Subject: paras indonesia: Xanana At 60: Statesman Or Politician?

paras indonesia

June, 20 2006 @ 06:41 pm

Xanana At 60: Statesman Or Politician?

By: Tri Agus Siswowiharjo

Xanana Gusmao, today, June 20, is turning 60 years old. The former Falintil commander during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor is now President of Timor Leste. Perhaps there was no time for him to blow his candles at his Debu Palace this year. Instead of being surrounded with family and friends, he was surrounded with looming problems caused by the sacking of almost 600 Timorese soldiers which had led to widespread violence, killing 30 and displacing around 150,000 people. Xanana was a guerilla fighter, but this time he is being troubled by his own soldiers, even forcing him to ask military assistance from neighboring Australia.

In 1994 to 1995, when he was still a resident of the Cipinang prison, Xanana used to exchange letters with Pijar and Solidamor activist Yeni Rosa Damayanti who was also a prisoner in the Pondok Bambu Prison. One of the topics they talked about was whether there would be a military force in a future Timor. Xanana in one of his letters stressed that an independent Timor Leste would not need an armed force. “We only need a civil police to keep order among the people,” he wrote.

In reality, many were surprised to see that today’s Timor Leste has a defense force. What for? To defend against Indonesia? To fight against militias, or for what? As it turns out, the initiator of the Forças de Defesa de Timor Leste (FDTL) was the United Nations. Besides that, the hesitant Xanana, no wonder he gets along so well with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, did not have the heart to see his former Falintil fighters going unemployed.

In fact, this was the first time in history that a UN administration created a defense force. What made it worse was that the establishment of the FDTL was viewed as a mere project with donor funding. It was initially called the East Timor Defense Force (ETDF) but later changed to FDTL after Timor’s May 20, 2002 Independence Day. Its recruitment, structure, doctrine, education and operational were put together instantly. Such an unnatural process. Even the Timorese should envy how the Indonesian Armed Forces were built formed.

It is, though, quite natural that a newly formed country, partly achieved by armed force, has a less-than-integrated military. Same case happened with the newly formed Republic of Indonesia. In some areas, soldiers rebelled against Jakarta policies. There was no insurgency in Indonesia that had no military involvement. Remember PRRI Permesta, DI TII and G30S-PKI? All these events involved trained armed soldiers.

Aside from having to deal with the rebel army led by Major Alfredo Reinaldo­ who has just surrendered his arms to the Australians, Xanana is also dealing with the rise of the opposition groups demanding the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to step down. Two of the biggest opposition leaders, Fernando‘Lasama’ Araujo (President of the Democrat Party) and former East Timor Governor Mario Carrascalao, urged Xanana sack Alkatiri and call an early election. Such a hard task to ask. Even though Xanana and Alkatiri are not exactly the best of friends, el presidente would not dare to fire Alkatiri unconstitutionally.

Gusmao is not Gus Dur, even though they both love soccer as much as Gus Hidink. If Gus Dur was successfully motivated by the NGOs and his party to disband the parliament ­ although they eventually kicked him out of office. Xanana on the other is more patient and thinks through longer. What power do the opposition groups have? Isn’t the parliament controlled by the ruling Fretilin (80 %) which is headed by Alkatiri? No one could kick out Mari Alkatiri from his prime minister office. Only his own party Fretilin has that power and authority to do that.

Xanana must realize that he is a president, not a prime minister. In the Timorese constitution, a president is only a mere symbol. He is not above the political powers of Timor. Everyone from the Fretilin, the Democrat, Lorosae, Loromunu, the diasporas, ex militias, ex Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers, ex Falintil fighters to the sarjana Supermie (instant noodle scholars - a term Jose Ramos-Horta had used to call Timorese who graduated from Indonesian universities), are all children of the Timor Leste nation. If Xanana falls into his political interest, then the University of Cipinang alumnus should not consider himself a statesman, but only a mere politician. 

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