struggle at home, and that he was involved in gold smuggling to Angola. Both could have been true, but only the second was later confirmed. He left the impression of a maverick adventurer.

Rogerio Lobato belonged to the first generation of heroic Fretilin leaders who spent their lives abroad. Unlike Jose Ramos-Horta and other exiled leaders, though, he was not prominent in the country's national front, the CNRM (later changed to CNRT) umbrella coalition, which formally included Fretilin. In 1986 Xanana Gusmao decided to join the CNRM and reestablished the Falintil guerrilla as a non-partisan i.e. national military wing -- a move that hurt Fretilin leaders, but advanced Xanana's, and Falintil's image abroad.
While Xanana, Ramos-Horta, the CNRT, the non-Fretilin, non-left-wing leaders took much of the credit abroad, the Mari Alkatiri-led Fretilin remained deeply rooted in the society. When the country regained its independence in 2002 with Xanana as the national leader, Fretilin became the most popular political party.

Nonetheless, the cleavage between the former CNRM - and Fretilin leaders apparently remains. And when alleged discrimination among former Falintil guerrilla's and regionalism were aggravated by the firing of one third of the country's military, and this subsequently linked up with factionalism within the administration, the state almost collapsed.

foto Commonwealth Aus - DoD

With the Australian armed forces securing Dili, Fretilin's PM Alkatiri was seriously challenged and two key ministers had to quit, including the maverick adventurer Rogerio Lobato, who dismissed the 573 soldiers and politicized the national police. Fretilin's dominant rule, based on democratic elections, remains legitimate, but the crisis put them in a difficult position.

Basically, there is nothing unique about this. Many Asian leaders had much less difficulties when integrating former guerrilla's into the new army, in particular when the revolutionary leader took firm control as both political and military leader (Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, Myanmar's Gen. Aung San, China's Mao Zhe-dong, all in the 1940s).

By contrast, the CNRT/Xanana-Fretilin cleavage and the subsequent crisis remind us of Indonesia's experience of how difficult it was for vice president and prime minister Mohammad Hatta in 1948 to "rationalize" the politicized army and the armed partisan groups whom, like the Fretilin, were much ideologized. It eventually led to the Madiun civil war, which was worse than the recent Dili riots.

But the Timor crisis also reflects the depth of the quagmire out of which the new state was born. Long before the 1999 vote, some leaders, notably Ramos-Horta, had contemplated a free East Timor without a military force -- like Costa Rica. How unrealistic this was was soon demonstrated -- not by the Timorese, but by Jakarta. The Cosa Rica dream was abandoned precisely because the Indonesian Army, in gross violation of the New York Agreement, orchestrated a murderous intimidation campaign and turned Dili into ashes.

A massive exodus has always been a collective protest in a cry for basic security creating a pattern with profound lessons for both the rulers and the ruled. In the former East Timor, many learned how to resist the occupiers and apparently how to generate public fear. When people joined the civilian defense (Hansip) units imposed by the Army in the 1970s, or the militia's two decades later, they learned their modus operandi, while at the same time they created networks of estafetta's to help the clandestine groups disseminate information to resist the military and the militia's.

Just as the uprising in the early 1990s demonstrated the impact of the harsh occupation among the new generation which was completely Indonesian-educated, the recent riots remind us how the roaming gangs of unemployed looters acted exactly as the militia's did in 1999. Thus, the militia's masters may have gone, but some patterns remain.
With the administration almost collapsed and the population fleeing yet again in the hundreds of thousands - repeating what they did in 1975-1976, 1978-1979, 1999 -- the country almost turned into a failed state. The cycle of mass exodus means that the state has lost much of its credibility. At the grassroots level, it was not new, but this time it reflects the crisis at state level.

Indonesia's oppression has contributed so much to Fretilin's popularity that it led Xavier do Amaral, who proclaimed East Timor's independence in 1975, to remark in 2002 that it is "as if Fretilin was spoiled by history. For their part, Jakarta's generals had used East Timor as a stepping stone for their careers. While many remain silent on how much we "owe" to East Timor and vice versa, the crisis, ironically, also brought with it "a blessing", as Tempo weekly magazine put it, for Gen. Wiranto as UN files on his role mysteriously vanished.

For a small country with a great portion of its people who had lost parents or siblings during almost a quarter century of occupation, the crisis will reflect, in some ways, the consequences of Indonesia's past presence.

But Jakarta and the international community may have been all too aware of this humiliating legacy and its possible consequences hence they continue to ignore the findings and recommendations of the UN mandated truth commission CAVR that could eventually satisfy the East Timorese people's demand for justice. The UN chief, too, ignores the report when he calls for aid to help Timor Leste rebuild the country.

Aboeprijadi Santoso is a journalist with Radio Netherlands.

foto: Commonwealth Aus - DoD

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EAST TIMOR: Ethnic violence or 'breakdown in social solidarity'?

Jon Lamb, Green Left Weekly - 14 June 2006

Political tensions within the East Timorese elite continue to simmer amidst preparation for the first sitting of parliament since the arrival of the Australian-led international security force. The parliament is expected to discuss and debate the next measures to resolve the nation's political and social crisis. Following the visit of United Nations special representative Ian Martin, there is increasing support for an expanded UN-led presence.

East Timor's foreign minister and acting defence minister Jose Ramos Horta has stressed the need for a UN-led police mission to be deployed to maintain security, telling reporters on June 7 that such a force should "last at least up to two years".

A key problem remains how to deal with the sporadic violent acts by youth gangs. Much of this violence seems to have taken on a communal-like character, with angry mobs of youths with weapons threatening households or sections of suburbs. There has been widespread reportage in the Australian media of distinctive clashes between ethnic west (Loromono) and east (Lorosae) groupings.

However this ethnic distinction as the basis for the gang rivalry has been questioned by East Timorese community leaders and activists. Speaking at the "Beyond the Crisis in Timor-Leste" forum held at the Australian National University in Canberra on June 9, former student activist Antero Benedito da Silva stated that the youth gangs were symptomatic of the breakdown of social solidarity and the weakening of national identity following the formal attainment of East Timor's independence.

Similarly, the influential Bishop of Baucau, Basilio dos Nascimento, speaking in Portugal on June 8, told the Lusa news service that the theory of ethnic rivalry was "news" to him, and that there was a lack of evidence to back such claims.

The Fretilin-led government, the United Nations Office in East Timor and government opponents have alleged that the activity of some of the gangs is politically motivated. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri claims there is evidence of political manipulation in order to force him to step down. In an interview with the Lusa news agency on June 7, Alkatiri said that "everything that is happening now began [with riots] in December 2002, more or less with the same demands and with the same groups behind it ... The objective is really to topple the elected government." However, Alkatiri did not spell out who these groups are.

In an investigative report for ABC TV's Four Corners program, journalist Liz Jackson interviewed members of an armed group who claim they were recruited and given weapons by former interior minister Rogerio Lobato as a private security force to intimidate political opponents of Alkatiri.

Jackson told ABC TV's World News program on June 8: "They say that they were asked to do two things. One, to settle down differences between those people from the east and west of Timor. But also far more seriously ... three of them claim that they knew their mission and were specifically told their mission was to eliminate political opponents, to eliminate the so-called petitioners' groups [soldiers protesting their sacking, which sparked the current crisis], and people who break the Fretilin rules." While the gang members interviewed stressed that they had not killed anyone, Jackson stated: "They do claim that they were actually formulated to last a year until the next election ..."

The front page of the Australian carried an article on June 9 with similar allegations. Former Falintil independence fighter Vincente da Concecao claimed he was a member of a secret hit squad of retired guerrillas working for Lobato and Alkatiri. However according to Fretilin, these allegations are a fabrication intended to discredit Alkatiri.

There is continuing pressure for Alkatiri to resign, particular given these new gang-related revelations. The problem of who would replace him, though, and the consequences of such a move appear to have tempered an open push to get rid of him, particularly any move outside the bounds of the constitution. On June 7, a large convoy-style rally of around 1000 protesters from the western districts of East Timor delivered a statement to President Xanana Gusmao in Dili calling for Alkatiri's resignation.

Speaking in Dili on June 7, Australian defence minister Brendan Nelson claimed that the Australian government was not interested in interfering in political disputes within East Timor's political elite. "The important thing from the Australian government position is that any political differences in Timor Leste be resolved legally and constitutionally", he said.
Bishop Basilio dos Nascimento stated on June 7 said that while he would welcome a change of government, such a move would not resolve East Timor's social and economic problems and that the way forward "doesn't depend solely on the resignation of the prime minister and elections".

With the gradual easing of gang violence in some parts of Dili, the level of destruction reveals significant damage to government offices (such as the attorney-general's office, where sensitive files on the Indonesian military-orchestrated destruction from 1999 are kept) and possibly more than 500 private houses burnt or destroyed since late April. Gangs have also burned houses in Ermera district, south of Dili.

According to the Catholic aid organisation Caritas, the number of people killed in the violence could be much greater than the official death toll of 20. Caritas's director in Dili, Jack de Groot, told reporters on June 7 that there needed to be an international investigation to confirm the toll, especially because of rumours of killings and other incidents heightening fears throughout Dili.

"Fears about a lack of security in this town and in this country are based on a lack of confidence that justice will be served", de Groot explained. Alkatiri said on June 7 that he supported a UN investigation.

The political turmoil does not appear to have dampened interest from international oil and gas exploration companies in bidding for exploration rights in the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea, jointly administered by East Timor and Australia. Some 12 companies, including the large Australian-based Santos corporation, bid for four blocks on offer in late May, at the height of the crisis.

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foto Still in the camps, Godian Ezema

The tragedy that is Timor

The Age, 11 June 2006

Tom Hyland is the Melbourne Age's Foreign Editor, a senior Australian journalist. This article is a very helpful critique of one strand of media coverage on Timor (the blame- it- on- the- Timorese- themselves strand). It is too easy to blame the East Timorese for their sorry plight, writes Tom Hyland.

foto: Godian Ezema

By Tom Hyland

Listen carefully: that scratching you hear is the scribbling of commentators, furiously re-writing history. And if you look closely, you might glimpse a hint of schadenfreude among those who argued all along that East Timor could never be free and are now saying: we told you so.

While Dili burns, it's payback time for those nursing ancient grievances - not in Dili's dusty streets, but in the leafy avenues of the Australian media and think-tank commentariat.

It's chaos in Dili. No one's in charge and no one knows what's really going on. The Government is divided. So is the army. It's east versus west, we're told, a re-emergence of ancient tribal, clan and ethnic enmities long suppressed by the firm grip of foreign occupation.

But while there's confusion in Dili, there's certainty among some commentators, some of whom had dismissed East Timor's aspirations for independence. The implication is that these fractious Timorese tribes are innately incapable of governing themselves.

Consider what retired admiral Chris Barrie, former Australian Defence Force chief and now visiting fellow at the Australian National University, told The Age's Michelle Grattan last week: "Maybe we were too quick to blame the whole (pre-independence) problem on the militia and Indonesia, rather than the East Timorese people themselves and their own unresolved societal tensions."

This is truth overboard, from a man who should have more than a nodding acquaintance with the facts of pre-independence East Timor. Whatever divisions have re-emerged, the East Timorese displayed unity and restraint in the face of murderous provocation during the 1999 vote for independence.

Elsewhere in the commentary, there's wistful wishful thinking. Former diplomat Allan Gyngell told Grattan that East Timor would have been better off "if it was well governed as part of a democratic Indonesia". Maybe, but we'll never know. Instead, what the Timorese knew was 24 years of non-democratic Indonesia, an experience that so scarred them that, when they were given a vote on remaining part of Indonesia, 78.5 per cent rejected it.

From The Australian's Paul Kelly we learn that ministries in Jakarta are "rocking with laughter", now that these difficult East Timorese have ceased to be Indonesia's "problem" and have become Australia's "problem".

It's time, says Kelly, to consider "harsh truths" about a story that is "more complex than the fairytale spun for Australians so long". In the process of enunciating those purported truths, Kelly rewrites history, suggesting East Timor brought the 1975 Indonesian invasion on itself.

He says Fretilin's November 1975 declaration of independence made the invasion inevitable. The harsh truth is that the inevitability of that invasion prompted the declaration of independence, not the other way round. From as early as July 1974, Indonesia had plans to win control of the then-Portuguese colony and Indonesian troops launched their initial invasion in October 1975, a month before the declaration of independence.

Gerard Henderson has also entered the fray, determined to force Australians to confront East Timor's history of internal division and what he asserts is a long record of clan-based violence.

Wielding his media machete, his column in The Sydney Morning Herald, he slashed the "fashionable view" that all the violence during 1999 was caused by Indonesia.

Henderson does concede "some" of the militias who carried out the violence were backed by "some members of the Indonesian defence force". He fails to mention that "some members" included the then-commander of that force, General Wiranto, one of 440 people charged by the UN's Special Crimes Unit with crimes in 1999. Of the 440, 339 live in Indonesia, which refuses to extradite them.

Nor does Henderson mention the findings of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), which investigated and documented abuses in East Timor from 1974 until '99 - including crimes committed by Timorese themselves.

The commission found Indonesian security forces and their militia auxiliaries carried out 14,922 (95.2 per cent) of all violations reported to have been committed in 1999. It found the Indonesian military created, funded, armed and trained the militias, participated in operations with them, and failed to prevent their murderous rampages.

Henderson went on to proclaim "the unfashionable fact" that East Timor was not ready for immediate independence, as if this was a revelation ignored by "those who want to blame anyone but the East Timorese for that society's evident problems".

Yet this lack of preparation was publicly acknowledged by the Timorese leadership.

In 1998, resistance leader Xanana Gusmao urged Jakarta to give his country five to 10 years transition before any referendum. In January 1999, when he announced just such a referendum, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie gave them eight months.

It is part of the Timorese tragedy that they've had to play the cards they were dealt. In 1975, they were abandoned by Portugal and faced the inevitability of invasion, hence the declaration of independence. In 1999, Habibie offered them one chance of winning their freedom, take it or leave it.

In the process they saw their country destroyed by a humiliated Indonesian army that left nothing but ruins behind. A departing soldier's farewell message, scrawled in graffiti, declared: "A free East Timor will eat stones."

The causes of the current disaster in Dili are complex, multiple and messy. East Timor's best leaders, Gusmao and Ramos Horta, appear mesmerised and impotent, caught in currents of intrigue they can't identify or control. But it's too easy to simply attribute the disaster, as some of the commentary implies, to the squabbling of troublesome tribes.

Building a nation from ruins is not easy. The 20th century is littered with examples of post-colonial chaos in nations that won independence through armed struggle. Many leaders who have led guerrilla movements, or endured the frustrations and disappointments of exile politics, are unable to make the transition to running open democratic governments with all the compromises that involves.

In East Timor's case, this is a society where all political aspirations and practice were suppressed, first by the Portuguese and then the Indonesians, who further sought to erase the people's national identity. Look closely and you see a society suffering collective post-traumatic stress. A study published in The Lancet in 2000, based on a survey of 1033 East Timorese households, found 97 per cent had experienced at least one traumatic event during Indonesia's occupation. Three-quarters had experienced combat and more than half had come close to death. Twelve per cent had lost children to political violence; 39 per cent had been tortured; 22 per cent had witnessed the murder of relatives or friends. One third were classified as having post-traumatic stress. Little wonder that 20 per cent believed they would never recover.

The events in Dili show a society struggling to emerge from centuries of neglect under Portugal and 24 years of enforced fear and suspicion under Indonesia. The tactics of plotting, secrecy and scheming that have now come to a head have their roots in a regime where secrecy meant survival. Indonesia sought to defeat the clandestine independence movement through a pervasive system of spies and informers, where rumours and misinformation were weapons of war, where no one was trusted. This left a legacy of distrust. "The pervasiveness of the system," according to the CAVR report, "sowed deep suspicion among the East Timorese population, and social bonds and cohesiveness were casualties of this undercover element of the conflict."

Maybe the gangs looting Dili, and the politicians now accused of plotting the deaths of their rivals, learnt another lesson from the Indonesian experience. Jakarta's failure, with the connivance of the international community, to punish those who carried out the destruction of 1999 shows the triumph of a culture of impunity, where it's possible to get away with murder and where justice is dispensable.

To state that East Timor's leaders inherited a devastated ruin on which to build a nation, and to recognise that theirs is a society deeply traumatised by a brutal occupation, is not to excuse theirmassive failures. Rather, it's an attempt to understand the background to those failures.

Nor does any of this deny the deep divisions between those leaders, who have to accept ultimate responsibility for the mess that has erupted in Dili. Their failures have been multiple - especially the failure to act on the security crisis stemming from disaffection within the army and between the army and the police - and possibly criminal, if it emerges politicians are behind the violence, looting and arson.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was right when he declared last week: "Let us not walk away from the fact that the East Timorese themselves are responsible for what has happened in East Timor. No one else is." He's also right - up to a point - when he argues neither Australia nor the United Nations are to blame. But you can't have it both ways, in claiming credit when things go right in East Timor - as Canberra and the UN have in the past - and then denying any responsibility when things go wrong.

In March this year, referring to Australia's casualty-free role in ensuring East Timor's independence in 1999, Prime Minister John Howard said: "It all turned out fantastically, didn't it?"

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Hieronder een stevig discussie-stuk, met af en toe een flinke haal naar de Timorese politieke leiders. Je hoeft het niet met de schrijver eens te zijn, maar lees het stuk zeker tot het einde uit. De genoemde feiten en cijfers zijn inmiddels gecheckt. - VOT -

Imperial hypocrisy and manipulation in East Timor crisis

Peter Boyle, Green Left Weekly, 7 June 2006

Commenting on the Australian troop deployment to East Timor on May 31, the Australian's Paul Kelly said, "this intervention is both military and political. Its primary purpose was to respond to East Timor's security crisis ... But this is not just a military intervention. It is a highly political intervention ... It transcends the domain of law and order and penetrates to East Timor's political crisis. In this sense Australia is operating as a regional power or a potential hegemon that shapes security and political outcomes.

"This language is unpalatable to many. Yet it is the reality. It is new experimental territory for Australia. We are evolving as a regional power and discovering the risks and dividends in the exercise of that power. We have taken complete charge of law and order in East Timor and its domestic power struggle is conducted against the backdrop of our unstated pressure."
Is this imperialist fantasy or the "unpalatable" truth?

It is a fact that the 2000-plus Australian, New Zealand, Portugese and Malaysian "peace-keeping" force is there at the formal invitation of the government of Timor-Leste. The May 24 invitation was signed by PM Mari Alkatiri, President Xanana Gusmao and the speaker of the parliament, Francisco Guterres Lu'Olo.

There are reports claiming that in earlier discussions in the East Timorese cabinet, the prime minister may have argued against suggestions of an earlier invitation for foreign military intervention, but by May 24 it appears there was agreement.

Two weeks before the invitation, the Australian government had readied significant military forces, and had been having discussions with the East Timorese government about a possible invitation. The Australian military presence off the coast of East Timor during the ruling Fretilin party's congress, on May 17-19, exerted political pressure on Alkatiri, and may have encouraged actions by various forces that sharpened what was already a serious fracturing of the army and police.

At present there appears to be support from across the political spectrum in East Timor for a foreign peacekeeper intervention. While this is understandable because of the threat of a fratricidal civil war between factions of the country's armed forces (the leaders of which are mostly former national liberation movement fighters), this is not a situation like in 1999 when the international solidarity movement wholeheartedly campaigned for military intervention against the militia massacres being organised by the occupying Indonesian military.

As the US-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said on May 27, "The intervention by foreign military and police forces is a sad event for Timor-Leste, whose hard-won political independence has had to be laid aside - we hope for only a short time - because leaders and state institutions have been unable to manage certain violent elements of the population and security forces.

"Now that foreign forces are being deployed ... we hope that they serve their intended purpose in quelling the violence and allowing negotiations and a peaceful resolution, as well as the identification and arrest of those who have committed crimes. Outside intervention is a temporary solution at best. Timor-Leste must find ways, with respectful support from the international community, to deal with problems in a manner that will not require troops.

"Statements by Australian government leaders that providing security assistance entitles them to influence over Timor-Leste's government are undemocratic, paternalistic, and unhelpful. Who governs Timor-Leste is a decision to be made by its people within its constitution."

The political attacks on the Fretilin government by Australian PM John Howard has put many long-time solidarity activists on alert against imperialist manipulation of the conflict in the armed forces and leadership of the Timorese government. The blatant attempts by East Timorese foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta and Gusmao to blame the crisis on Alkatiri, while presenting themselves as a more Canberra-friendly alternative, have added to this alarm.

Tim O'Connor, director of AID/WATCH (which critically monitors Australia's aid programs) has warned against Canberra's meddling. "Australia's focus in Timor must be to protect the democratic rights of the East Timorese people. International armed forces from Australia and other invited nations are there as peacekeepers. The neutrality required in this role must not be undermined by political point-scoring, such as we have seen in recent days by John Howard and Alexander Downer."

The Howard government's attempt to blame the current crisis solely on the Fretilin government is hypocritical, as it is an expression of the failure of a bureaucratic state-building project carried out under the strict supervision of the United Nations Transitional East Timor Authority with considerable Australian involvement.

After seven years of best-practice United Nations/International Monetary Fund/World Bank capitalist state building, 40% of the population is on an average income of below 55 cents a day, 70% are struggling to survive through subsistence agriculture and most youth in the capital Dili are unemployed.

The East Timorese leadership including Gusmao, Ramos Horta and Alkatiri went along with this, consciously demobilising the national liberation movement in the process. The Fretilin leadership and a thin layer of their political supporters were given jobs in the civil and military service of the new bureaucratic state apparatus, the rest were forced to fend for themselves.

The international advisers who came and went with their four-wheel drives left behind this startling advice for the poorest nation in Asia: average wage levels - for the few East Timorese who are wage-earners - need to be lowered to the level of neighbouring Indonesia. International aid began tapering off sharply after 2001, while actual oil revenue is still just a trickle. So far, East Timor has accumulated about US$500 million in its petroleum fund, but has a potential revenue of US$15-25 billion from oil and gas resources over the next 20 years.

It is no surprise that there's a crisis in East Timor today. It's also hardly surprising that in the midst of this, Australian imperialism has launched a campaign to get a more compliant government in place.

According to Tim Anderson, a solidarity activist and academic, a destabilisation campaign accompanied several important disputes between the Timorese government and global business interests. "The dispute over oil and gas is well known. Mari Alkatiri had the support of all parties [in East Timor] in driving a hard line with the Howard government. Many believe the Timorese were still robbed by a deal Howard continues to call 'generous'.

"Less well known are the disputes over agriculture, where Australia and the World Bank refused to help rehabilitate and build the Timorese rice industry, and refused to support use of aid money for grain silos. Under Alkatiri, the Timorese have reduced their rice import dependence from two-thirds to one-third of domestic consumption.

"After independence an expensive phone service, run by Telstra, was replaced by a government joint venture with a Portuguese company. And following a popular campaign, Timor Leste remains one of the few 'debt-free' poor countries. Alkatiri's consideration here, as economic manager, was to retain some control over the country's budget, and the building of public institutions.

"In 2005, there was a Church-led dispute over the apparent relegation of religious education to 'voluntary' status in schools. The dispute was resolved, but not before it had become the focus of an open campaign to remove Alkatiri, who was branded a communist." During this dispute some East Timorese were alarmed to see that the US Embassy (and possibly also Australia) providing material support (such as portable toilets) to the demonstrators, effectively backing an opposition movement.

"Over 2004-06, the Alkatiri government secured the services of dozens of Cuban doctors, and several hundred young Timorese students are now in Cuba, studying medicine free of charge. No-one criticises this valuable assistance, but the US does all it can to undermine Cuban policy.

"It is worth remembering that the suggested 'communist' politics of Fretilin in 1975 was a major reason for US support for the Indonesian invasion and occupation. Australia followed suit. Today the 'communist' tag is again used by [rebel army leader Alfredo Alves] Reinado to target the Fretilin government."

Anderson warns that while the "current intervention may be necessary, if it has been legitimately called for by the East Timorese government", it is also "a great danger for the country's democracy. Australian people, who strongly supported independence for the people of Timor Leste, should watch Howard's latest intervention very closely."

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Steunbetuiging HIVOS

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Vluchteling voor Hotel Timor

E-mail vanuit Bali, 7 juni 2006

Ruth Klaase, lerares Engels in Dili (geëvacueerd)

Ik werd in het weekend bijvoorbeeld gebeld door Step Faessen. Heb nog contact met haar, aangezien ze informatie heeft over de Situacion.

Die is niet om over te juichen. De hulp voor de 100.000 IDP's is op gang gekomen maar wanneer die mensen ooit weer gewoon naar huis kunnen (in veel gevallen is 'thuis' niet veel meer dan een rokend hoopje as), who knows? Wel zijn er weer wat winkels open, en de bank doet het ook alweer een week. Politiek gezien is het een zooitje, er gaan nog dagelijks huizen in vlammen op, en wordt er nog steeds gevochten. De troepen kunnen niet genoeg doen en de oostelijk Oost Timor vs. westelijk Oost Timor vete is inmiddels zo opgelaaid dat organisaties met personeel zitten dat ze niet meer de districten kunnen sturen.

Het nieuws in de media bij jullie klopt natuurlijk niet helemaal, maar de grote lijnen zijn, voor zover ik weet, niet overdreven. Wel hoorde ik dat een Timorese vriend van ons, Josh, die werkelijk geen kakkerlak kwaad kan doen, als "gang leader" is omschreven in de pers. Denk dat 'ie er zelf ook heel hard om kan lachen.

Foto: Ruth Klaase

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Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - 06 June 2006

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2006/0096
OCHA Situation Report No. 4

Timor-Leste - Population Displacement

This report is based on information received from the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), the OCHA Regional Office in Bangkok, and the Dili offices of IOM, Oxfam, World Vision International and Care International.


1. The security situation in Dili is essentially unchanged over the last 24 hours with increasing calm accompanied by a continuation of sporadic looting, arson and gang clashes. On 30 May President Gusmao assumed emergency powers and direct control of the security forces and on 1 June the Ministers of Interior and Defence resigned.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on 2 June that Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta had been appointed as the new Minster of Defence while maintaining his position as Foreign Minister.

1,800 Australian forces have been deployed in Dili since 25 May. More than 330 Malaysian troops are in place and 120 Portuguese police are expected in Dili on Saturday 3 June.

The number of New Zealand forces deployed is expected to reach 160 by the end of this week.

2. According to data drawn from inter-agency assessments, and conducted between 29 May and 1 June, and compiled by IOM, 71,300 IDPs are living at 65 locations in Dili. The five largest sites in Dili are Cannossiana Sisters (Balide) with 13,060; Dom Bosco (Comoro) with 13,000; Has Laran Canossa School with 6,000; Obrigado Barraks (UN Compound) with 4,500; and Fatumeta Seminario Maior with 4,064. 40% of sites had received some type of support; 26% of sites had access to medical facilities nearby or within the camp; 49% of site reported availability of food; and 42% reported sufficient quantities of drinking water.

Health problems including diarrhoea, fever/malaria, cough and respiratory infections were reported at 26% of the sites. Water quality at 72 % of sites was assessed to be good.

3. UNOTIL estimates an additional 60 to 70 camps housing between 35,000 and 40,000 people are scattered throughout the country, in particular in the districts of Liquiça, Ermera, Aileu, Oecussi, Baucau, as well as in the sub-district of Atauro. Humanitarian agencies have been unable to travel more than 60 km. from Dili for the past several days due to fluctuations in the security situation.

4. Ensuring security around and within IDP locations is of concern to humanitarian agencies. While delivery of food, water and non-food items has been ongoing over the last few days, access by the humanitarian agencies to IDP locations is regularly interrupted due to the fluid security situation. Humanitarian agencies have also had difficulty in ensuring effective security arrangements at warehouses and distribution sites.

5. As a result of looting, widespread shortages of food, commodities and fuel are reported in Dili.

6. The Humanitarian Action Group, including UN agencies and national and international NGOs, continues to meet daily under the chairmanship of he Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare and Reintegration.


7. Priority areas determined by the Humanitarian Action Group as a result of ongoing assessments are: protection, food, water and sanitation, health and shelter. UN agencies are compiling a flash appeal which is expected to be launched next week.

8. The Dili hospital reports fuel shortages.


9. The Timorese Government is undertaking daily distribution of rice and water to IDPs.

10. To ameliorate living conditions, the Government, with the support of UNHCR and others, is planning to establish planned camps where IDPS can live in better condition and receive more timely assistance, until they are able to return home when security improves.


11. Mr. Fin Reske-Nielsen, has been appointed as the new Resident Coordinator for Timor-Leste. He is expected to arrive in Dili next week.

12. WFP is providing comprehensive food packages to vulnerable families and IDPs drawing on a donation from the Chinese Government of 2,000 MT of rice. According to WFP's estimates, the food stocks currently available in Dili will last no longer than 3 weeks.

13. The Australian Defence flights arrived in Dili on 30 May with water, blankets, tents, plastic sheeting as well as medical and blood supplied for the Dili hospital. The Australian Government, through AusAid, has made available 3 million Australian dollars for the provision of assistance to the IDPs in Timor-Leste (1 million to be allocated to NGOs, another 1 million to UN agencies, and 1 million for urgent relief items).

In Darwin, AusAid has also pre-positioned stockpiles of shelter and non-food items including 10 and 20 litre water containers, water purifying tablets, tarpaulins, tents, mosquito netting, and blankets. These items are scheduled to be transported to Dili in the coming days.

14. UNICEF is focusing its activities on water and sanitation, health and nutrition and child protection. UNICEF has supported the Timor-Leste Red Cross in the distribution of jerry cans, latrine plates, bottled water and detergent. They have also initiated the procurement of family water kits, sanitation supplies, emergency measles vaccines, oral dehydration salts, therapeutic milk and emergency educational materials.

The working group on child protection has also resumed its activities and developed a plan to address child protection concerns.

15. UNHCR will deploy a 9-person emergency response team in the coming days to support the provision of shelter, camp management and protection activities. An airlift of tents, plastic sheeting, and non-food items for up to 30,000 will also be deployed from existing stocks. UNHCR also plans to deploy three large portable warehouses and 1,400 stoves to Dili.

16. An OCHA civil-military coordination officer arrived in Dili on 1 June and additional OCHA Officer to support humanitarian coordination will arrive on 4 June.

17. WHO has mobilized emergency health kits and stands ready to deploy them to Dili upon request of the UN Country Team.

18. IOM has assisted in the delivery of over 60,000 k.g.s of rice and 60,000 litres of drinking water to 15 IDP sites.

19. UNFPA is mobilizing safe birth and hygiene kits.

20. ICRC had deployed 7 additional staff to support the work of the local Red Cross society. They have been distributing clean water to IDPs camps since 29 May.

21. Plan International has mobilized 60-80 tonnes of oil and beans from Darwin.

22. OCHA is in close contact with the Office of the SRSG UNOTIL and UN Country Team in Dili and will revert with further information as it becomes available.

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E-mails uit Dili, 6 juni 2006

From Max Stahl, British journalist:

Most people from Viqueque have fled from Dili. It must be thousands of houses of easterners burnt now. And looted. I hope they can hold the revenge which will be fierce if it comes. Easterners burnt houses too of course, before they fled, but nowhere near as many now. Must go. Demo and shouts outside.

From Indra Monemnasi, Timorese UNICEF:

Thanks for asking about my safety. I and my family are safe and remain healthy. My family evacuated and are still in Baucau. All Timorese people are praying may peace come soon to Timor-Leste. Let's pray and hope together.

From Godian Ezema, Nigerian Doctor:

It was my wish to help in Yogyakarta, but I could not make it. I am back in Dili. Am helping out in organising a Mobile Clinic for the displaced people, in partnership with World Vision. It is good since they really need me here. I am in high spirit. I pray that Dili will see peace soon. I hope you will be here one day to console us for the loses.

foto Taking care of refugees, Godian Ezema

foto: Godian Ezema

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East Timor's president takes over security forces

New Zealand Herald - 31 May 2006

DILI - East Timor President Xanana Gusmao has said he has taken control of the nation's entire security, information and intelligence branches after a week of violence sparked by a split in the army.

President Gusmao told a news conference that he had made the decision in collaboration with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri - with whom he is said to be at odds over the government's handling of the crisis - and the head of parliament. President Gusmao also said he would be solely responsible for coordination with the 2,500-strong Australian-led peacekeeping force that East Timor asked for last week to help put down violence that has claimed at least 20 to 30 lives.

His announcement came after two days of crisis talks as youth gangs defied international peacekeepers and torched cars and buildings in the capital. Thousands of people have been displaced and dozens of homes burnt in the violence, sparked by last month's dismissal of around 600 soldiers after they protested against discrimination against easterners in the 1400 strong army.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri had been strongly criticised for his handling of the crisis and had been reported to be at odds with President Xanana Gusmao on how to proceed. Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta earlier admitted the government had failed the people. "In some areas, particularly in political dialogue in embracing everybody, in resolving problems as they arise, well the government has failed miserably," Mr Ramos-Horta told Australia's Nine Network. "We have failed to embrace people who disagree with the government, we have failed in addressing the problems in the military and in the police, even though we knew about them," he said.

A senior commander of the 2500 plus strong force from Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand admitted it was tough to control the violence, but insisted they were succeeding and it was safe for people to return to their homes. "We are patrolling every neighbourhood in this town," Lieutenant-Colonel Mick Mumford told reporters. "We can't put a soldier on every street, in every suburb... but I can assure you that soldiers are going through them. "It is fair to tell people to go home because it is safe."

But residents were less sure. "As soon as the soldiers move somewhere else, then they come back," said Eduardo Villes, who had formed a vigilante squad with neighbours to protect property in the area. Lieutenant-Colonel Mumford said Australian troops had confiscated 250 firearms and scores of swords, knives, machetes and other crude weapons from civilians. But he said troops had made no arrests or detentions.

The peacekeeping force's main aim is to get all soldiers and police - including the rebels holed up outside the capital - to surrender their weapons and to keep feuding sides apart. "We are on every side," he said. "We are providing protection to everyone that needs it. If they want to come in and disarm and seek protection, we will give it to them."

The Red Cross says more than 40,000 have been displaced by the violence and food shortages were being felt in the capital.

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Persoonlijk verslag van Corlien van de Meulen

Corlien van de Meulen Werkt voor Youth with a Mission, in Viqueque en Dili

Dinsdag 30 mei
Er is ingebroken in ons huis, was natuurlijk wel te verwachten, helemaal omdat je hier eigenlijk niks echt goed kan afsluiten. Alles lag overhoop. Ze hebben alles uit de kasten gehaald en doorgezocht. Twee motor meegenomen. Verder kunnen we nog niet goed inschatten wat ze hebben meegenomen, maar dat zal te zijner tijd wel komen. We wilden vannacht eigenlijk weer thuis slapen, maar onze leidster heeft daar toch maar vanaf gezien.

We weten dus niet eens of het huis er morgen nog wel staat en of er nog weer is ingebroken dan en nog weer meer meegenomen, en/of kapot gemaakt. Er is op't moment geen wet en geen orde en daar wordt natuurlijk misbruik van gemaakt nu. Je weet eigenlijk nooit wat je de volgende dag weer aan zal treffen.

Het lastige is dat nu de VN-troepen er zijn, de branden en alles wel minder zijn. Het lijkt wat rustiger op de straat, maar er is nog steeds geen oplossing. Het lijkt alsof de gangs nog steeds de macht hebben in de buurten. Eigenlijk mag de VN nog niks doen. Het is dus een gaaf gezicht om elke dag helicopters te zien en tanks voorbij te zien rijden. Om elke dag volledig gewapende soldaten langs je heen te zien lopen, maar niemand weet wat ze eigenlijk doen.

Nu de 'rush' en de adrenaline van de eerste dagen er wat af is, wordt het lastiger (voor mij). Zou zo ontzettend graag juist nu, weer in onze buurt willen wonen. Juist nu is er zoveel werk te doen onder de mensen. Voel me wat gefrustreerd dat ik dat niet kan/mag ondanks dat ik weet dat het wijs is maar toch,... ik wilde (zoals al zoho lang en nu dus weer) dat ik iemand hier had om mee de straten op te gaan.....juist nu er zoveel haat, verwarring en angst heerst.

foto Timor, Corlien van de Meulen

Woensdag 31 mei
Weer een volle dag. 's Morgens schoonmaken/wassen voor de kliniek (cq vluchtelingenoord nu). 's Middags de kinderen vermaken, die natuurlijk ook allang niet meer altijd te genieten zijn. De wc's waren overvol, dus hebben we geprobeerd een groot gat als nieuwe septictank te graven voor alle uitwerpselen. De hygiene is al niet optimaal hier in de kliniek.

We waren om 19.00 uur weer terug in het hotel,.....doodop!
Wat het meest zeer doet is het liegen van de buurtbewoners dat ze niemand gezien hebben. Ze liegen als kinderen, je ziet er zo makkelijk doorheen en daar komt bij dat bepaalde dingen gewoon niet kloppen. Weet dat ze bang zijn voor de gangs, maar het liegen doet meer zeer. Maar hoeveel meer pijn moet het de Timoresen doen die zoveel verloren hebben. De verbrandde huizen, alles waar zolang voor gewerkt is. Vergeving, vooruit kijken en niet terug!

De komst van de Australische troepen bracht veel hoop. Maar nu ze er zo'n week zijn en eigenlijk nog niet zo heel veel (mogen) doen durven de mensen nog steeds niet naar huis. Er is nog steeds veel onrust en de branden en onderlinge gevechten gaan door.
De ziekenhuizen en vluchtelingplaatsen zijn overvol!

Donderdag 1 juni
Vrienden uit Australië hebben al een paar keer aangeboden om me naar Australie te vliegen, maar tot nu toe wilde ik nog niet omdat ik nog niet het gevoel had dat het mijn tijd was om te gaan. In overleg en ook aangemoedigt door mijn baas, vlieg ik deze zondag (dan loopt ook mijn visa voor Timor af) voor een korte vakantie naar Tassie.

De boel is hier nog lang niet op orde, maar aangezien er nu drie keer ingebroken is denken we dat het beter is om terug te komen hier. Vanmorgen nog naar de kliniek geweest om te helpen, maar 's middags alles weer ingepakt en terug naar onze basis gegaan. Alles opgeruimd en schoongemaakt, zodat het er weer een beetje uitziet. We hoorden op het BBC nieuws vanmiddag dat de rebellen niet akkoord zijn gegaan met het aanbod. Ze willen dat de premier Mari Alkateri vertrekt, maar die wil nog steeds niet.

Verder hoorden we (omdat mijn kamergenoot er zelf bij was) dat er een gewapende inval van de rebellen in het ziekenhuis was vanmiddag. Eén van hen brak door en kwam vrij ver binnen voordat de bewaking hem te pakken had, maar ze hebben alle stalletjes voor het ziekenhuis in de brand gestoken. De troepen deden niets...

Elke dag nu staan er mensen uren in de rij om voedsel te krijgen omdat er niks open is. Ook hierbij gebeuren ongelukken, mensen stelen van elkaar en het is moeilijk voor de Australiers om orde te houden. In de kliniek hoorde ik dat er 3 mensen overleden waren omdat ze volledig ondergelopen waren. Van Anabel hoorde ik van een oud vrouwtje in het ziekenhuis die uren had staan wachten en vervolgens volledig ondergelopen was.

Op 't moment zijn er zo'n 4000 vluchtelingen in en om het vliegveld. Daar zijn veel militairen zijn en dus voelen ze zich daar veilig, maar er zijn geen tot weinig voorzieningen. Mensen worden nu weer ziek van de omstandigheden enz. Morgen zullen we dus daar naartoe gaan om schoon te maken, de kids te vermaken (wat vreugde te brengen om zo de ouders wat te ontlasten en ook hen juist in deze tijd een glimlach te geven) en te zien wat we verder nog kunnen doen.

Er zijn dagelijks nog zo vele verhalen... net het journaal gezien, waar Xanana, de president zelf ook in tranen is en de mensen vraagt om terug te gaan, maar ze zijn zo bang en vertrouwen het niet meer, want dat roept de regering al de hele tijd en toch is dit allemaal gebeurd en gebeurd het nog steeds. De troepen zijn er wel, maar schijnen nog niet veel te mogen doen.

Ben toch blij dat we weer hier op de basis zijn. Weer even ruimte voor mezelf. Behalve mezelf en de Australische jongen waren het verder allemaal Brazilianen en op een gegeven moment is dat gewoon wat teveel. Ik deelde een kamer met een Braziliaanse zuster. Prachtig mens, maar wij zijn heel anders. Ze verliet nooit de kamer en zo gauw ik kwam wilde ze praten of had ze iets nodig en als je dit soort dagen heb, dan heb ik op z'n minst 5 minuten nodig om even bij te komen. Gewoon even met rust gelaten te worden.

foto Timor, Corlien van de Meulen

Nu heb ik dus mijn eigen kamertje weer en deze keer (geheel anders dan anders) voor mij alleen. Maar omdat het dus nog steeds onrustig is zullen we vannacht elkaar (met z'n drieen) aflossen om de wacht te houden. Ben benieuwd.

't Is gaaf om een vakantie te krijgen, maar het ging ook allemaal ineens erg snel vandaag en als ik dan zie hoe de mensen(vluchtelingen) hier zo lijden. Dan voelt het ook wel weer heel dubbel om er 'even tussenuit te kunnen'. Maar ik weet dat het een kado is en ik het waarschijnlijk zondag ook wel nodig heb. En er zal daarna ook nog wel genoeg te doen zijn!

Vind het nog steeds een enorme eer dat ik hier heb mogen zijn in deze tijd. Dankbaar voor de vakantie, maar zie er ook al naar uit om weer terug te komen.

Foto's: Corlien van de Meulen

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Dili residents camping in squalor

New Zealand Herald - June 1, 2006

By Greg Ansley

DILI - As many as two-thirds of the population of Dili are now living in the squalor of makeshift refugee camps, packed by the thousands into churches, schools, government and United Nations compounds, around embassies in a sprawling shantytown stretching out from the city's airport.

One UN compound not much larger than a football field is home to about 10,000 people and another 1000 live at Motael Church, on the seafront near the New Zealand Embassy. The Don Bosco Catholic education centre, built for 150 students, houses 13,000, many of whom have lost homes to the waves of violence that have devastated Timor Leste since late last month. All are too terrified to return whether they have houses or not.

The gangs of youths rampaging through the desperately poor suburbs with machetes, axes, clubs, spears and cans of petrol continue to force people to find safe refuge. Many more are hiding in the hills, refusing to heed calls by Timorese and military leaders to return.

Renewed violence this week saw more pack their meagre possessions into cars, the backs of trucks, over motorcycle seats or bicycles, on their heads or in carts and trudging to the camps or out of town.

A key aim of the Australian-led intervention force has been to clear the streets sufficiently of violence to encourage people to return to their homes. But despite sweeps of the streets by soldiers that have seized hundreds of weapons, the gangs have stayed on the rampage, often ignoring - even taunting - troops called to troublespots.

Priests and nuns running many of the refuges report violence within the camps, and thugs waiting outside to attack or intimidate refugees, or to hinder the delivery of essential services.
Water tankers and waste disposal contractors vital to the hygiene and health of tens of thousands of people who are extremely vulnerable to sweeping epidemics have been turned back.

Surveys by non-government aid agencies this week estimated that 67,850 people were in the larger camps in Dili, and a further 5000 were housed beyond its limits.

When headcounts at smaller compounds are completed the total could swell to as many as 100,000. The population of Dili is estimated to be between 180,000 and 100,000.

Key concerns include security - although coalition force commander Brigadier Mick Slater has said he will provide escorts for aid supplies - and the basic needs of life.

The availability of food, water and sanitation varies from camp to camp. Some are appalling.
Queues several times the length of football fields shuffle forward endlessly in the centre of the city to collect rations of rice.

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EAST TIMOR: Foreign troops occupy Dili

Green Left Weekly, 31 May 2006

Jon Lamb - In response to ongoing clashes between the East Timor Defence Force (FDTL) and rebel soldiers and police, the East Timorese president, prime minister, foreign minister and speaker to the parliament sent a joint communique on the evening of May 24 to the Australian government requesting that it send troops as part of an international force to restore security.

Acting Prime Minster Peter Costello told reporters on May 24 that Australia had agreed and an advance contingent of 1300 Australian troops began landing in Dili late the following day. Defence minister Brendan Nelson commented on May 26 that Australian troops would utilise "graduated scales of force" to restore order - including lethal force - as part of the rules of engagement agreed to by East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao.

While posing as a helpful neighbour coming to East Timor's rescue, the Australian government has been a major source of the small nation's problems. After backing the brutal, 24-year Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Canberra's neo-colonial foreign policies - including the ongoing theft of Timor's oil - have undermined and threatened the ability of East Timor to develop since it won independence in 1999.

The clashes between the FDTL and a group of rebel soldiers began shortly after the end of the ruling party Fretilin's congress on May 19. There was an incident of rock throwing at delegates' cars late that night and reports of gunfire, but calm appeared to be restored shortly thereafter. However, a significant clash broke out on May 23, when a detachment of FDTL troops approached a well-armed group of rebel soldiers led by Major Alfredo Reinado, holed up in the hill areas near the eastern suburb of Becora. Two were killed and at least five wounded in the ensuing firefight.

Reinado, formerly with the FDTL military police, had set up a base in the hills outside Dili (near the town of Aileu) with protesters and civilians who had fled after police attacked a rowdy protest of sacked soldiers on April 28, killing five people and injuring many more. Reinado and his grouping have raised concerns over who was responsible for ordering the shooting of the protesting soldiers, known as "the petitioners". The almost 600 former FDTL soldiers were sacked in March by the head of the armed forces, Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, when they refused to return to their barracks in protest over poor conditions and allegations of favouritism.

Prior to the May 23 clash, Reinado had stated (along with other officers leading the rebels) that he was preparing to come to Dili on May 25 to commence negotiations over their grievances and demands. Reinado and Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha, who leads the original group of striking soldiers, also requested in the week prior to the arrival of the international force, the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the April 28 incident and the soldiers' grievances.

Over the course of May 23 and May 24, sporadic clashes continued near Becora and in the western part of Dili in Taci Tolu and the south-central suburb of Lahane, where an attack by rebel soldiers appears to have been directed at the residence of the head of the FDTL. Late on the afternoon of May 23, it was reported that a section of the well-armed police rapid response unit had defected and headed to the hill areas on the outskirts of Dili where rebel soldiers are located.

A large cache of police arms was also reported missing - some 700 weapons - presumed taken by disaffected police who had gone to the hills surrounding Dili and other districts. According to Tomas Freitas from the campaign group Aluta Hamutuk, police from Baucau were also brought in by authorities to disarm police in Dili.

Rebel soldiers were also involved in skirmishes around the FDTL army base to the west of Dili on May 24. According to an article by Times-journalist Rory Callinan (in the Australian, May 25), up to 10 trucks of rebel soldiers were involved in the attack, prompting a naval vessel to be brought in to use heavy calibre weapons, though it was forced back under fire from rebels. Gunfire could still be heard across Dili late on the evening of May 24 and only subsided after heavy rain set in.

The situation deteriorated significantly, with intense fighting breaking out in other parts of Dili, including the centre of the city. According to the head of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), Dr Sukehiro Hasegawa, the large number of arms distributed to civilians, especially youths, further complicated and intensified the situation. It also appears that tensions began to deepen between sections of the police and FDTL, with hostilities breaking out between the two institutions.

This fighting continued through to the next day, with even more intense firefights and arson attacks across many suburbs of Dili and the surrounding hills. The situation deteriorated to the point where there were at least two or more rebel army factions, joined by disaffected police, in combat with the FDTL. Well-armed civilian gangs were also engaged in fighting, roaming the suburbs and intimidating fearful locals. A situation of complete lawlessness had taken hold on the streets of Dili, with no clear chain of command in operation in either the police or the FDTL.

The most serious incident took place outside the East Timorese National Police Headquarters, which came under fire on the morning of May 25 from FDTL troops. In desperation, representatives of the 70 police trapped inside contacted the UN police based at the nearby UNOTIL compound to request assistance in negotiating with the FDTL so they could leave unarmed for the UNOTIL compound. Shortly after leaving the compound, they were fired upon by FDTL troops in what Hasegawa described to ABC Radio on May 26 as a "staged ambush". Twelve police officers died as a result, with at least 30 others wounded, including two UN police.

"It is in this circumstance, with all these armed groups operating without it being clear who they were or who they were under the direction of, that the presence of the international forces was important in restoring calm", Avelino da Silva, secretary general of the Socialist Party of Timor told Green Left Weekly.

According to Freitas, there were grave fears among progressive activists and non-government groups that the situation was out of control. "I stayed in Dili, along with other activists, to monitor the fighting and its consequences ... there was so much fear amongst the people because of the different armed groups on the streets, no-one knows who is the 'enemy' or who is behind it all", he told GLW.

Freitas emphasised that while the presence of international troops had reduced tensions, he had "a message to John Howard" not to try to extract some leverage or "compensation" from the East Timorese people because the Australian government sent troops. As the fighting abated in the centre of Dili, sporadic clashes continued in the hills. World Vision reported that armed gangs were threatening two compounds where thousands of displaced persons had gathered.

Since attaining formal independence in 1999, East Timor has been plagued with problems of chronic poverty and underdevelopment, including barely functional medical and health services in the rural areas where the majority of East Timorese live and an extreme lack of employment opportunities for East Timorese youth. These factors and other deplorable daily living conditions for the vast majority of East Timorese, the bulk of whom struggled for many years under the Indonesian military occupation, have punctured the high expectations and hopes held for their recently won freedom.

The Fretilin-led government has been unable to implement policies to deal with these issues and expectations, and at the same time has been implicated in nepotism and corruption, fuelling anger and discontent in different sectors of East Timorese society. But for all its shortcomings, the East Timorese government has had to deal with international "friends" like Australia, whose imperialist policies have prevented East Timor from developing and meeting the needs of its people.

The Australian government - from the moment war-torn East Timor began the transition to independence - pressured, bullied and hustled East Timor into giving up oil and gas resources and sovereignty over seabed territory in the Timor Sea. It has stolen wealth generated from these reserves that rightfully belongs to East Timor.

Along with the United States and Britain, Australia has formed a triumvirate of nations that have acted to block the creation of an international inquiry to bring to account the Indonesian military (TNI) officers and pro-integration militia leaders responsible for the post-referendum carnage in 1999. Now these three countries are deepening and improving military ties with the TNI, even though the TNI is continuing to conduct gross human-rights abuses in places like West Papua, just like those it carried out in East Timor.

Australia's ongoing theft of oil from the Timor Sea - combined with its long history of undermining the East Timorese nation - suggests that Australia's motivation for the current military intervention is more about shoring up a continued flow of oil than helping the East Timorese people.

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President Oost Timor grijpt macht

Brabants Dagblad, 31 mei 2006

Om een einde te maken aan het escalerende geweld op Oost-Timor, heeft president Xanana Gusmao zijn macht uitgebreid. Hij kreeg speciale bevoegdheden zoals het bevel over de strijdkrachten.

Met de stap reageert Gusmao op confrontaties tussen ontslagen militairen en regeringstroepen, die inmiddels zijn ontaard in een bloedige bendeoorlog. De afgelopen dagen kwamen zeker twintig mensen om het leven.

President Xanana Gusmao heeft de verantwoordelijkheid voor de nationale veiligheid, inclusief leger en politie, op zich genomen. Het staatshoofd heeft de ministers van defensie en binnenlandse zaken meteen ontslagen.

Gusmao liet na afloop van beraad met premier Mari Alkatiri weten, dat de eerste minister met de beleidswijzigingen had ingestemd. Regeringsleider Alkatiri zinspeelde er afgelopen weekeinde nog op dat de president het geweld mogelijk als argument zou gebruiken om hem te ontslaan. De president houdt de extra macht voor een periode van dertig dagen. De maatregel kan worden verlengd, mocht dat nodig zijn.


Ondertussen blijft het onrustig in de republiek. Jeugdbenden verbonden aan opstandige leger- en politie-eenheden gaan door met plunderingen en het in brand steken van gebouwen. Er zijn inmiddels 2500 buitenlandse militairen vooral uit Australië, in het land in een poging rust en orde te herstellen. Bij de onlusten zijn tientallen en gewonden gevallen. Tienduizenden mensen zijn op de vlucht.

Staat van beleg

Gusmao sloot niet uit dat hij de Staat van beleg zal afkondigen als de onlusten voortduren. Hij heeft daar volgens de Grondwet de bevoegdheid toe. Minister Ramos-Horta (buitenlandse zaken) erkende dat het kabinet gefaald heeft en sloot niet uit dat diverse ministers binnenkort zullen aftreden.

Of eerste minister Alkatiri ook zijn biezen pakt is zeer de vraag. Hij wordt verantwoordelijk gehouden voor de onlusten die ontstonden toen hij 600 soldaten die geprotesteerd hadden tegen hun arbeidsomstandigheden en salarissen, ontsloeg. De 600 muitten daarop en gingen een strijd aan met leger en politie. Ramos-Horta gaf te kennen dat het opstappen van de premier niets zal oplossen terwijl het 'vergaande' consequenties zou hebben. Welke zei hij niet.

De helft van het normale leger van Oost-Timor - 1400 man sterk - heeft inmiddels de wapens ingeleverd bij de internationale troepenmacht. Bij de politie zou men vooralsnog weigeren dat voorbeeld te volgen.


Grootste probleem vormen echter de rondtrekkende jeugdbenden die een kat- en muisspel spelen met de buitenlandse militairen. De gewelddadige jeugdbendes maakten zich opnieuw op grote schaal schuldig aan plunderingen in de hoofdstad Dili.

De jongeren roofden winkels leeg. Ook staken zij kleinere gebouwen en auto's in brand.
Begin deze week leek het er nog op dat de onrust min of meer was bedwongen door de komst van honderden extra militairen die de internationale troepenmacht moeten versterken.
Australische militairen namen bij gewelddadige jongeren een groot aantal machetes en zelfgemaakte wapens zoals metalen pijpen in beslag. De bendeleden vinden echter steeds weer nieuw materiaal dat ze kunnen gebruiken voor het plegen van geweld.

"Wij kunnen niet in elk straat en in elke buitenwijk solaten posteren", aldus luitenant-kolonel Mick Mumford (Australië). "Maar we komen er wel. De mensen kunnen veilig naar huis terugkeren." Maar weinigen doen dat. Voedseltekorten hebben inmiddels geleid tot aanvallen op VN-opslagplaatsen van etenswaren.


Vorige week braken in Oost-Timor gevechten uit tussen opstandige militairen en regeringsgezinde troepen. Ook bendes mengden zich in het geweld.

Militairen uit het westen voelen zich achtergesteld bij collega's uit het oosten van land. De soldaten uit het westen menen dat ze minder promotiekansen hebben. Gewelddadige jeugdbendes (foto) maken zich sinds gisteren opnieuw schuldig aan plunderingen in de hoofdstad Dili. Australische militairen proberen in Oost-Timor de rust te herstellen. De Australiërs hebben bij de jongeren al een groot aantal machetes en zelfgemaakte wapens zoals metalen pijpen in beslag genomen.

Voor veel Oost-Timorezen is premier Alkatiri voor een groot deel verantwoordelijk voor de onlusten. Hij stuurde in april zeshonderd soldaten uit het 1400 leden tellende leger naar huis. De militairen hadden gedemonstreerd, omdat hun salaris niet werd betaald.

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Solidarity with the Timorese people

Green Left Weekly, 31 May 2006

Max Lane - On May 24, East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the speaker of East Timor's parliament Lu'olo sent a letter to the governments of Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and New Zealand as well as to the United Nations asking for assistance in the form of a military presence in order to respond to civil disorder in the East Timor capital Dili, and surrounding areas. The disorder had developed out of a dispute within the East Timorese armed forces.

The Australian government, which had already made an offer to send a force, was particularly enthusiastic in agreeing to the request, eager to ensure stable governance of East Timor to facilitate its ongoing theft of East Timor's oil and gas. The move will also be used to justify Australian imperialism's interventionist foreign policy in the region, a strategy that involves the Australian military, police and financial advisors interfering in the running of a number of Australia's small, poor neighbours in the interests of Australian business and at the expense of the people of those nations.

With Australian military officers stationed in East Timor, it is likely that Canberra had intelligence indicating that the divisions inside the armed forces were more serious than was being publicly admitted to.

The general East Timorese population and the full spectrum of political forces support the presence of the international troops in East Timor. This includes the progressive NGO sector as well as the Timorese Socialist Party (PST). "The presence of the international forces is important", PST general secretary Avelino da Silva told Green Left Weekly. "Otherwise the people will be living in fear of being terrorised by armed gangs, not knowing who is a friend or who is an enemy."

East Timor is governed by the political party Fretilin, led by its current president, Alkatiri, and personalities such as Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta, all of whom also played preeminent roles in the struggle that successfully won independence in 1999. They have inherited a society traumatised as well as severely physically damaged as a result of more than two decades of Indonesian military occupation.

Timor has experienced almost no economic development for several centuries and is listed as the poorest country in Asia. Since formal independence, Timor has been robbed of access to much of its oil and gas resources, having been pressured into accepting a deal ceding a major portion of the wealth from that oil and gas to Australia, which has no right to it. Australia's imperialist policies towards East Timor have not helped the nation's development and have contributed to the current situation of crisis.

The political and economic strategy that the East Timorese leadership has pursued since independence has been modelled on a traditional capitalist parliamentary system. It has relied on developing foreign-trained professional bureaucracies, standing army and police, with minimum direct involvement of the people. The leadership has not relied upon the people - the major resource available - for political and economic development.

This strategy has proven inadequate to deal with recent conflict within the armed forces and the ensuing civil disorder. With high levels of frustration among the population at the slow progress made in social and economic development and no organised and mobilised population as a source of authority, the political elite must rely more and more on the authority they won as leaders of the liberation movement before 1999. Within the armed forces, this was already proving inadequate with the disaffected soldiers demanding the resignation of well-know former guerrilla leaders such as Taur Matur Ruak. As a result, the government has been forced to rely upon the Australian defence forces instead.

Since the early period of independence, and even during the national liberation struggle, there has been a strong tendency in the Timorese leadership to rely on the support of the governments of imperialist countries. This was unavoidable in September 1999 when the Indonesian army and militias were ravaging the country. However, even after stability was achieved, there was no perspective to promote self-organisation among the masses as the primary basis for further development. Such a perspective was articulated only by the PST and the progressive sections of the non-government organisations, which represented a minority current.

Among the political elite, the political figure who has been the most resistant to falling into reliance on the outside has been Alkatiri. He has, for example, resisted pressure to accept foreign loans and has diversified international aid, accepting medical aid from Cuba.

However, in the current crisis, having no active and mobilised base among the people - although there is no doubt that Fretilin has been accepted so far as the legitimate ruling party by the majority of the people - and having been unable to resolve the crisis within the armed forces, even Alkatiri has been forced, no doubt reluctantly, to rely on outside support.

In an interview with SBS television on May 25, when asked whether he was prepared to take the lead in resolving the situation, Alkatiri asserted that he had already done so by initiating the request for foreign troops by bringing the proposal to Gusmao. In Alkatiri's view, the disorder was provoked not simply by a struggle over soldiers' grievances or for control of the army: he views the rebellious acts of at least some of the disaffected soldiers as a coup attempt.

East Timor is a poor country, grossly underdeveloped with a weak, under-resourced and completely new state apparatus and a small and weak capitalist class. In these conditions, without raising the political consciousness, organisation and mobilisation of the whole population as direct participants - the perspective advocated by the Timorese socialists and progressive campaign activists - a reliance on outside forces is likely to continue in one form or other.

In this situation, there is a special responsibility on the progressive and democratic sectors in Australia and all friends of the East Timorese people to work closely with the organisations of the East Timorese people to ensure that Australian government, commercial and other interests do not exploit this situation in a way that harms the interests of or violates the rights of the Timorese people or nation.

In Australia, organisations such as AidWatch have already been monitoring Australian economic aid to East Timor. A broader forum, drawing on the full solidarity and friendship movement in Australia to jointly campaign with East Timorese groups against unwanted Australian policies may be useful.

The Australian government, representing the Australian capitalist class, has long pursued its own imperialist interests over those of the East Timorese government and people, such as on the issue of oil and gas, and indeed in its support for the Indonesian occupation of East Timor between 1975 and 1999. These new developments can weaken the bargaining position of the East Timorese in any future dispute. Already Prime Minister John Howard is opportunistically using the crisis to politically attack the East Timorese leadership, hoping to weaken it, while not admitting the Australian government's culpability in the crisis.

Within East Timor, such a crisis as this will also no doubt open up opportunities for intensified conflict between different elements of the East Timorese political elite, although this is not yet clear. In any case, such developments are for the East Timorese to handle. In cooperation with East Timorese democratic forces, we must expose any attempts by the Australian government to exploit or manipulate the situation.

In the longer term, only the development of a political movement fully mobilising the Timorese people as direct participants in its political and economic life will stop the current kind of scenario reoccurring.

As an important step towards resolving the immediate problems in East Timor, the Australian, US and British governments must provide the material and financial assistance that East Timor requires to provide all its people with adequate health, education and other social services and infrastructure. This should be acknowledged as a form of war reparations, for the years of complicity in blocking the East Timorese peoples' right to self-determination during the 24 years of Indonesian military rule.

The Australian government must also immediately cease the theft of oil and gas that rightfully belongs to East Timor and repay the total amount stolen under the current deal as well as under arrangements between Australia and Indonesia during East Timor's occupation.

These three governments should at the same time also seek to assist and provide resources for the creation of an international war crimes tribunal that can investigate and bring to account those responsible for human-rights abuses in East Timor during the Indonesian military occupation, including former US, British and Australian ministers and leaders involved in formulating policies that supported this illegal occupation.

(Max Lane is a lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of Sydney, a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective national executive and was a leading activist in the East Timor solidarity movement in the 1990s.)

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ZNet / Asia, 31 May 2006

An article by Maryann Keady, an Australian radio producer and journalist who has reported from Dili since 2002. She is currently a professional associate at Columbia University's Weatherhead Institute looking at US Foreign Policy and China.

Her analysis is under some scrutiny from various blogger and other writers - particularly her criticisim of Xanana Gusmao - but most of those critics are fully accepting of the self-interest that Australia has been working from, particularly in relation to the oil.

By Maryann Keady

Three years ago, I wrote a piece talking about attempts to oust Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in East Timor, then a new struggling independent nation. I wrote that I believed the US and Australia were determined to oust the Timorese leader, due to his hardline stance on oil and gas, his determination not to take out international loans, and their desire to see Australia friendly President Xanana Gusmao take power.

Three years later, I am unhappy to say that the events I have predicted are currently taking shape. The patriotic Australia media, that has unquestionably fallen into line over every part of John Howard's Pacific agenda - including the Solomon's excursion - is now trumpeting the ousting of Alkatiri, a man who has gamely defied Australia's claims over it's oil and gas, many of the paper's foreign editors clearly more in tune with the exhortations of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade than the sentiments among Timorese.

I arrived in Dili just as the first riots broke out on April 28 this year- and as an eyewitness at the front of the unrest, the very young soldiers seemed to have outside help - believed to be local politicians and 'outsiders'. Most onlookers cited the ability of the dissident soldiers to go from an unarmed vocal group, to hundreds brandishing sticks and weapons, as raising locals' suspicions that this was not an 'organic' protest. I interviewed many people - from Fretilin insiders, to opposition politicians and local journalists - and not one ruled out the fact that the riots had been hijacked for 'other' purposes. The Prime Minister himself stated so. In a speech on the 7th of May, he called it a coup - and said that 'foreigners and outsiders' were trying once again to divide the nation. I reported this for ABC Radio - and was asked if I had the translation wrong. I patiently explained no - we had carefully gone through the speech word for word, and anyone with any knowledge of Timorese politics would understand that is precisely what the Prime Minister meant. No other media had bothered to go to the event - the Australian media preferring to hang out with the rebel soldiers or Australian diplomats that all wanted Alkatiri 'gone'.

Since his election, Alkatiri had sidelined the most important figure in Timorese politics - President Xanana Gusmao - and the tension between the two has been readily apparent. Alkatiri has a different view to Gusmao about how the country's development should take place - slowly, without 'rich men feasting behind doors' was the way he described it to me, a steady structure of development the way to develop a truly independent nation. His ability to defend Timor's oil and gas interests against an aggressive Australia and powerful business interests, and his development of a Petroleum Fund to protect Timor's oil money from future corruption never accorded with the caricature created by his Australian and American detractors of a 'corrupt dictator.'

The campaign to oust Alkatiri began at least four years ago - I recorded the date after an American official started leaking me stories of Alkatiri's corruption while I was freelancing for ABC Radio. I investigated the claims - and came up with nought - but was more concerned with the tenor of criticism by American and Australian officials that clearly suggested that they were wanting to get rid of this 'troublesome' Prime Minister. Like Somare, he was not doing things their way. After interviewing the major political leaders - it was clear that many would stop at nothing to get rid of Timor's first Prime Minister. President Xanana Gusmao, three years ago, did not rule out dissolving parliament and forming a 'national unity government'.

Gusmao and his supporters (including Jose Ramos-Horta) have privately called Alkatiri an 'Angolan communist' with his idea of slow paced development not something Gusmao and his Australian supporters agree with. Other than that, it is hard to work out why President Gusmao would allow forces to unconstitutionally remove this Prime Minister.

In Timor, many see Gusmao at fault here, for disagreeing with the Prime Minister over the sacking of the soldiers (it should have been resolved in private) while others see him as the architect of the whole fiasco, his frustration with his limited political role allowing him to be convinced by his Australian advisors to embark on a needlessly bloody coup.

In the last few days we have heard from young Timorese writers currently at the Sydney Writer's Festival. They have a different take from the Australian media on what is happening in Timor. Take this quote by one young writer:

'… it is suspicious and questionable. It is difficult to analyse why Australia wants to go there. I think it is driven by concerns over Australia's economic security, including the oil under the sea, rather than concern for the people of East Timor. 'I am scared it is less about East Timor's security than Australia's security and interests.'

Gil Gutteres, the head of Timor's journalists association TILJA similarly last month said old style fears of communism, and economic interests of Australia were driving the anti-Alkatiri campaign, and were behind the violence. In fact, there is hardly a person in Timor that doesn't understand that this is about big politics - helped by internal figures wanting to control the oil and gas pie.

And yet the Australian press is full of 'our boys' doing us proud. This does not equate with sentiment on the ground, or answer the question as to where the rebel forces could have received support forthis foolhardy campaign that has led to many Timorese being frightened, distressed and homeless.

Just this evening, witnesses spoke of Australian army personnel standing by while militia fired on a church in Belide. During the early violence, not one UN soldier intervened to stop the small band of rioters, and the recent actions of the Australian troops add fuel to speculation that they are letting Timor burn.

Alkatiri, for his part is refusing to step aside, saying that only Fretlin, his party, can ask him to resign. If he does go, the Timorese have the Australian media to thank for their unquestioning support of this coup. Perhaps they can explain to the starving citizens (that were already ignored by Australia for 25 years) why Australia now controls their oil and gas. More importantly, the politicians in Timor that have been party to the violence will have to explain to the people their involvement in this latest chapter of its traumatic history.

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Emergency rule for East Timor leader

BBC News, 30 May 2006

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao is taking control of the country's national security and defence in a bid to defuse mounting unrest. Emergency powers will give Mr Gusmao control of the army and police, split by internal disputes and gang violence.

Mr Gusmao, a highly respected former guerrilla leader, also assumed sole charge of coordination with the Australian-led peacekeeping force. His move comes after fresh violence and looting hit the capital, Dili. Mr Gusmao said the decision to impose emergency rule, which would last 30 days, had been taken in "close collaboration" with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Mr Alkatiri has been blamed by other members of the government for failing to stop the violence, which was triggered by the government's sacking of hundreds of troops after they went on strike. Mr Gusmao said the move is to "prevent violence and avoid further fatalities", as well as for the "rapid reestablishment of public order".

Burnt out

The intervention of the president, who normally plays a largely symbolic role, will be widely welcomed, the BBC's Jonathan Head says. But he alone cannot fix the collapse of East Timor's system of government. Mr Alkatiri is deeply unpopular but refuses to resign and there are few obvious successors to him, our correspondent says.

There are reports that the defence and interior ministers have been sacked, but it is not clear yet whether they have accepted this. Mr Gusmao's move follows days of mounting tension and violence. At least 20 people are reported to have been killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes.

More violence on Tuesday left several shops - once part of a vibrant commercial district - reduced to burnt out shells. Many people, including children, were simply helping themselves to supplies. In some houses anything of value has been stripped away or destroyed. Many residents have taken shelter at makeshift camps where basic necessities are running out.
Thousands of desperate people descended on warehouses where rice was being handed out, and waited for hours in the baking sun.

'Gutless thugs'

The immediate cause of the violence was the sacking of 600 striking soldiers in March. The soldiers, who were mainly from the west of the country, complained of discrimination against them by leaders from the east. But there are also signs that some of the violence is politically motivated.

Attorney-General Longuinhos Monteiro told the BBC his offices had been looted on several occasions and up to 15% of the criminal archive stolen. Some of the stolen files relate to Indonesia's bloody withdrawal from East Timor following a 1999 referendum. Pro-Indonesian militias were accused of orchestrating the violence, which left more than 1,000 people dead. (See comment on this, below the article - VOT)

Australian Brigadier Michael Slater says his 1,300 peacekeeping troops are gaining an upper hand against the gangs of "gutless thugs" rampaging in Dili. "We've been taking the weapons off them and they are losing their freedom of action because we have so many soldiers out there providing the security among the population," he told the Australian media. "It's not fixed, but we're getting there," he added. He went on to say that although there were "some very large groups of internally displaced people", but "there is no humanitarian crisis here".


Comment by Vrij Oost Timor on the information about the stolen Criminal Archive:

We have received information from another source within our own network. This source reports that the archive did not seem to be deliberately stolen. The paperwork was lying all over the place, but some computers were taken. According to this source, it is well possible that the looters were after the computers only - for the sake of stealing the computers, not the information.

The missing files are to be considered a tremendous loss. However, if this was indeed an act of looting this would not be a political act. Nor would it suggest that information has been deliberately destroyed to cover up the 1999 militia violence.

From our position, we are not capable to overview all details on the current crisis in East Timor. However, we do try to separate the facts from the rumours.

- VOT -

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Crisis in Oost Timor

Interview door Amy Goodman (Democracy Now)
30 mei 2006


East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao assumed emergency powers earlier today in order to give him control over the army and police. Gusmao's order comes as violence in the country has reached its highest level since Timor gained its independence in 2002. At least 30 people are reported to have been killed and tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced.

Several weeks ago Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatari fired more than 600 striking members of the country's military. This exacerbated tensions between the country's military and police forces in what is Asia"s newest and poorest state. As rumors of attacks against police units spread through Timor's capital of Dili, police fled, leading to a complete breakdown in security.

Last week, UN and East Timorese officials called for the deployment of a multinational peace-keeping force composed of Australian, Malaysian, and Portugese troops. On Monday, Timor's President and Prime Minister met in an attempt to resolve the crisis. As Timorese President Xanana Gusmao called for an end to the fighting, protesters gathered outside the meeting, many of them calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister. The Timorese cabinet has also asked the defense minister, Rogerio Lobato, to resign.


Amy Goodman's interview with Jose Luis Guterres, East Timorese ambassador to the United States and United Nations and Charlie Scheiner, co-founder of ETAN (East Timor Action Network), and also works closely with the Lao Hamutuk (Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis) in Timor.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador, let's begin with you. What is happening in East Timor?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES: We have a very dramatic situation. It started by part of the army being [unintelligible] by the government in what is now called petitioners. They claim of being discriminated in the army. So the problems started as a very small one. But at that time the government didn't pay much attention to the problem; and so later on it became a huge problem. Then many of our -- the population of Dili, almost half of them, they took refuge in the mountains in the eastern or western district of East Timor.

AMY GOODMAN: People, if they've heard of Timor, perhaps the one thing they know is about the slaughter of [by] the Indonesians over a quarter of a century. And now, since independence, this is the first time we're hearing about East Timor, and this is to do with Timorese themselves, police, military gangs, fighting against each other. Charlie Scheiner, you were attacked at - the house you were staying was attacked. Who attacked it -- in Dili, the capital of Timor?

CHARLIE SCHEINER: Saturday morning, at about 7:00 in the morning there was a fight on the street outside our house by two youth gangs. Most of the violence that's been happening in the last few days is not identifiably done by any of the factions of the military or the police, but it's unemployed young men who are organized in groups -- sometimes they're called 'martial arts groups' but they're more or less gangs -- that are taking advantage of the current lack of security to settle old scores or to assert their authority.

So there were two gangs fighting on the street in front of our house, and then one of them decided, for reasons that don't make any sense to me, that our house was a target and they, for about 10 minutes, pelted our house with rocks and smashed all the windows. We left with the support of the U.S. embassy and Australian military a little bit later, and I've learned since that the house was burned to the ground a few hours after we left. This is one of -- similar stories could be told by hundreds of people in East Timor. It wasn't anything uniquely targeted at us.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you certainly helped to expose what was going on in Timor for the many years under Indonesian occupation. What is your sense, Charlie Scheiner, of where this is coming from and the significance of, well, seeing Australian troops come in once again, and then troops from New Zealand, troops from Malaysia, troops from Portugal.

CHARLIE SCHEINER: Well, I think it's a very sad day for East Timor and for the people of East Timor, of course, and for all of us who worked so that they could be independent, that they've had to sacrifice their independence slightly and rely on foreign troops. And it will be difficult, I think, for them to recover both independence in terms of political government but also independence in terms of being able to be treated as an equal by -- particularly by Australia, who has taken advantage of them many times.

The source of the violence is very complicated. As you talked about before, there were 600 soldiers fired from the military in February because they claimed about discrimination, and then they essentially went on strike. They didn't go to their barracks. But I think that's just sort of the trigger for underlying tensions and differences that are in many different areas, and it's not as simple as to say, well, this is just because the easterners don't like the westerners or vice versa, or because the military doesn't like the police, or because people are -- many young unemployed men particularly -- are angry that some people have more money and more resources than they do. All of those are factors, you know, as is the way the government has handled this, particularly the Prime Minister. A lot of people say he should have handled it better and been more open to discussion. I think there's also a factor that the leaders of the government, particularly the Prime Minister and the President of Parliament, seem unable to separate their party roles from their national roles over the last few weeks, or few months even, which tended to exacerbate things, because, really, only the President was calling for national unity.

When you get all of those things together and you combine it with the fact that the major perpetrators of crimes during the Indonesian occupation were never held accountable -- and since then, the court system in East Timor for crimes committed since 1999 is not functioning very well -- you get a situation where people feel they can commit crimes and get away with it, that that climate of impunity has been created. And you also get a situation where people who are victims, for example, the police -- there were 12 police that were shot down by the military last Thursday -- that they now feel there's no justice that will be available through the courts or through legal processes, so the only way that they're going to get justice is if they take it into their own hands. You combine all those things together, and plus 80% unemployment and the poorest country in Asia, and you get a recipe for disaster.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Jose Luis Guterres, do you agree with that analysis -- the surprise of many that when there was a strong call for war crimes tribunals to investigate what the Indonesian military had done over 25 years, the Timorese government was not at the forefront of those calls, but simply talking about moving on, and now, perhaps, the repercussions of that?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES: Well, the government created with Indonesia a bilateral commission to find the truth and, in the final analysis, search for justice. As you know, we are in a situation where East Timor is a very small country. It is the poorest country in Asia. And we have to know how to live with our big neighbors. What the government did in agreement with the President of the Republic, Xanana Gusmão, was to create a debt mechanism with Indonesia, and the final decision will be taken by the parliament of both countries, Indonesia and East Timor. These two countries are now democratic countries, countries that are committed to human rights. I believe that at the end of the day the two countries will find a solution that will deal with justice and the truth at the same time.

AMY GOODMAN: And the sense that Timorese have that there is no justice, that there's no repercussions for people, for example, attacking others?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES: I don't share that view because the event that was mentioned by Charles Scheiner where the police officer was shot by some soldiers, the commander of the army forces, General Matan Ruak, made clear commitment that they will be punished. At the same time, they're looting the streets. Many Timorese are not happy with that. And I believe that we are today are in the right direction since the President announced that he will be the major responsible for the security and defense.

AMY GOODMAN: You ran against the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, for the secretary generalship of the party which would have made you Prime Minister. You've just returned. You pulled out at the end when they weren't going to have a secret ballot, but people were going to raise their hands, and you felt that that would surely tip it to the Prime Minister, afraid -- they would be afraid to vote otherwise. Do you think Mari Alkatiri should resign, the Prime Minister of Timor?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES: Well, I did run for -- announce my candidacy to secretary general of my party, a party that, together with Alkatiri and other 12 members founded in '75 -- in '74 because I believe that competition for leadership is good for democracy within a party. And when in a democratic society you have democratic parties, then the society will become more transparent and more democratic. So I did it for these - the main reasons. At the same time, I thought that it was important for us to change the way how the government had been handling the relation with the public. I am more for dialogue rather than confrontation.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the Prime Minister should resign now? Are you joining that call?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES: Right now, my position is that Fretilin, my party, has the legitimacy to govern up to the end. And the Prime Minister together with the President right now, they are sharing some responsibilities together. In the way how decisions were taken few hours ago, I agree with that in the sense that the Prime Minister is not resigning but probably there will be a shuffle in the government.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, East Timor's ambassador to the United States, United Nations, Jose Luis Guterres, and also Charlie Scheiner, co-founder of the East Timor Action Network.

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Below is a thoughtful conservative analysis by James Dunn, former diplomat and supporter of Timorese independence - something out alongside the more 'leftist' analysis of Maryann Keaty.

The Timor Crisis: A quest of legitimacy?

James Dunn - 29 May 2006

East Timor's descent into violence and anarchy, and towards civil war, chaos came as a shock, including to this columnist who has been involved in the affairs of this community for more than 4 decades, especially their ordeal during Indonesia's harsh occupation.

It was deeply disappointing that a people who had endured so much in the recent past quarter of a century could countenance the violence that took place last week. It has led to insinuations, notably by Australian journalist Paul Kelly, that Australia should not have supported East Timorese moves along the path to independence in 1999. Timor Leste was now clearly a failed state whose people did not deserve independent nationhood. The territory, by inference, should therefore have remained under Indonesian control.

That shallow view should be dismissed. Timor's problems are common to nations whose independence was achieved through armed resistance. Indonesia endured this kind of instability for more than a decade, and similar problems have persisted in Papua New Guinea.

In East Timor's case, it was the harsh Indonesian occupation, and not the UN intervention or the failings of national independence that must bear most blame for today's crisis. The east-west hostility is without historical foundation. In fact it flows from Indonesian occupation policy, in particular the special attention devoted by the occupying power to those adjacent to West Timor.

The democratic system developed system under UNTAET's tutelage, in which this columnist played a part, was, it must now be admitted, immature. When independence came East Timor looked democratic, but the system had shallow roots. The East Timorese evidently welcomed the aims of democracy without fully understanding its political complexities, its frailties in adverse economic conditions like those endured by independent Timor Leste.

We gave insufficient attention to factors that were bound to threaten the functioning of democracy -- the impact on a weak economy of the diminished foreign presence, with the reduction of the UN mission; the failure to establish a disciplined defence force unswerving in its loyalty to civilian rule. Then there is the time bomb character of continued massive unemployment, and the related urgent need for the new state to develop its fragile economy (those protracted Timor Gap negotiations were particularly unhelpful).

East Timor did have seasoned political leaders but some of them have let their people down. They impressed the international community, according the new nation an importance beyond its size, but recent events suggest that their international successes were not matched by achievements at home. Now is the time for a close scrutiny of the performance of East Timor's political institutions.

While Australia's response to the present crisis was commendably prompt, we need to reflect on past failings on our part, which may have contributed to the problem. Australia was among those nations who wanted the UNTAET mandate to end quickly, not least because of its cost, and it really ended too quickly.

Australia was a major contributor to the training of the defence force, a sensitive process that began less than a year before independence, and apparently was less than successful, too little attention being given to persuading the military of the essential importance of accepting the severe constraints democracy places on the behaviour of armed forces.

The immediate causes of the dissent behind the dispute over promotion policies and other matters are clear enough -- even understandable -- but what is alarming is how the situation degenerated from a noisy protest to armed clashes between troops and police, the two essential arms of national security.

With the police virtually immobilized, the situation in Dili became a scene of anarchic violence, with criminal gangs being joined by the hundreds of disaffected unemployed. It is a story of how a weak government response to a dangerous liaison involving rebellious troops, opportunistic crime gangs and disillusioned unemployed, allowed the triggering of a wave of violence that resulted in the collapse of public order, threatening the disintegration of the nation, even though the violence was more or less confined to the capital. Those of us who worked with the UN should have done more to prepare the system to deal with such a contingency.

Because of our past support for Indonesia's illegal takeover, and its subsequent occupation, it is appropriate that Australia should now play a leading role in helping the new nation get back on its feet, and heal the wounds of last week's violence. But our role should bear the legitimacy of a UN mandate. The presence of our troops, together with contingents of New Zealanders, Portuguese, and Malaysians has already done much to calm the situation in the capital, where the problem is most acute. But that calm will not endure if this peace-making presence is not accompanied by strong and united Timorese leadership.

As it turns out, the nation could be facing a divisive political crisis, some strains having developed in the relationship between President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

That crisis needs to be resolved quickly with, preferably, the forming a government of national unity that will restore the bonds of unity that have been fractured in recent weeks.

As I understand it, Kofi Annan, and the Security Council have agreed to the sending of a stronger mission to Timor Leste. That mission, in which I assume Australia will play a key role, should be empowered to strengthen those national institutions that failed the East Timorese in recent weeks. The political leaders of Timor Leste have to confront their failures, in the face of their responsibility to guide their people through these first difficult years of nationhood, if crises of this nature are not again to threaten the new nation with disintegration.

Despite the worrying events of the past few weeks, the legitimacy of East Timor's nationhood is not in question, as some have suggested. Creating a nation out of the ashes of 1999 was a massive challenge both to the international community and inexperienced East Timorese political leaders. In the circumstances this setback calls for something special on our part -- our understanding, and our renewed commitment to support the fulfillment of the national destiny of a people with whom we have formed a special relationship.

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Statement by ETAN (East Timor and Indonesia Action Network) on the Current Violence in Timor-Leste

27 May 2006

We have watched the unfolding situation in Timor-Leste this past week with deep concern. We do not believe that events had to escalate to this point. Like others, we do not have complete information about the current situation and its causes. Below are our initial reflections:

The intervention by foreign military and police forces is a sad event for Timor-Leste, whose hard-won political independence has had to be laid aside - we hope for only a short time - because leaders and state institutions have been unable to manage certain violent elements of the population and security forces.

Now that foreign forces are being deployed -- at the request of Timor-Leste's government, with the stated support of rebel leaders, and the welcome by most of a terrified population -- we hope that they serve their intended purpose in quelling the violence and allowing negotiations and a peaceful resolution, as well as the identification and arrest of those who have committed crimes.

Outside intervention is a temporary solution at best. Timor-Leste must find ways, with respectful support from the international community, to deal with problems in a manner that will not require troops.

Statements by Australian government leaders that providing security assistance entitles them to influence over Timor-Leste's government are undemocratic, paternalistic, and unhelpful. Who governs Timor-Leste is a decision to be made by its people within its constitution. Key countries -- including those now sending troops and police -- must examine their roles in relation to the new nation, including the training provided to Timor-Leste's security forces.

Australia bears special responsibility for Timor's underdevelopment by refusing to return revenues, totaling billions of dollars, from the disputed petroleum fields in the Timor Sea, including Laminaria-Corallina, and by bullying Timor-Leste into forsaking revenues that should rightfully belong to it under current international law and practice. As in 1999, we must not forget that the Australian government's actions have contributed to the situations their peacekeepers have now been sent to correct. Australia should not view its current assistance to Timor-Leste as a favor, to be repaid, but instead as a partial repayment for the debt Australia owes the Timorese people for its help during WW II and for Australia's deep complicity in Indonesia's invasion and occupation.

Independent Timor-Leste had a violent birth. The legacy of Indonesian occupation left the people of the new nation deeply traumatized and impoverished, without governmental institutions and experience. Those who orchestrated, implemented and aided the illegal occupation have never been held accountable.

We wonder if international and Timorese failures to ensure justice have led some in Timor-Leste to believe that their own use of violence would be met with similar impunity. As described in the recent report of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), several countries - among them U.S., U.K., and Australia - bear a special responsibility to ensure justice and accountability due to their action and inaction from 1975 on. Reparations, as called for by the CAVR, would help alleviate the poverty and joblessness that have fueled some of the unrest.

It must not be forgotten that despite its many problems, the transition from occupation to UN administration to independence has been relatively peaceful, especially when compared to the experiences of many other post-colonial countries. We hope that the recent violence -- which appears to have complex causes -- proves to be an exception.

We urge the key political, security force and other actors in the current crisis to evaluate their own actions and recommit themselves to the spirit of national unity and public service, which so ably provided the foundation for the independence movement. Timor-Leste needs to examine whether or not it wants a military and, if so, what is its purpose. In addition to addressing the past, the CAVR report provides useful recommendations for implementing rule of law and improving justice and accountability in independent Timor-Leste.

We urge the international community and the UN, especially the Security Council, to work with Timor-Leste to complete the nation-building and development tasks to which they have already committed. If Timor-Leste is to become the success story it has already been portrayed as, further international support is necessary. However, this support must be given in an honest spirit that supports real self-determination and empowers the Timorese people to take full charge of their own destiny.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces.

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Timorese will welcome troops

Australian Associated Press - 25 May 2006

The majority of East Timorese will welcome Australian involvement in their country but there are some who will view it as a return to colonialism, a veteran film maker and journalist says.

Australia has offered between 1,000 and 1,300 defence force personnel, three ships, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and heavy airlift, after a request from East Timor to help it quell a rebellion by renegade soldiers.

Max Stahl, who filmed the 1991 Dili massacre at Santa Cruz, where 400 civilians were murdered by Indonesian troops and was now based in East Timor, said most locals had good memories of Australia's involvement in the 1999 multinational peacekeeping force.

"I've spoken to a number of them yesterday and the answer to that is that most of the ordinary people, especially the women and children... they are very positive about it," Mr Stahl told the Seven Network.

"They have a good memory of the UN intervention in 1999, which saved the lives of many people here and they have a good memory of the international forces that conducted it and the Australians in particular."

However a minority of East Timorese do not want Australia to become involved. Despite this, they are unlikely to oppose Australian advisers or troops on the ground, he said.

"There are some who feel that this is something they don't want, it's a return to another colonial intervention.

"Some of these people include, I know, some of the more senior people in the army who feel that these dissident soldiers have been manipulated in order to threaten the government, in order to threaten the independence which has been very hard won.

"So it's not completely one way in this area, but even those guys (that oppose international intervention), they work with Australian soldiers, they have Australian advisers and there's a mutual respect between them.

"I don't think the Australians will find opposition from the government side and I don't really think they'll find it from the rebel side either."

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Two UN Police Officers wounded, while 9 Timorese Police Officers die in gun shots in Timor-Leste

Dili - The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Dr Sukehiro Hasegawa stated that "I am outraged with the violent attack on PNTL police headquarters that took place earlier today and resulted in the death of nine persons and the injury of nearly 30 persons including two UN police officers." He made a strong protest to the Government of Timor-Leste for failing to stop this kind of violence and asked for full accountability for the atrocity. These sudden and tragic events shook the people of Timor-Leste, the international community and the staff of UNOTIL.

SRSG Hasegawa emphasized that the recent series of violence reflected the difficult times the people of Timor-Leste were going through and the need for our continued international understanding and support. He praised the Security Council for having acted immediately in supporting the request from the leaders of Timor-Leste for international assistance, assuring us that it would take the appropriate measures. This demonstrates the solidarity between the people of Timor-Leste and the international community. With the imminent arrival of international troops from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia, SRSG Hasegawa hoped it would be possible to see a gradual, if not immediate, return to law and order and to a more safe and secure environment.

UNOTIL also wishes to express our most heartfelt sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones and our desire for the swiftest recoveries for those who have been wounded.

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Unpopular leadership, fractured military fuels violence

By Marianne Kearney

Agence France Presse - 24 May 2006

Jakarta - Widespread disenchantment with East Timor's government, a poorly led military and widespread poverty and unemployment are fuelling the worst unrest since the small country's 1999 vote for independence, analysts say.

As foreign countries warn their citizens to flee escalating unrest in Dili, one analyst said problems had been simmering since the army was formed during United Nations stewardship of the former Indonesian province from 1999-2002.

"The problem goes back to the UN intervention - they didn't know what to do with the military. But they didn't decide the consequences of how do you properly equip them," said Bob Lowry, a former security adviser to the East Timorese government, speaking to AFP from Canberra.

"Then they developed the police force, saying they didn't want the military in law and order," added Lowry, saying the government had failed to come up with a way to keep the under-occupied troops busy.

Around 600 soldiers or nearly a third of the military deserted their barracks in February, complaining of poor conditions and bias in the ranks.

A subsequent rally last month in support of the former soldiers turned into a riot after security forces opened fire on the crowd. The clashes left five people dead and at least 21,000 people fled the capital.

After more deadly clashes this week, East Timor said Wednesday it had asked for help from foreign troops and police to stamp out an escalating rebellion by former soldiers who were trying to enter the capital.

Australian troops should be on the ground in Dili within two to three days, said East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta.

Some analysts said the unpopularity of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who is widely regarded as arrogant and authoritarian, is compounding the problem.

"You've got a prime minister who has executive power but he's not a popular figure so it is hard for him to stand up and play a leadership role in a crisis situation," Lowry said.

The most popular leader, the former guerrilla chief and current president Xanana Gusmao, has very little power to step in and negotiate with the rebel troops. "The one man with the public skills and moral authority doen't have executive power," said Lowry.

One analyst, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said youths disgruntled at soaring unemployment and poverty, and possibly backed by opposition parties, appeared to have joined in this week's unrest.

"After independence people had high hopes but they have been disappointed," said Naipospos, from a Dili based non-government group.

"A lot of people are not happy with Mari Alkatiri and because they see he will probably be put forward again as a prime ministerial candidate, they feel the situation will not improve," he said.
"People's confidence had dropped, there are lots of allegations of corruption and nepotism, and it is clear the economic situation is not good."

East Timor's economy grew by 2.3 percent last year but it needs to grow by 7-8 percent just to keep up with the country's population explosion, said Kim Hunter from the Asia Foundation.

A report by the United Nations Development Fund said poverty was rising despite vast potential oil wealth, with a stagnating economy and rapid population growth.

"People are not unhappy with independence as a fact but they are looking for a bettering in their livelihoods," said Hunter.

The unrest and government's failure to persuade people that they could guarantee their safety were part of the growing pains of a new nation, said some analysts.

"It is a new country, these are new government institutions, it's the first time that they have to deal with these things," said Hunter.

Australia led a UN-backed intervention force to East Timor in 1999 to quell violence by Indonesian troops and pro-Jakarta local militias after the independence vote.

The United Nations ran the nation of about one million until independence in May 2002.

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