[TimorLesteStudies] Asian Survey: The Authoritarian Temptation In East Timor

Jennifer Drysdale jenster at cres10.anu.edu.au
Mon Feb 5 09:16:26 EST 2007


>Date: Sat, 03 Feb 2007 09:31:56 -0500
>To: east-timor at lists.riseup.net
>From: John M Miller <fbp at igc.org>
>Subject: Asian Survey: The Authoritarian Temptation In East Timor
>[Readers that can write the author at SVEN_G at PRIO.NO to request a
>free e-print of the full article.]
>Nationbuilding and the Need for Inclusive Governance
>Sven Gunnar Simonsen
>Three political arenas in East Timor are 
>examined regarding the goal of consolidating 
>peace: governance under Fretilin leadership, the 
>issue of official languages, and the security 
>sector. The article finds that inclusiveness, 
>transparency, and efforts to minimize conflict 
>are lacking in current policies and political processes.
>Keywords: East Timor, nationbuilding, 
>peacebuilding, security sector reform, military intervention
>In contrast with cases such as Kosovo or 
>Afghanistan, the absence of deep, pervasive 
>ethnic divisions in post-1999 East Timor might 
>suggest that statebuilding in that country would 
>be relatively straightforward. However, while 
>its population is still traumatized and wary 
>about political disagreement after the civil war 
>that followed the end of Portuguese colonial 
>rule in 1975, and the subsequent Indonesian 
>occupation that ended only in 1999, East Timor 
>is experiencing increasing tension along a 
>number of fault lines. Calls for renewed 
>dedication to “national unity” are being 
>disregarded by the Fretilin government. As the 
>United Nations scales down its operations there, 
>the case of East Timor highlights the limited 
>leverage available to international efforts at promoting inclusive governance.
>This article starts from the assumption that 
>nationbuilding—understood as (re)building a 
>sense of community within a polity—can 
>contribute toward peacebuilding in a 
>post-conflict situation. The focus here is not 
>on the indisputable progress in reconstruction 
>made in many areas thanks to international and 
>local efforts. Rather, from a nation-building 
>perspective, the article surveys a number of 
>issues that remain divisive in East Timorese 
>politics. Policy choices and political processes 
>are examined for their contribution to the goal of consolidating peace.
>The formal institutions of democracy are now in 
>place in East Timor. Democracy provides 
>opportunities for nonviolent conflict 
>management; conversely, policies of inclusion 
>and compromise may contribute to the rooting of 
>democracy in a country. This article, however, 
>will argue that a rules-based political order is 
>still largely lacking in East Timor. The 
>government’s readiness to impose controversial 
>policies serves to perpetuate this 
>situation—arguably reinforcing existing social 
>divisions. This is the situation in the wake of 
>the May 2004 transfer of competences from 
>UNMISET (the U.N. Mission of Support in East 
>Timor) to the Timorese authorities and the May 
>2005 transformation of UNMISET into UNOTIL (the 
>U.N. Office in Timor-Leste). At this point the 
>U.N. is left in East Timor with only a few dozen 
>advisers and (contrary to the recommendation of 
>Secretary-General Kofi Annan) no security backup 
>force, plus a mandate limited to supporting the 
>capacity development of critical state institutions.
>The article opens with an introductory section 
>outlining key dimensions of the deep societal 
>transformation that took place during the 
>1975­99 Indonesian occupation. A subsequent 
>section develops a broader argument about the 
>Fretilin (Frente Revolucionária do Timor-Leste 
>Independente, Revolutionary Front for an 
>Independent East Timor) government’s way of 
>conducting politics, arguing that there is a 
>pattern of confrontational and self-preservatory 
>governmental behavior that is detrimental to the 
>adoption of democratic principles within the 
>polity. Against this backdrop, the article 
>addresses an issue that many observers have 
>feared could ignite unrest in East Timor—the 
>choice of Tetum and Portuguese (and not Bahasa 
>Indonesia) as official languages. The study then 
>addresses the most acute questions for internal 
>security in East Timor: the tense relationship 
>between the army and police and the challenge 
>posed by disgruntled veterans of the resistance.
>1. This article was finalized in spring 2005 
>(field interviews were conducted early 2004) and 
>covers developments up until that time. One year 
>on, violence and political struggle have brought 
>East Timor back in the international news 
>headlines. What triggered a destructive chain of 
>events was the government’s dismissal, in March 
>2006, of some 600 of the army’s 1,400 troops. 
>The soldiers had been on strike over work 
>conditions and claimed they were discriminated 
>against because they came from the west of the 
>country. In April a demonstration turned into 
>violent clashes involving the former soldiers 
>and splintering military and police forces. Over 
>the following weeks, the crisis escalated into 
>large-scale riots, with mobs burning and looting 
>in Dili and elsewhere. By late June, it was 
>reported that 150,000 people had fled their 
>homes and more than 30 had been killed. 
>International military troops (the majority from 
>Australia) arrived in May, at the request of the 
>government, and the situation appeared to be 
>slowly calming. On May 31, President Xanana 
>Gusmão declared a state of emergency and took 
>control over army and police forces. On June 26, 
>Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri stepped down, amid 
>claims that he knew Minister of Internal 
>Administration Rogério Lobato had distributed 
>weapons to civilians (Lobato had resigned on 
>June 1 and was later placed under house arrest). 
>On July 10, Nobel Prize laureate José Ramos 
>Horta—who had resigned as foreign minister on 
>June 25—was sworn in as East Timor’s new prime 
>minister. Although these developments may be 
>traced back to one event, they cannot be 
>understood outside the broader context of 
>confrontational governance and flawed security 
>sector reform examined in this article.
>2. While nationbuilding is here seen as relating 
>directly to citizens’ identity, statebuilding 
>encompasses activities such as the building of 
>political institutions, strengthening of civil 
>society, and holding of elections.
>[This message was distributed via the east-timor 
>news list. For info on how to subscribe send a 
>blank e-mail to info at etan.org. To support ETAN 
>see http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm ]

More information about the Easttimorstudies mailing list