|Subject: Jakarta Backs Intervention [+Age
Analysis; Marxist Failure; Alkatiri]
4 The Australian Reports (+The Age; Sunday Mail):
- Jakarta Backs Diggers on Former Turf
- Age Analysis: Australian operation needs to deliver
- Marxist leaders have failed [Mari Alkatiri et al have a poor record when it comes to democracy, by Mark Aarons, co-author of East Timor: A Western Made Tragedy]
- Editorial: In for the long haul [The UN has an important role to play in East Timor]
- Sunday Mail update: PM slammed for Timor remarks [ETAN]
The Australian Monday, May 29, 2006
Jakarta backs Diggers on former turf
David Nason, New York
JAKARTA has supported Australia as it works to end the bloodshed and restore order in East Timor.
Australia's UN ambassador, Robert Hill, said it had emerged during talks with Indonesian representatives in New York that Jakarta was happy to have Diggers end the turmoil on its doorstep.
The former defence minister said Indonesia's deputy UN ambassador, Adiyatwidi Adiwoso Asmady, had rejected claims by some analysts that the presence of Australian troops on what was once Indonesian soil would damage relations.
"Quite the contrary," Mr Hill said. "She (Ms Asmady) has been very supportive.
"What Indonesia wants is a peaceful and stable neighbour, and they are very supportive of us playing a role to help achieve thatgoal."
Mr Hill said Australia was also receiving excellent co-operation from the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations and a group of countries led by Japan that hold interests in East Timor.
"They have all basically asked us what we are looking for and said they want to support us in any way," he said.
Mr Annan has asked the head of the UN mission in Nepal, Ian Martin, to go to Dili and assess the situation.
Mr Martin was Mr Annan's special envoy to East Timor in 1999 when the country, then a province of Indonesia, voted for independence, sparking a wave of violence that resulted in more than 5000 Australian troops being sent to the island as part of a UN peacekeeping force.
Mr Hill said anyone suggesting the current troubles were a repeat of 1999 was mistaken. "It's not a repeat of what occurred - it's a new issue driven, on the face of it, by a failure of effective governance," he said.
"If you have a situation where half your armed forces go on strike, and then they are dismissed, and then rioting follows, to me that's a failure of governance.
"But I think there's also a recognition that new states created out of traumatic circumstances are going to be very fragile and are going to experience major challenges as they grow and mature."
The UN Security Council released a statement over the weekend condemning the violence and calling on East Timor's Government to restore security and maintain human rights.
The statement applauded Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia for dispatching defence and security forces under bilateral arrangements.
"The Security Council welcomes the positive responses made by the governments concerned and fully supports their deployment of defence and security forces," the statement said.
Mr Hill said talks were under way about the relationship between the deployed forces and the UN mission on the ground, and the protection of UN staff.
"In an exploratory way, we are also starting to look at what might be the future relationship between a UN-mandated force and the forces that are on the ground under the bilateral arrangements," he said.
The Age (Melbourne) Monday, May 29, 2006
Australian operation needs to live up to its name
By Mark Forbes
LET'S hope the bureaucrats who named the intervention into East Timor "Operation Astute" are proved prescient.
At Dili International Airport, its approaches lined with cars and tens of thousands desperate for Australian protection, military commander Mick Slater delivered an upbeat view of the mission's progress.
"We've been here just over 48 hours," he said. "You can see that the security situation throughout the city is a lot better now. We have got just over 2000 troops on the ground and they are out there providing security, enabling people like those you see around you to start laughing and having a bit of a relax for the first time in several days."
Outside the airport, pillars of smoke billowed towards the main road. Agitated young men, some masked, some carrying machetes, confronted returning reporters.
"Australian soldiers have to do something, they make violence, they burn our houses," one shouted. "They look and do nothing, where is the protection?"
Brigadier Slater conceded that there were "still some dramas", but less than over the previous two days. However, more and more homes and shops were torched throughout the day, along with violent beatings and stabbings.
Troops would begin arresting those involved and confiscating weapons.However, only those committing "serious crimes" would be detained — those settting the fires would probably still roam free.
According to Brigadier Slater, the "gutless thugs" intimidating citizens "fold like wet cardboard" when confronted by Australian troops. But they have learnt the Australians will not fire on them, unless directly threatened.
Directing his comments to the surrounding refugees, Brigadier Slater said "the message for the Timorese people is we are going as hard and fast as we can to make their homes safe". The message is classic military "psyops" â€” appear strong and positive to inspire confidence in the population and fear among the combatants — and hope reality follows. The intervention force is operating in a badlands of urban civil warfare. Political, military and ethnic divisions cloud every scenario. If Australians fire on the militias and mobs, they risk being caught in the crossfire of a potentially explosive conflict.
Military, police and community have split along ethnic lines, west (Lorasi) against east (Loramonu). Once Australian troops take on one of the gangs, they will be perceived as taking sides, and risk becoming targets themselves.
Then comes the danger of rival, military and police groups re-entering the conflict. The initial combatants — soldiers from the west disillusiooned with the government of Mari Alkatiri, along with police and military police from the west — have stayed out of Dili for the past three days. It has been left to gangs and militia mobs, armed with military weapons, to stage a vicious turf war, with homes, women and children the targets.
As the death toll mounts, so do pressures for retribution and frustration at the failure of Australian forces to deliver an immediate peace.
Brigadier Slater believes he has all the men he needs, with reinforcements if required. But if rebel forces, or the loyal army turn against the Australians (improbable but not inconceivable), it becomes a nightmare scenario for Canberra.
The Australian Monday, May 29, 2006
Clock's ticking for Alkatiri
By Mark Dodd
SOME good news. Mick Slater - commander of the 2200 troops of the international battle group sent to restore peace in East Timor - says his message to the Timorese people is that he's going to make their homes safe. That will be welcome for the 50,000 people displaced by vicious ethnic rioting in the capital Dili - most now living rough in the open; the elderly as well as women and children and mothers with babies. Yesterday's food riots at the World Food Program's warehouse suggest they are keen to go home.
Brigadier Slater knows the country. As commander of the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, he rang the church bell in Balibo in September 1999 in a vain attempt to encourage traumatised people to return from hiding following Indonesia's goodbye pillage after 24 years of occupation. He likes the East Timorese and so, he says, do his soldiers. They are appalled at the recent violence, and like many East Timorese are mystified as to its roots. Wasn't East Timor a UN success story?
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri - an unpopular Muslim leader in this overwhelmingly Catholic country - has much to answer for. And so does his Khmer Rouge-trained Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, the nation's controversial chief of police.
On the East Timor army side - the trigger for the latest unrest - defence force chief Taur Matan Ruak and his senior commanders - those of the eastern-born Lorosae clan - have failed their first serious test in conflict management.
What began in January as a protest by more than 300 F-FDTL soldiers over ethnic bias and poor service conditions looks set to bring down a government.
After dithering for months, they have only themselves to blame for an army on the point of collapse, a police force in disarray and tens of thousands of civilians displaced.
On the weekend, former guerilla commander turned president Xanana Gusmao was formally asked to take a more hands-on approach to matters of state, particularly in matters of defence and national security.
It sparked an angry response from the Prime Minister and a thinly veiled warning to President Gusmao - he and Alkatiri cannot stand each other - expressing confidence that he would not "cease to respect the constitution", which is diplomatic speak for "be careful about moving into my patch".
Canberra is showing signs that they think Alkatiri's time is up. John Howard's comments about the need for better governance in East Timor spells that out clearly.
One option being heard more and more by East Timorese involves another Australian import - the President invoking emergency powers and doing a John Kerr, East Timor's own dismissal.
The Australian Monday, May 29, 2006
Marxist leaders have failed by Mark Aarons
Mari Alkatiri et al have a poor record when it comes to democracy
THE crisis in East Timor is a dangerous watershed for the world's youngest nation. Although distressing in its violence and bloodshed, Timorese democracy can survive. But the country's leadership must take stock of the upheaval's causes and remove the stultifying control of political, civic and economic life by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's dominant faction within Fretilin, which won 57 per cent of the vote at the country's first election.
The crisis also affects supporters of the Timor's independence struggle over the past three decades. Sections of the Australian Left, which was active (with other Australians) in promoting the cause of independence, need to do some serious stocktaking if they are to assist Timor in the long term.
There needs to be recognition that Alkatiri and some of his supporters have a poor record when it comes to democracy. Since its inception in 1974, Fretilin has been a broad front representing social democratic, Marxist and nationalist tendencies. Founding member and current Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was a social democrat, while others adopted a fundamentalist Marxist platform.
Indonesia's brutal offensives of 1977-78 eliminated the internal leadership, leaving Marxist-inclined leaders such as Alkatiri competing for domination of the exile community with international spokesman Ramos-Horta. Inside the country, Fretilin reasserted its adherence to Marxism under its new leader and current Timorese President, Xanana Gusmao. But during the 1980s Gusmao distanced himself from Marxism and eventually left Fretilin to head a broad, nationalist front that linked his guerillas with the Catholic Church, student organisations and the civilian underground. Fundamentalists remained in Fretilin's leadership, notably among the exiles in the former Portuguese African colonies. Alkatiri's Mozambican cell was the most significant of these.
This history is important in understanding today's crisis. Few would dispute that three figures led Timor's independence struggle. First was Gusmao, leader of the guerillas, whose years inside an Indonesian jail gave him Mandela-like status as the embodiment of Timor's aspiration for nationhood. Then there was Ramos-Horta, whose indefatigable diplomacy over two decades kept Timor on the international community's agenda and won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Finally, there was the co-winner of that prize, Bishop Belo (and the Catholic Church generally), whose support for the struggle was crucial.
By contrast, Alkatiri's name was virtually unknown. Outside the international solidarity groups and diplomats who met him in Ramos-Horta's shadow at international forums, he was neither known nor, more crucially, understood. Alkatiri's main work in exile was to move among Timorese refugees, organising Fretilin cells and giving ideological direction in preparation for running the country. Alkatiri has held power for almost five years, during which time stories of nepotism, corruption and authoritarianism have been too persistent to be lightly dismissed. The struggling public service seems to have been stacked with Alkatiri loyalists. Merit and ability have not been the main criteria for job selection. This has undermined professionalism, politicised the civil service and sown the seeds of resentment, disaffection and now revolt.
Alkatiri's shortcomings do not end there. Authoritarianism, of an eerily Stalinist kind, has too often been the Government's response to dissent. The means used by Alkatiri to ensure his recent re-election as Fretilin leader illustrate the point. By replacing a secret ballot with a show of hands, he not only thwarted his challenger, but actually undermined democracy in order to proclaim his own "democratic" victory.
The malaise in governance and the endemic abuses of power are also personified by Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, brother of resistance hero Nicolau Lobato who was killed by the Indonesians in 1978. I knew Rogerio in 1976 as a swaggering Fretilin commander. He helped me obtain tens of thousands of dollars in Mozambique to keep an illegal radio connection operating with East Timor, which I smuggled into Australia, risking a lengthy prison term.
A few years later, Rogerio was jailed in Angola for smuggling diamonds, not to assist his country's struggle but to enrich himself. Lobato's appointment to a sensitive post in Alkatiri's Government was an important warning sign. The recent allegation in UN cables that he spends much of his time managing his own business affairs is consistent with his criminal activities in Angola. Yet he was put in charge of the country's security apparatus. Little wonder that elements of the forces within Lobato's circle have been heavily involved in the violence.
Since independence, many Australians on the political Left have uncritically supported Alkatiri's Government. I have been dismayed by the fierce, and utterly misconceived, criticisms of Gusmao and Ramos-Horta and the blindness towards Alkatiri's manifest shortcomings. Some have simply denounced Gusmao and Ramos-Horta because they abandoned Fretilin, while others are resentful about Gusmao's challenges to Alkatiri's dominance of political and civic society.
Nor should we heed the voices of the political Right which is now smugly claiming that Fretilin is irredeemably corrupt and violent. We should not despair about Timor's prospects to become a viable, independent nation. Yes, Timor is dominated by Fretilin, which along with other political forces committed crimes in the Indonesian-instigated 1975 civil war. This has been honestly admitted by Fretilin, but some Fretilin leaders are certainly behind the mismanagement and violent criminal behaviour that have caused and been featured in the current crisis.
But these pale in comparison with the mass crimes of Indonesia's illegal occupation. East Timor overcame this and has the capacity to overcome the present troubles. There are many competent and democratically inclined Timorese (especially within Fretilin) who can lead the nation towards stability and democracy.
The country's future now depends on Gusmao and Ramos-Horta continuing in senior roles. East Timor's needs must come before Gusmao's desire to retire next year or Ramos-Horta's bid to shift to the UN. Without these two giants, Timor risks ongoing dependence on the international community. Gusmao has a particular responsibility. He is the one figure who can unite the warring factions from the western and eastern ends of his country.
The governing Timorese elite needs to do some hard thinking about its next steps. Above all, Alkatiri and his supporters should drop their conspiracy theories about Gusmao's "attempted coup d'etat" and admit their own mistakes and shortcomings. A failure to support a new direction by the dominant Fretilin faction would threaten the entire independence struggle and leave their country open to the possibility of effectively becoming an Australian client state.
Mark Aarons is co-author of East Timor: A Western Made Tragedy (Left Book Club, 1993).
The Australian Monday, May 29, 2006
In for the long haul
The UN has an important role to play in East Timor
AUSTRALIA'S response to the crisis in East Timor has been conducted with textbook precision, the result of early action when signs of unrest were first noted, and a military machine that is becoming accustomed to moving quickly and efficiently when needed. That said, of course, the multi-nation intervention is fraught with danger because of the unpredictable political and social scene in East Timor, an environment where neighbours are at each other's throats for reasons that are still to be fully explained. The East Timorese army is split and there is enmity between civilians from the east (Lorosae) and those from the west (Loromonu) in a society that has, until recently, enjoyed relative cultural and religious unity. Moreover, the country's political leaders are at odds with one another. In the midst of this mess stand Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian troops and police on a potential hiding to nothing.
President Xanana Gusmao appears to have the upper hand in a power struggle with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, a good sign for future stability. Mr Gusmao carries considerable moral authority in East Timor for his role in the country's fight for independence, whereas Dr Alkatiri is seen as arrogant and out of touch with the electorate, while his enemies allege corruption as well. But it's clear that the two men must find a way to work together if East Timor is not to descend into further chaos. The damage already inflicted on the country's sense of common purpose will have created deep wounds that may take years to repair. Political unity will be an essential ingredient if the healing process is to work without festering. Disarming rebel soldiers and gangs of opportunistic thugs is under way and may yet prove to be the easy part of a mission that is now likely to last for a year, at least.
As the major regional power, Australia has an obligation, as well as the self-interest, to ensure East Timor does not become a total failure as a state. That's why the Australian Defence Force was deployed immediately and with bipartisan support. But the complexity and size of the task in a country that has high levels of poverty and unemployment, poor infrastructure and nascent institutions -- and now a large refugee problem -- is such that Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia will need more than a few extra police officers from Portugal to bring lasting stability.
Sukehiro Hasegawa, UN mission chief in Dili, admitted yesterday that more troops and police might be required if violence was to be prevented in the long term. Given that the local police force is no longer viable -- indeed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says it does not exist as a force any more -- the UN has an important role in bringing East Timor back from the edge. It is not just a matter of disarming rebel soldiers and corralling them in their former barracks. East Timor faces a threat to its future as an emerging democractic country and to the fairness of its elections due in a year. Mr Hasegawa has asked Mr Gusmao and Dr Alkatiri to co-operate in a nationwide appeal for calm. He could have added that political paralysis at the top was not helping the East Timorese people -- except that would not have been correct diplomatic language. Nevertheless, that is part of East Timor's problem: lack of strong, purposeful leadership and authority among the political elite. The UN's role, then, should concentrate on establishing and nurturing responsible governance. It has the capability to help make East Timor work as a truly independent nation, one that could soon be able to throw off much of its poverty once oil and gas revenues start flowing out of the Timor Gap.
Bringing peace to East Timor now becomes a stern defence and foreign policy test for the Howard Government. John Howard's cabinet has made the right decision in sending troops and that decision has been backed up with clear statements of intent and an understanding of future calls on the Defence Force. The long haul signalled by Mr Downer begins now. Thankfully, Indonesia is relaxed about Australian forces returning to their former territory. It could easily have been a point of serious contention. With support from the US and the UN, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia are embarked on a good cause on behalf of the East Timorese and for maintaining regional stability. The alternative -- a civil war destroying what little economic activity the country now has and a population reduced to famine and deprivation -- is too awful to imagine.
[Note: The full ETAN statement was sent yesterday]
Sunday Mail (Queensland) May 28, 2006
PM slammed for Timor remarks
From correspondents in Washington
A US-BASED pressure group has warned Australia that its invited military intervention in East Timor to quell unrest did not entitle it to interfere in the country's government.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network said it was concerned about the situation in East Timor, where the government, with the stated support of rebel leaders, requested the deployment of foreign forces to stem escalating violence.
"Timor-Leste must find ways, with respectful support from the international community, to deal with problems in a manner that will not require troops," ETAN said.
"Statements by Australian government leaders that providing security assistance entitles them to influence over Timor-Leste's government are undemocratic, paternalistic, and unhelpful."
"Who governs Timor-Leste is a decision to be made by its people within its constitution," the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday said that East Timor, where Canberra has ordered 1,300 soldiers to be sent to help quell a military rebellion, has a "significant governance problem."
"If things get out of control, and they clearly have, and outside help is needed, then those who provide the outside help are entitled to ask those who they are helping, 'Will you make sure that you run the country in future in a way that this doesn't allow this to happen,"' he said.
ETAN blamed Australia for much of the problems in the tiny fledgling country, which gained independence from Indonesia in 1999.
"Australia bears special responsibility for Timor's underdevelopment by refusing to return revenues, totalling billions of dollars, from the disputed petroleum fields in the Timor Sea, including Laminaria-Corallina, and by bullying Timor-Leste into forsaking revenues that should rightfully belong to it under current international law and practice," the NGO said.
"Australia should not view its current assistance to Timor-Leste as a favour, to be repaid, but instead as a partial repayment for the debt Australia owes the Timorese people for its help during WW (World War) II and for Australia's deep complicity in Indonesia's invasion and occupation."
The NGO's remarks echoed those of Portugal's foreign minister, Diogo Freitas de Amaral, who rapped the Australian prime minister for criticizing the authorities in East Timor, which Lisbon ruled for four centuries.
"We consider this an interference in the internal affairs of East Timor and ... we disagree with this kind of statement by foreign countries," said the Portuguese minister as new violence rocked the poverty-stricken country's capital Dili.
Portugal has ordered 120 troops to help put down the violence in East Timor, which Lisbon turned over to Indonesia in 1975.
---------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service