|Subject: Damien Kingsbury: Litany of
Mistakes Behind Return to E. Timor [+The Australian]
- Age by Damien Kingsbury: Litany of mistakes behind the return to East Timor
- The Australian/Analysis: Rebuild or face 'war forever'
- Editorial: A fledgling nation needs a long-term commitment
- The Australian: Our region must be our priority: Beazley
- The Australian by Dennis Shanahan: Support Guaranteed [Assisting East Timor on its road to independence and democracy is in everyone's interests]
- Were we wrong to support East Timor's independence? [Former diplomat Richard Woolcott, in his memoir (2003), on how the road to hell is paved with good intentions]
The Age (Melbourne)
Friday, May 26, 2006
Litany of mistakes behind the return to East Timor
By Damien Kingsbury
AUSTRALIA'S renewed intervention in East Timor will help defuse what was growing into an explosive situation, and which threatened the fledgling state. There is little doubt that without intervention, the crisis would worsen.
Not only were there almost 600 armed rebel soldiers, but East Timor's Opposition Leader, Fernando de Araujo, and his family, along with thousands of others, also escaped to the hills following last month's rioting. This dispute has a political as well as a military dimension, and could have degenerated into civil war.
The main task now for Australian troops will be to contain the situation, provide security and disarm the rebel soldiers. To avoid open conflict, disarming the soldiers will require Australian troops to talk down the rebel troops, rather than force them down.
Despite Australia's previous culpable neglect and mistreatment of East Timor over the division of Timor Gap revenues, the Australian Army is liked and respected. If the rebel soldiers will listen to anyone, it will be to an Australian army officer.
To bring the rebels down, and others such as de Araujo, Australian soldiers will have to guarantee security to not only the Government, but also to the rebels. To this end, there will have to be agreement on some process of mediation, and an investigation into what led to this crisis.
Key contributors were the inflexibility of East Timor's Fretilin Government, especially by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Home Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato, and Australia's precipitous military withdrawal from East Timor.
The rebel soldiers are from the western command of the East Timor Defence Force and claimed that they had been discriminated against by their seniors and other colleagues. Having raised this issue, without a response from the Government, they went on strike. This was a mistake.
The Government ordered the soldiers back to barracks, they refused and were sacked. This was also a mistake. While a government may not tolerate striking soldiers, given East Timor's fragility it should have listened to the soldiers' grievances. When they went on strike, they should have again been offered the ear of the Government, along with the order to return.
The rebel soldiers claim the discrimination against them was based on allegations of some being close to former Indonesian militias and having links across the border to Indonesia. Some of these soldiers do have family and other links
near and across the border, which artificially delineates common family and ethnic groups. Cross-border smuggling has also become rife.
That the Government failed to talk to the soldiers reflects poorly on Alkatiri and Lobato. The two have developed a reputation for dismissing expressions of concern, and treating harshly any reaction.
A more moderate move would have been for Alkatiri to call on popular President Xanana Gusmao to act as a mediator. However, Alkatiri and Gusmao have poor personal and political relations, and Alkatiri would be loath to see the ceremonial President take credit for fixing a problem he could not resolve.
Gusmao was thus ignored, and this was also a mistake.
When the 600 rebel soldiers came to Dili last month, their protest turned into a deadly riot, in part because it was hijacked by others, including some from the organisation Colimau 2000. This organisation exists in a netherworld between politics and crime, includes former Indonesian army-backed militia members and is believed to have links to cross-border smuggling operations, which are controlled by the TNI.
East Timorese security forces are also alleged to have used excessive force against rioters, as well as more peaceful protesters, reflecting Alkatiri's hardline approach to dissent. The death toll from the riots was officially five, but there have been reports that many more were killed.
Beyond the Government's inadequate response to this growing crisis, the Australian Government also bears responsibility. Until the middle of last year, Australian soldiers were stationed in the area that the rebel soldiers come from. The East Timor Government asked Australia for the soldiers to stay, at least as a nominal force. Australia refused, in part bowing to pressure from Indonesia to remove its military presence from the Indonesian border.
Yet had Australia kept some soldiers there, this problem may not have arisen. Australian troops ensured that cross-border smuggling was minimised, and advised East Timorese soldiers. They would have advised against strike action as being an inappropriate response by a military. And they could have provided a conduit for the rebel soldiers' complaints.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer now says that Australian soldiers will be in East Timor only until the job is done. This implies Australian soldiers will be withdrawn once this immediate problem is tackled.
What this approach fails to note, however, is that East Timor will continue to face internal difficulties, and will require a continuing if nominal Australian military presence for the long term until these difficulties are addressed.
Australia has a moral obligation to support East Timor as a good international citizen and as a major regional power. It also has a debt to pay for ignoring the plight of East Timor, and the deaths of some 180,000 people, until 1999.
Australia is right to send soldiers following an official request, to help stabilise the situation in East Timor. It should not be pressured into again taking them out too soon.
Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury is director of the masters degree in international and community development at Deakin University, and has written on East Timor's security issues.
The Australian Friday, May 26, 2006
Rebuild or face 'war forever'
By Patrick Walters
AS chaos descended on Dili, a glimmer of hope emerged for Australia's military planners negotiating the basis of our latest armed intervention. Major Alfredo Reinado, the commander of the rebel forces that generated the latest crisis, declared that only the presence of foreign troops could prevent a civil war.
"There is no other way, or it will be war forever," he told the BBC. "The Government has taken too long. It is not capable of resolving this."
Reinado has close links with Australia. He lived in Western Australia for nine years before returning to East Timor after the 1999 referendum.
He has spent time at the Australian Defence College in Canberra and is well known to several Australian army officers.
The Australians' ability to deal with Reinado could prove the key to ending the bitter conflict that now threatens Mari Alkatiri's Government.
The wave of unrest in recent days has its origins in the dismissal of 595 soldiers from the country's defence force this year.
Last night John Howard announced Australia's 1300-strong deployment would go ahead immediately.
The taskforce will have four specific priorities. It will evacuate Australians and other foreign nationals and attempt to stabilise the political situation by convincing the protagonists to withdraw into safe locations.
The Australians will also attempt to locate and audit the mass of weapons in the hands of rebel forces.
By far the biggest challenge will be to restore law and order to the point where talks can take place between the Government and the disaffected factions, of which Reinado's is the most visible.
Australian troops will be welcomed in Dili but the long-term task of reconciling the country's deeply divided polity will need to go far beyond this latest military deployment. The country's army and police will have to be rebuilt.
Reviving East Timor's fledgling governing institutions promises to be a decade-long diplomatic challenge for Australia.
The Age (Melbourne) Friday, May 26, 2006
A fledgling nation needs a long-term commitment
Events in East Timor and the response internationally have given rise to a variation on gunboat diplomacy. It is gunboat democracy. In colonial times, a country would position a gunboat off the coast of a minion and that would be enough to sort out the native unrest. In post-colonial times, the gunboat is used, in real terms and metaphorically, to aid the rise of democracy and the transition from a strife-torn country to a stable society.
In the past few weeks in East Timor, rioting and gun battles have resulted in the deaths of about 10 people and injuries to many others. The fuse was lit when 600 troops walked out of the army over a range of issues, including alleged discrimination because of their geographical background. The soldiers were later sacked. In recent days, the rebellion has turned more violent. Civilian and military police have joined the rebels. Witnesses have reported gangs of youths, some armed with machetes, terrorising parts of the capital, Dili.
An estimated 100,000 residents in recent weeks have fled the capital to escape the unrest. This week East Timor acknowledged that it needed outside help to stabilise the country. It asked for help from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal. Australia responded immediately. Yesterday, 150 troops arrived in East Timor, with more than 1000 more ready to go. The troops are charged with re-establishing law and order. It is the largest Australian deployment of peacekeepers to the region since 1999. At the same time, Australia is cutting back its troops in the Solomon Islands from 400 to 140. The troops were sent in last month to restore peace following riots.
This dousing of spot fires around the region shows the fragility of the flower of democracy in poor, struggling countries. It draws into focus the debate on how to best help Australia's neighbours, beyond maintaining law and order on the streets.
In August 2001 The Age rejoiced on this page at the coming of age for the tiny nation of East Timor. We said that in 1999 Australia had stood up to defend the people's right to self-determination. More than 15,000 Australian soldiers served in East Timor from 1999. Six years later they were all but gone, except for advisers and trainers to that country's defence force. Some of those trained by Australians are now the renegades in the current unrest.
While the Federal Government's quick response to the crisis is to be applauded, there are broader issues at stake. Democracy does not bloom overnight and it does not bequeath immediate benefits. It takes time.
For a country as poor East Timor - one of the world's poorest with a per capita income of just $1.40 a day - the international community should be doing more in terms of infrastructure, education and health. Gangs are not the only ones roaming the streets. Poverty also stalks the nation, and it kills more insidiously. An East Timorese can expect to live to only 55. Half the people do not have sufficient safe drinking water. The expected riches from the Timor Sea gas fields will not have an effect for several years. This is a country on Australia's doorstep. Even though aid to East Timor is $324 million, much more should be done in institutional development .
Former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove says Australia has an obligation to help, yet Prime Minister John Howard sees Australia's deployment in terms of our national interest. "Weak and fragile" neighbouring states could turn into a problem for Australia, he believes. This is disconcerting. To see strife in terms of how it affects you has little to do with nurturing democracy and a people's best interest. It has more to do with self-interest, and that harks back to the gunboat.
The Australian Friday, May 26, 2006
Our region must be our priority: Beazley
Samantha Maiden, Political correspondent
KIM Beazley has warned that the crisis in East Timor highlights the need for Australia to renew the focus on regional security. In a veiled criticism of the Iraq deployment, Mr Beazley said yesterday our region should be "at the centre of government policy".
While offering his unqualified support to the East Timor deployment, Mr Beazley said he had concerns about the Government's current defence priorities.
"In the interests of Australia's national security, we must refocus our attention on regional security - the security of our own neighbourhood," Mr Beazley told parliament. "This must be at the centre of government policy."
He avoided mentioning the Middle East but offered strong support for the East Timor mission. "As a close friend and neighbour, Australia has a responsibility to respond to this call for help. We owe it to the people of East Timor," he said.
"It is undoubtedly a dangerous mission but our troops are competent professionals, trained to face the challenges ahead in East Timor. As always, they will perform their duties professionally and courageously."
Mr Beazley said the Government needed to offer a clear mission statement.
This should include ensuring ADF troops were protected and always under Australian command; establishing clear communications with the Government of East Timor; and implementing plans for the evacuation of Australian nationals.
"Our troops deserve the full support of their Government and the Australian people," he said.
"They will certainly be in our thoughts as they tackle the task ahead of them.
"Our prayers go with them and we look forward to their safe return."
In parliament, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer warned the security situation in Dili was quickly deteriorating.
"The security situation as of the last we have heard in Dili is bad," he said. "We are very concerned about the security situation on the ground and there are reports of shootings, so there is a good deal of danger there.
"Of course, our first priority is to the welfare of the 800 Australians who are in East Timor, and we continue to advise those Australians who are there that they should leave and that Australians who are considering going to East Timor as civilians should not do so."
The Department of Foreign Affairs upgraded travel warnings for East Timor this week, urging all Australians to leave.
"I have directed that the non-essential Australian government staff and their dependants should depart as quickly as possible," Mr Downer said.
"Although the last I heard the civil airport was open and there have been scheduled civilian flights over the last few days, the Government is arranging a C-130 flight to assist the departure of Australians as necessary."
Mr Downer said it was "hard to make comparisons, but I think it's, frankly, likely to be more dangerous than Solomon Islands - perhaps not quite in the same league as Iraq and Afghanistan, but nevertheless it is dangerous work".
Former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove, who led Australia's peacekeeping forces in East Timor in 1999, said the flare-up was not unexpected.
"We would have looked silly if we hadn't made preparations," he said. "This was not forcing the troops on them, what it meant was, when asked, we could make a real response."
The Australian Friday, May 26, 2006
Assisting East Timor on its road to independence and democracy is in everyone's interests
By Dennis Shanahan
JUST before Christmas 1998, John Howard sent a preliminary proposal to Indonesian president B.J. Habibie for a long-term process of autonomy for East Timor. Jakarta's response was as swift as it was surprising. Indonesia immediately expressed regret at Australia's historic shift in policy on East Timor and within weeks determined there would be a ballot for independence by 2000. Habibie declared Indonesia would abandon East Timor and Australia attempted to put the brakes on the process. Howard warned that a totally independent East Timor, as opposed to one working towards autonomy over a decade, would be vulnerable, lonely and in need of much more help than as a semi-autonomous Indonesian province.
Despite those fears and the predictions that East Timor could not survive as a viable democratic state, independence proceeded at a helter-skelter pace.
Australia and the UN committed to independence and East Timor became the world's newest, possibly most fragile, nation. Australia had no choice then in supporting the process and has no choice now.
Australia, the UN, interested European powers and regional neighbours all have to continue to support the fledgling nation, no matter how fragile. There can be no going back, although it is clear there is going to be a huge cost to Australia for years to come. As with Iraq - no matter what you think of the reasons for going into Iraq - there cannot now be a loss of heart or will.
There are already suggestions that the UN withdrawal from East Timor was precipitous and has contributed to the chaos in Dili in recent weeks.
There certainly have been errors made in the time since independence and there are intractable difficulties within East Timor and its administration. The return of Australian troops will also be seen as a vindication to those who opposed the establishment of an unstable state on the doorstep of Indonesia and Australia.
Yet there can be no backsliding or any sign of abandonment of the East Timorese. Any move in that direction is not in the interest of East Timor, Australia or Indonesia.
Before independence, East Timor was the greatest irritant and obstacle in our relationship with Indonesia. During the process of independence, relations with Indonesia plunged to new lows. Yet despite predictions the relationship would be left in ruins it is now at its most robust and durable. Our continued support of East Timor, with the UN, Malaysia, Portugal and others, is necessary to keep the relationship robust.
Australia has an even greater moral responsibility to remain involved in East Timor. It's the Coalition Government's initiative that kicked off the adventure; it was a dramatic shift within the ALP, led by former foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton, that ensured bipartisan support; and it had an overwhelming public sympathy. Given that the only gainsayers at the time were the Jakarta lobbyists, there is no room for arguments now that Australia cannot afford to support East Timor.
Howard recognised the moral argument yesterday when he told parliament: "Having played a decisive role in the birth of the nation of East Timor, we recognise that Australia has a particular obligation to assist what is a small and poor country in its struggle for a stable democratic future."
Kim Beazley backed it solidly with a firm bipartisan pledge of support.
Howard also recognised the security imperative that justifies the deployment of troops in our own, and the region's, interest.
"Australia, a large, stable and prosperous country, has a special responsibility to act as a force for peace and order in our immediate region," Howard said in parliament.
It is a view reflected through the region and recognised in the US and Europe as part of the global effort against terrorism and the threat of failed states.
Again the Opposition Leader endorsed the argument and supported the troops.
Of course, the size of the deployment, four naval ships and 1300 troops, when there are still more than 300 troops in the Solomons, reinforces Labor's argument that Australia should stick to its region in the fight against terror and instability by concentrating our small defence forces close to home.
Howard has not been above adopting this argument to a degree by insisting our troop commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan be kept to specialist forces and relatively low numbers. Yet, having committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Howard Government cannot suddenly suggest East Timor's difficulties require an abandonment of these areas.
Last week, after cruising Darwin Harbour within sight of HMAS Adelaide, Peter Costello made it clear that the national security committee was confident Australia's forces could cope with the contingency. When asked about the possibility of being acting prime minister and perhaps having to send the Adelaide and troops into a danger zone, Costello told The Australian he did not think it would be necessary to draw down the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"To my knowledge of the Australian defence forces and the information we have been given in the national security committee, the ADF is perfectly able to manage our commitments in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Solomons and the region," Costello said. "I think a lot of people underestimate the readiness and capacity of the Australian defence force, it is much better than it used to be. We are able to manage all of those commitments."
But, while Australia has a responsibility, a self-interest and the capacity to help East Timor, it should not jeopardise in any way its insistence on honesty and transparency in East Timor's governance and financing through off-shore gas fields that have the potential to provide the tiny and desperate state with a viable and secure future.
Even as he was deploying naval ships and troops Howard was alert to the temptation of an easy fix to East Timor's troubles.
He told parliament: "At the same time I want to underscore the importance of states accepting their own responsibility for improving governance and reducing corruption as the path to a better future."
It is in everyone's interest to secure that future. It's Australia's special responsibility. And it helps no one if the integrity of the new nation is compromised.
The Australian May 26, 2006
Cut & Paste Column
Were we wrong to support East Timor's independence?
Former diplomat Richard Woolcott, in his memoir (2003), on how the road to hell is paved with good intentions
THE Howard Government believes that thanks to its decisive action [in September 1999] and East Timor's independence in May 2002 it has achieved a diplomatic triumph. It considers that the widespread public support for its policy demonstrated its correctness and also the incorrectness of previous policies aimed at what is alleged to be the appeasement of Suharto's Indonesia under both Labor and Coalition governments. I accept that John Howard and Alexander Downer believed that what they did was right in the circumstances as they interpreted them, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
In the afterglow of what it regards as a success in righting a wrong and bringing independence to the people of East Timor, the Government still needs to live with the consequences of its policy.
[One] consequence is that Australia faces an indefinite period of substantially increased expenditure related to supporting and aiding an independent East Timor. At best we may see in the future an economically struggling, quasi-democratic state with a benign relationship with its large neighbour, Indonesia. There is, however, a danger that we could find ourselves supporting indefinitely a factionalised, unstable mini-state characterised by chronic dependency and ongoing problems with its large neighbour. I hope not. Otherwise we will see that evangelical altruism can have a high price tag, without necessarily achieving the hoped-for results, as the US found out in Haiti. A senior member of the Bush administration has already made this analogy. He told me in July 2000: "East Timor will be your Haiti." Australians can only hope he is wrong.
-------------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service