|Subject: Timor Analyses: AFR/Jakarta: 'We
Told You So;' SMH: Brought On Ourselves
7 reports (1 of 2):
- AFR Perspective: The words on Indonesian lips: 'We told you so'
- SMH by Hamish McDonald: How We Brought This Crisis on Ourselves
- SMH Editorial: Stability and Beyond in Timor
- AFR Analysis: Training region's rebels is an unavoidable risk
- The Australian Opinion: Complex task to restore stability [By Bob Lowry, an adviser on national security policy and structures in Timor for a year from mid-2002]
- Asia Times: As East Timor Burns [By Loro Horta]
Australian Financial Review
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The Words on Indonesian Lips: 'We Told You So'
Morgan Mellish, Jakarta
Many Indonesians can't help but feel vindicated about the tumultuous state of East Timor.
Sitting in his Jakarta office in his neatly pressed uniform, Dadi Susanto comes across as most genuine. "It is a pity East Timor has become independent and the condition is now getting worse," Indonesia's director-general for defence strategy says. "I'm so sorry that this has happened now, but Indonesia does not have an interest to interfere. Australia must help East Timor, New Zealand must help East Timor."
Susanto may well be sincere. But there's no doubt feelings among other Indonesians about East Timor's plight are very different.
"Let me just say that people in the Indonesian embassy [in Canberra] have been saying to me for three weeks: 'We told you so'," says Jim Fox, a professor at the Australian National University's research school of Pacific and Asian studies.
Those words - we told you so - seem to be on a lot of people's lips right now. After all, Indonesia warned when its military left East Timor in 1999 that the fledgling nation would struggle.
Political analyst Dewi Fortuna Anwar agrees that many of Jakarta's elite feel vindicated. But she adds that they genuinely want to see the former colony, which was part of Indonesia from 1975 until 1999, now stand on its own two feet.
"No productive result can be achieved by saying that [we told you so]," Anwar says. "We should just look forward and hope that the situation will get better as soon as possible. East Timor wants to be an independent nation as soon as it can. Certainly, it doesn't want to move from being an Indonesian colony to an Australian colony. Clearly, Australia doesn't want to shoulder that burden for too long either."
Australia's decision to send in troops has stirred bad memories for many Indonesians of Australia's involvement in East Timor's independence seven years ago.
"In 1999, there was a great deal of loss of national face," another ANU academic, Greg Fealy, says. "Indonesia poured so many resources into East Timor, and so much Indonesian blood had been spilt there, and yet the majority of East Timorese didn't want to remain in Indonesia."
While Indonesia won't get involved, it is far from just being a bystander. Susanto says it is preparing for problems along the border with the Indonesian province of West Timor.
"We've enhanced our border security," he says. "It [a flood of refugees] has happened in the past and we don't want it to happen again because the economic condition in West Timor is not so good."
This latest deployment comes at a difficult time in Australia's relationship with the world's most populous Muslim nation. There is still simmering anger in Jakarta over Canberra's decision this year to grant visas to 42 West Papuans.
"The primary security concern in Indonesia at the moment is a break-up of Papua in which foreign interests - particularly those in Australia - are going to be involved," Anwar says.
"There is a real concern about Papua because there is a lot of rhetoric from groups in Australia rubbing their hands in glee saying: 'After East Timor, now it's Papua'."
Anwar is a respected, moderate voice in Indonesia and it is always easy to find more strident politicians ever ready to criticise their southern neighbour.
"The recent riots in East Timor occurred because of Australia's policy that supported East Timor's independence," nationalist politician Joko Susilo says.
"The Indonesian government must close the border and not let East Timorese refugees enter because they will only add to the economic burden.
"If they want to leave, they should go to Australia. The Australian government has to accept them, just like they accepted the 42 Papuans."
Fealy says: "At the time, in 1999, there were people who said: 'Well let's see how East Timor goes now, without Indonesia's assistance, and let's see if the international community is going to support it'. So, I suppose people who had that view then may well be saying now: 'I told you so'."
Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, May 27, 2006
How We Brought This Crisis on Ourselves
By Hamish McDonald, Asia-Pacific Editor
AUSTRALIAN warships silhouetted in the calm blue waters, a squat Hercules on the airfield surrounded by young soldiers armed and wired to the teeth, and John Howard warning the nation that it's all very risky.
Aren't we seeing a bit too much of this in our region? What happened to preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping?
Dili is going to be fraught with danger over the next couple of days for the 1300 Australian troops and scores of other army and police being sent by New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia.
The number of loose gunmen is small, and the rebel Timorese soldiers seem well-disposed to Australia. Their quarrel is with their own government.
The blessing, as noted by veteran Timor-watcher and former Australian consul there in Portuguese times, James Dunn, is that the country is not awash with firearms. The Indonesians were cautious with the guns they handed out, and left few behind.
Yet, the horrifying picture of nine policemen, apparently shot down by an out-of-control soldier on the government side while being led to safety by a United Nations official after laying down their arms, emphasises the risk of wildcat shooting. But once Dili is secured, what then? And how were events allowed to get to this point?
First, responsibility lies with the East Timorese leadership. The Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, and
his Fretilin party colleagues sat back while a third of the 1800-strong army walked off, with their weapons, over small grievances and then were sacked.
The President, Jose Xanana Gusmao, the charismatic former resistance leader who has formal command of the military, has also been weak, strangely disengaged from the army split as it festered for three months.
The Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, a former Fretilin exile in Mozambique where he served jail time for diamond smuggling, runs a factionalised police force, some of whom sided with the rebels.
A whiff of internal Fretilin powerplay, perhaps an attempt to unseat Alkatiri, hangs around the actions of rebel Major Alfredo Reinado, who is not entirely aligned with the main body of dismissed soldiers, recruits from the Western part of the country.
But where was the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, when this crisis unfolded over three months? Where were the Australian military advisers who, with Portuguese counterparts, trained the East Timor armed forces through independence in May 2002?
Why was the Howard Government so strongly opposed to the UN peacekeeping mission continuing when its mandate ran out a year ago, apparently persuading the US as well that this was the right thing?
East Timor's government was keen for a continuing UN security role. A modest UN presence, focused on guiding the local army and police forces, might have nipped this crisis in the bud.
With an ABC drama, starring David Wenham as a federal police peacekeeper, on the box tomorrow night, Australians were gearing up for a wash of sentimentality about our role in saving East Timor in 1999.
That's justly a point of pride. But Howard and Downer have played it tough with the East Timorese since then, screwing them to a hard bargain on maritime oil revenue, then exiting too early from the security mission.
There are echoes here of the Howard Government's refusal to send a small body of police to the Solomon Islands in 2000 when requested by its then prime minister. Three years later it had to launch its $2 billion regional assistance mission to revive a collapsed system of government. In the current East Timor situation, a request came only on Wednesday night and even while the first Australian troops were landing, Alkatiri was haggling over the rules of engagement and force composition.
Alkatiri probably knows, or suspects, the Dili fighting is aimed at his leadership. The Australian-led intervention, even with the face-saving Portuguese and Malaysian additions sought by Alkatiri, could be a fatal blow.
Howard and Downer will insist on our neutrality in East Timor's politics, but what we are doing will have a big impact on the outcome of the leadership struggle, which might see both Alkatiri and Gusmao pushed into retirement.
Into the bargain, we are tying up 1300 soldiers from our overstretched army, which is ready for a sizeable and dangerous commitment to the hottest combat zone of Afghanistan in less than two months, as well as staying on in Iraq.
The government would probably call it a kind of tough love: letting the adolescent nations get themselves into a quagmire of their own making, so they then ask for help, rather than offering unwelcome advice. Maybe we could just be more interested.
Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, May 27, 2006
Stability and Beyond in Timor
ONCE again, Australians are impressed by the way our soldiers, sailors and airmen have gone to help in East Timor as soon as the request came. No one will begrudge the effort on this side, and it appears their intervention is welcomed by ordinary Timorese. If our forces can quickly stop the waste of human life - epitomised in the pictures of nine young policemen shot down while trying to give themselves up - that will be a blessing.
When Dili is secured, local soldiers and police back in their barracks and patrol posts, and rebels disarmed and brought into dialogue, what then? Many political disputes and institutional weaknesses have been laid open and rubbed raw. Government leadership is divided between two cultural streams: on one hand the former guerillas such as the President, Xanana Gusmao, and the Armed Forces Chief, Taur Matan Ruak, who held out in the mountains during the quarter-century of Indonesian rule; on the other, the politicos such as the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, and Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, who spent the same period exiled in other Portuguese-speaking countries or haunting diplomatic corridors. The former guerillas now live in frustrated quarantine from politics, as a regular army on Western lines. The former exiles live in Dili, Timor's little Lisbon, run a political party based on colonial liberation struggles, and fly round the world's capitals to meet aid donors.
It would be wrong to disparage or glorify either side. The guerillas clearly miss their former central role in Timor's aspirations, but liberation armies that become governments usually turn into dictatorships. The exiles are more Portuguese - even Mr Alkatiri, a Muslim descended from a Yemeni settler - than most of their countrymen. They have yet to deliver much visible reward from the oil and aid revenues banked since independence four years ago, yet that is the result of caution about spending them wisely. It would have been far easier to splurge on showy projects like football stadiums and luxury hotels. There is a commendable emphasis on public health and education, but clearly impatience in the streets at lagging employment and economic activity.
Australians should therefore not think this is going to be a quick intervention. Most of the troops can probably be withdrawn within a month, unless dissidents take their struggle to the hinterland. But then will almost certainly come requests for a long-term engagement, to stabilise and nurture the police force, and restructure the military into new roles, perhaps rotating its units between peacekeeping with United Nations missions abroad and infrastructure-building at home. Mistakes have been made in the way the army was designed, and in the premature ending of the UN's security role a year ago. Partly these were our fault, and if asked we should stay to help fix them.
Australian Financial Review Saturday, May 27, 2006
Training region's rebels is an unavoidable risk
By John Kerin
Australian military officials defend the practice of training soldiers from friendly regional forces, despite the risk, highlighted by developments in East Timor, that our soldiers could later face them as foes.
Alfredo Reinado was provided with excellent training by the Australian as well as the Portuguese, New Zealand and South Korean militaries, which worked jointly after independence to build a capable defence force.
Last year, Major Reinado also did a three-month naval training stint at the Australian Joint Command and Staff College in Canberra. Yet he triggered the crisis in East Timor by leading the revolt by 600 soldiers over discrimination and poor pay and taking them into the hills around Dili to attack government forces.
Major Reinado was the head of the two-patrol-boat East Timorese Navy before a falling out with the defence force chief, Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak, resulted in him being downgraded to head the military police. It's not the first time Australia has trained a friend who turned into a potential adversary.
Sam Kauona originally did training at an ADF officer training school as a member of the Papua New Guinea defence force before becoming a commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army during that island's struggle for independence.
Australia still trains members of Indonesia's Kopassus special forces despite a suspension after the regiment was implicated in the atrocities in East Timor before the drive for independence in 1999, and also in Aceh and Papua. A senior defence source suggested that Australia had to play a role assisting other nation's defence forces. It hoped it could train commanders who were less likely to resort to the use of force against adversaries, including Australia.
"If we train them then at least they have some sense of the rule of law, how the military operate in a democracy and when it's appropriate to use force," a senior defence source told the Weekend AFR.
No one is underestimating the dangers of trying to quell the troubles in East Timor, but at least Major Reinado is well known to the Australians, which gives them a tactical advantage. The rebel leader's reaction so far suggests he will not take on the Australians.
"The good news is that the Australians are familiar with both the pro-government forces and the rebels in East Timor," Australia Defence Force Association executive director Neil James said yesterday. "The bad news is that both are well trained," he added.
The Australian Saturday, May 27, 2006
Complex task to restore stability
By Bob Lowry
THE troops are moving in and the UN is sending political troubleshooter Ian Martin to co-ordinate the international effort to restore stability to East Timor, but what is the agenda for the restoration?
The immediate task is to restore order, get people back to their homes and revive services such as markets, hospitals, schools, power, transport and communications. International assistance will help achieve this quite quickly, at least in Dili.
The intermediate and harder tasks, that must fall essentially on the Timorese but with some foreign mediation, will be resolving the mutiny, sacking the Home Affairs and Defence ministers, appointing a foreign chief of police, reviewing what sort of army they need, if any, and restructuring the cabinet.
Resolving the mutiny will entail bringing those mutineers who so desire back into the military, making appropriate arrangements for those who do not and reclaiming all weapons taken from the armoury.
This could entail appointing a new armed forces commander who is acceptable to all sides. The armed forces should then be restructured in accordance with the new concept that outlines what forces are needed and what they are required to do.
If political reality means that the whole force cannot be demobilised, their primary role should be a combination of disaster relief and back-up for the police.
For this to work, harmonious relations between the police and military must be created.
The police will have to be depoliticised and a chief appointed who understands the concept of the separation of powers and the rule of law.
Without this, no amount of professional training by foreign experts will have an effect. Only a foreign police officer can bridge the cleavages within the police and between the police and military.
The ministers responsible for getting East Timor into this mess must be sacked. They should go immediately and the Ministry of Defence be disbanded.
The military should then be placed under the Home Affairs Minister, who also has responsibility for the police and emergency services. This will assist inquelling rivalry and facilitate co-ordination of the security agencies.
The fate of the Prime Minister who has presided over this foreseeable disaster must be left to the political process.
In the longer term, there should be a constitutional review of the structure of executive government. Meanwhile, the current arrangements could work if East Timor had a prime minister who had the moral authority and political skills of the President and a competent cabinet.
East Timor is also effectively a one-party state, so thought should be given to how more balanced political representation could be achieved so that there is an effective opposition.
It is also apparent that most small states do not have the capacity to manage and account for public funds. Some mechanism is needed to more effectively separate this function from the political responsibility for deciding the use and priorities for government funds.
This is a big agenda but has to be tackled if East Timor is to be a viable and secure state that can look after the welfare of its citizens.
Bob Lowry was an adviser on national security policy and structures in Timor for a year from mid-2002
Asia Times Saturday, May 27, 2006
As East Timor Burns
By Loro Horta
As Australian, Portuguese and Malaysian commandos land in East Timor to quell the island nation's spiraling violence, questions loom large about the actual motivation behind the military and police mutiny that led to the unrest and how best to salvage the country's tumultuous experiment with independence.
Rebel soldiers under the command of Military Police Major Alfredo Reinaldo on Wednesday mounted an all-out assault in East Timor's capital Dili, including attacks on key government strategic installations, including the Ministry of Defense and the house of the Timorese defense force commander.
More than 70% of the capital's police force have since deserted their posts, and many have joined the rebel soldiers. Of East Timor's 1,500-member defense force, an estimated 400 men now remain loyal to the government. Even the most trusted elite units, such as the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) and the jungle police, have abandoned the chain of command.
Last week, the rebel leaders and Timorese government officials were confident that the crisis sparked a month ago by a group of 500-600 disgruntled decommissioned soldiers had been defused through negotiations. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had earlier said that he foresaw no need for foreign intervention to stabilize the situation.
Australia's projected battalion of 1,300 men should all be in place over the weekend, bringing with them armored personal carriers, warships, tanks and Black Hawk helicopters. Malaysia has deployed a battalion and Portugal, East Timor's former colonial occupier, is sending a company of its elite GNR special-policy unit. The United Nations has endorsed the intervention.
Timorese officials moved quickly to call on perceived friendly nations to lead the intervention, fearing the potential of Indonesia reintroducing troops into the country if the violence escalated. Early reports indicate that the rebel leaders have retreated, and that Australian troops have enforced a modicum of law and order.
Indonesia has so far remained mum about the three-country intervention, but the heavy deployment of the Australian military could spark tensions between the two unfriendly neighbors. Bilateral relations hit a nadir when Australia led an international force against the Indonesian military and their proxy militia to end bloodshed in East Timor in 1999. More recently, Indonesia has balked at Canberra's decision to grant asylum to a group of 42 refugees from Papua province on humanitarian grounds.
Four years after establishing an independent government, East Timor is once again under occupation - this time by an Australia-led force.
Points of contention
There are many factors underlying East Timor's political tinderbox: regional and ethnic rivalries, political factionalism, unemployment and a culture of violence stemming from 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation. But some argue the real trigger to the violence was the dubious circumstances behind the re-election of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri as secretary general of the ruling Fretilin party.
Breaching Fretilin's own internal rules, voting by secret ballot was recently replaced with an open vote, by way of show of hands. Alkatiri, an Arab Muslim with a controversial ruling style, was recently re-elected as the party's leader in a landslide 97% open vote.
Rebels had recently abstained from new attacks, hoping that the earlier unrest would have persuaded Alkatiri to step aside and make way for Jose Luis Guterres, East Timor's current ambassador to Washington and the United Nations, to take over the party reins. Rebel leaders have repeatedly said they want Alkatiri to resign his leadership position.
Alkatiri's personal popularity has steadily waned during his four-year term, even though the former rebel Fretilin party's credibility is still strong among the general population. Most of the party's leadership was killed during the war for independence and the only surviving founding figures, such as Jose Ramos Horta, or longtime members, such as President Xanana Gusmao, abandoned the party in the late 1980s to become independent figures for the sake of national unity. Alkatiri is one of the party's few surviving founders.
Alkatiri spent the 24-year fight for independence from Indonesia in relative obscurity in exile in Mozambique. Upon returning, his style of leadership, akin to that of some of the abusive African leaders he may have encountered, has been characterized by confrontation, particularly with the influential Catholic Church. That Alkatiri is an ethnic-Arab Muslim while 92% of the population is devout Catholic has pitched his vocal stands against the Church on dangerous religious lines.
Precarious international politics
More significantly, perhaps, Alkatiri has implemented a foreign policy overtly confrontational to the West. His recent decision to hire nearly 500 Cuban doctors after visiting that country, despite strong objections from the US ambassador, was highly controversial and oddly aligned East Timor with the resurgent leftist movement gaining ground in Latin America.
Likewise, Alkatiri's bizarre attempt to declare a national day of mourning for Yasser Arafat's death did not endear him to the US or other Western countries. There was also widespread speculation that Alkatiri planned to award a multibillion-dollar gas-pipeline project to PetroChina, an invitation that would have won both the United States' and Australia's ire.
The United States' discontent with Alkatiri was clearly on display when the US ambassador openly supported the Catholic Church against his government during street protests last year, with the senior US official even briefly attending one of the protests in person. Political insiders now wonder about the United States' connections to rebel leader Reinaldo, whose wife works for the US Embassy and helps to oversee the Peace Corps program.
The Timorese police and military had been called upon to defend his government's sometimes controversial positions on numerous occasions since independence, regrettably at the cost of four civilian deaths in 2002. Inside the police and military, senior officers had become increasingly uneasy using force to protect an increasingly unpopular leader.
The last straw, it appears, came when the military was ordered to replace the police to contain the recent riots, which led to five civilian deaths. When a new bout of disquiet broke out after Alkatiri's unconventional re-election as Fretilin party leader, the massive desertions ensued. Now only foreigners can ensure the island's security.
As East Timor burns, one thing is certain: Alkatiri has lost the support of the people, the military, the police, the Church and potentially the country's most important foreign allies. President Xanana had recently relieved Alkatiri of his security responsibilities and assumed command himself, a decision Alkatiri refused on a legal technicality. With the security forces now in open revolt, even with foreign troop intervention, there will not be a definitive end to the crisis until Alkatiri unconditionally resigns, some insiders contend.
As Australia, Portugal and Malaysia all dig their boots into East Timor's sands, many now wonder how long they will need to stay put to ensure the young country's security. East Timor's problems are entirely internal, with a pinch of foreign salt perhaps, but in the end will require an internally brokered compromise and solution. And the longer the unpopular Alkatiri holds on to power, the more distant that prospect remains.
Loro Horta is a master's degree candidate at Nanyang Technological University's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He previously served as an adviser to the East Timorese Defense Department. The views expressed here are strictly his own.
------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service