Subject: WSJ by Ramos-Horta: East Timor Is Not a Failed State

- I Will Not Resign: Alkatiri

- Australian troops intensify security at flashpoint ETimor bridge

- Long-term solutions needed: E. Timor ambassador to Australia

- FT: Peacekeepers Left East Timor "Too Soon"

The Wall Street Journal Friday, June 9, 2006

Commentary

East Timor Is Not a Failed State

By JOSE RAMOS-HORTA

DILI -- The capital of our impoverished country, East Timor, is once again the scene of riots, looting, arson and gunfire. The violence has its roots in a dispute within our armed forces. In April, our army, a symbol of our heroic struggle for independence from Indonesia, suffered a severe split when almost half of its new recruits walked out over complaints of discrimination and poor working conditions. The heavily armed, well-trained, but poorly led force fell prey to political partisanship and collapsed. The violence that followed caused the deaths of an estimated 30 people. Many were wounded, though exact numbers aren't yet available. Our fragile administration and economy were effectively paralyzed.

Aside from the odd minor incident, this strife has been limited to Dili. The police in the other 12 districts have remained at their posts. Most schools in these areas have also continued to function. One school in a Dili suburb wracked by violence stayed open. These are positive signs in what is otherwise a crisis of governance. Some of the work invested in building East Timor's political institutions has clearly taken root.

Is East Timor, then, a "failed" or failing state? Far from it. Only a few months ago, the country was lauded as a shining U.N. success story. Today, some are quick to dismiss it as a failing U.N. experiment in nation building. Yet I believe that East Timor, even in light of current events, is still a success story. And I ask commentators to take a more considered approach. With the support of the military forces of Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand, plus the Portuguese elite police, Dili is being secured. There are still outbreaks of violence, but no new casualties reported since the height of the fighting in late May. As a climate of security is gradually achieved, East Timor's leadership has the opportunity to reclaim lost ground. This will happen only if they are inclusive in how they reestablish political legitimacy.

The significance of the events of the past month has more to do with the depths of instability from which East Timor has risen, rather than the heights of security it has yet to aspire to. When Indonesian troops evacuated East Timor in October 1999, they left a destroyed capital, 1,400 people dead, and a quarter-million East Timorese deported to Indonesia.

From 1999 to 2002, the U.N. performed a great service to East Timor, from the arrival of the peacekeepers through the rebuilding effort and the establishment of our democracy. The U.N. operated within time constraints imposed by a Security Council legitimately concerned about costs. They laid the foundations of a sovereign state -- from a country virtually burned to the ground -- in just two years. We now recognize the need for the U.N. to stay engaged for a much longer period: But in early 2002, when the U.N. mission was preparing to turn over control to the East Timorese, many here were in a great hurry to see the U.N. leave as soon as possible. Understandably, they wanted to claim their new country as their own.

From 2002 to 2005, events went relatively smoothly. The newly elected political leaders worked to build a functioning democratic state. With oil and gas revenues, combined with foreign assistance, East Timor's treasury collected enough money to finance its budget, which in 2006-07 is projected to total $240 million. Major infrastructure projects are planned for the next few years, including new roads, bridges, ports and airports. More money will also be directed toward the poor rural areas, where most of our citizens live.

So what went wrong? I had earlier cautioned Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri about allegations of low-level corruption in key government agencies. I brought him examples, which were given to me by foreign businesses whose bills were not being paid by the government. I warned cabinet colleagues about the growing perception of our government's arrogance. I urged the prime minister to develop a relationship with East Timor's powerful Catholic Church, the oldest institution in this country. Yet we managed to alienate it. Some of these problems result from inexperience and poor management; others are caused by what many called an arrogant leadership.

I believe East Timor can recover. This process may require a political change, perhaps in the form of a government of national unity. Equally important is that the leaders jolted by the crisis reflect with humility on their own failings, and not simply look for scapegoats. President Xanana GusmĂŁo and I, with strong backing from the church and civil society, are committed to an all-inclusive political dialogue.

The lesson of this tragic episode is that the international community cannot look for cost-saving formulas when addressing post-conflict nation-building. It is essential that the U.N. stay engaged in East Timor for at least a decade. U.N. management of the 2007 elections is crucial to their success. In close cooperation with my president, I shall seek continued U.N. engagement in East Timor. It's in no one's interest to let another poor country become a failed state.

Mr. Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is the Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for East Timor. He is currently also serving as interim Minister for Defense.

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Agence France-Presse June 9, 2006

I Will Not Resign: Alkatiri

From correspondents in Brasilia

EAST Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri would not resign despite demands by protesters in his country that he step down, he said in an interview published today.

Dr Alkatiri, in an interview with Folha de Sao Paulo, described the source of unrest that has rocked East Timor as political rather than ethnic. "The crisis is deeply political," he was quoted as saying.

"It is an attempt to change the government without regard to the Constitution.

"If it were ethnic, we would already have a bloodbath."

Dr Alkatiri is the first prime minister of the southeast Asian country after Portuguese colonisation and Indonesian integration.

"The reason (for the unrest) is always the same: the 2007 elections are near and no-one doubts that the governing party will win. So, violence is the only way," he said.

"I am ignoring any pressure, and I will not resign."

His spokesman earlier said Dr Alkatiri did not intend to resign.

Dr Alkatiri said there would not be a civil war in his country.

"I never believed in the possibility of a civil war in East Timor. The people do not want more wars. To avoid that, we have asked international forces to intervene," he said.

More than 1000 protesters converged on Dili on Tuesday to demand that Dr Alkatiri step down.

Many in East Timor blame him for the unrest that has followed his sacking of 600 soldiers after they complained of discrimination because they came from the country's west.

Twenty-one people died last month as sporadic battles between rival soldiers, and between soldiers and police, descended into gang clashes and led the government to appeal for foreign help.

More than 2000 combat-ready peacekeepers are deployed in Dili.

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Agence France-Presse June 9, 2006

Australian troops intensify security at flashpoint ETimor bridge

Australian soldiers have intensified security on a flashpoint bridge near the airport in East Timor's capital and the move so far seems to be working.

No smoke from deliberately-set fires was seen around the key Comoro Bridge leading to Dili's airport Thursday. The area had been the scene of frequent gang-linked arson attacks on homes and cars, while a nearby market had also been burned.

"The troops came and people are afraid to burn. If they weren't here, in the morning they'd be burning things," said Cipriano Sousa Guterres, 66, a bus driver who lives just below the bridge.

About seven members of Delta Company, 12 Platoon, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment were stopping vehicles and checking identification at the eastern end of the bridge.

The troops had set up an elaborate road block using oil drums that divided the traffic flow into two lanes. A machine gun rested atop a cement pylon and pointed at oncoming traffic.

"Slow down," said a sign made out of a cardboard box resting on one of the oil drums.

"We're not on anyone's side. We just don't want any more killing," said a non-commissioned officer who did not want to be identified.

Malaysian peacekeepers, also armed with a machine gun, have been stationed at the other end of the bridge since Monday night but usually wave motorists through.

Australian troops erected their checkpoint at 8:00 pm (1100 GMT) Wednesday and it has already led to the seizure of several machetes, the officer said.

"We've detained a few people for suspected looting," he said.

The soldiers have a "watch list" of vehicles and people they are looking for.

"There's persons of interest that we're interested in talking to. They may or may not have done something wrong," the officer said under a blazing afternoon sun.

Although no smoke had been seen in the immediate area during the day Thursday, "there was a couple of fires last night and a couple of shots," he said.

A quick reaction force responded to the gunfire but it was not clear if anybody had been detained.

Although the troops brought relief from arson, looting continued.

Guterres, the local resident, said a group of thieves was behind his house.

"Don't! Don't!," he said when a reporter tried to take a look. "I'm afraid they have a slingshot."

Guterres said he alerted the Australian peacekeepers who earlier detained five people, but some thieves were still in the area.

"They are from the hills," he said, adding he had already lost his mattress, flashlight and some cash to the bandits.

East Timor plunged into chaos when Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri earlier this year fired 600 soldiers, nearly half the tiny nation's army, after they complained of discrimination because they came from the country's west.

Twenty-one people died last month as sporadic battles between rival soldiers, and soldiers and police, descended into gang clashes and led the government to appeal for foreign help.

More than 2,000 combat-ready foreign peacekeepers, chiefly from Australia, are deployed in Dili and aid agencies say tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.

Many homes near the Comoro Bridge are abandoned.

The Australian officer could not comment on why the checkpoint had not been set up earlier. But he said things are getting better.

"We like to think that we're improving the situation here and I think we are," the soldier said.

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ABC June 9, 2006

E Timor needs long-term solutions: ambassador

East Timor's ambassador to Australia has warned against short-term solutions for his country, saying the problems there are complex and require a sensitive approach.

There has been ongoing violence in East Timor despite the presence of almost 2,000 Australian soldiers.

The East Timorese ambassador Hernani Da Silva says the root cause of the problems have to be identified.

"We need to be very careful, go through a proper analysis of the crisis we have now," he said.

"[We need to] come up with alternatives that actually could last for longer because some short-term solutions, quick solutions, potentially could solve the problem for a few months, but then maybe create a further big problem for the coming years."

East Timor plunged into chaos when Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri earlier this year fired 600 soldiers, nearly half the tiny nation's army, after they complained of discrimination because they came from the country's west.

Twenty-one people have died in sporadic battles between rival soldiers, and soldiers and police, descended into gang clashes that led the Government to appeal for foreign help.

More than 2,000 combat-ready foreign peacekeepers, chiefly from Australia, are deployed in Dili and aid agencies say tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.

-------------------------------------

Financial Times (UK) June 7, 2006

Peacekeepers Left East Timor "Too Soon"

By Shawn Donnan

The United Nations' top official in East Timor said on Tuesday that the world body had reduced its presence in the country too quickly and ignored warnings from the ground that the tiny country's security situation remained "fragile and fluid". "The Security Council was too optimistic," Sukehiro Hasegawa, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative to East Timor, said in an interview with the Financial Times.

"It was the perception of the international community that everything was fine. And we said [from the ground] that the situation remained fragile and fluid. That it had not reached the stage where you could just leave it to the East Timorese." The UN ended its administration of East Timor in 2002.

The comments came as pressure grew on Tuesday on Mari Alkatiri, prime minister, to resign as some 2,000 people from outlying districts descended on the capital, Dili, to demand his ousting. The protest was the largest since international peacekeepers arrived last month. The show of force by Mr Alkatiri's opponents highlighted what increasingly appears to be a stalemate in efforts to find a political solution to a crisis that has caused East Timor to descend into the worst violence seen since Indonesia's bloody withdrawal in 1999.

In an emotional address, President Xanana Gusmao, a former rebel leader who is revered in East Timor, told the demonstration that he was still searching for a solution to what he called a “constitutional crisis”. “My duty is to defend the people and that is not easy,” he said. “So I urge you to calm down and not create more trouble so one day our children can smile again.â€

Jose Ramos-Horta, the country's influential foreign and defence minister said in an interview with the Financial Times yesterday that he had urged Mr Alkatiri to accept the creation of a national unity government. Mr Ramos-Horta said he was willing to lead such a government until elections next year, although he insisted he had no interest in serving in the role beyond that. But the Nobel laureate ­ who has been mentioned as a potential candidate for UN Secretary-General ­ said Mr Alkatiri had so far resisted the idea. Diplomats said finding a political resolution was complicated by the fact that, while Mr Alkatiri's resignation might ease the short-term crisis, it also risked setting a precedent for using violence to unseat Timorese leaders. The latest crisis has also highlighted what experts say are the fragile institutions left behind by the UN-led nation-building experiment in East Timor, which was virtually burned to the ground by exiting Indonesian troops and pro-Jakarta militias in 1999.

Both Mr Hasegawa and Mr Ramos-Horta said East Timor was given independence too early and the move had contributed to the continuing weakness of many government institutions. Mr Hasegawa said the UN, which administered the country between September 1999 and independence in May 2002, should have stayed on for "another two years". Mr Ramos-Horta said he had urged the UN in 1999 to run the country for at least five years. Mr Hasegawa, a veteran of UN missions in places such as Cambodia and Rwanda, has been in East Timor since 2002 and headed the mission since 2004. He said the UN's work in East Timor was undermined for years by budget constraints.

The UN was due to shut its current mission on May 20 and put an election-focused operation in place instead. The current crisis saw the mandate extended until June 20 and that is likely to be prolonged further, according to diplomats and UN officials. They said a "more robust" mission would eventually have to take its place.

----------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

 


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