|Subject: Economist: East Timor: Freedom's
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
The Economist March 20th, 2003
Riots and incursions mar nation-building
INDEPENDENCE has turned out to be a bittersweet pill for East Timor. After anti-government riots last year, the country has now been hit by a wave of militia incursions from West Timor, which is still part of Indonesia. With the United Nations' support mission due to leave next year, there is a growing danger that this experiment in UN nation-building could end up an embarrassing mess.
The attacks from West Timor are believed to have been carried out by East Timorese. Some 30,000 East Timorese remain there, most with links to Indonesia, including militiamen wanted for crimes committed in 1999, when the East was still in Indonesian hands. The UN is in charge of national defence until it hands over to a locally-run defence force, but it has had no international staff in West Timor since three of its officials were murdered there in 2000. However, its staff have gathered evidence against militiamen who committed crimes in East Timor and identifying their sponsors in the Indonesian army.
A new problem is the growth of a quasi-religious organisation called Colimau 2000, which operates in the border area. Its creed is a mixture of Timorese animism and Roman Catholicism. There are fears that militiamen crossing the porous border from East Timor may infiltrate it.
President Xanana Gusmão and his government are more concerned with domestic matters. Most East Timorese are still eking out a living as subsistence farmers, disappointed with the meagre fruits of independence. The ruling Fretilin party has lost some of the glamour that brought it election victory in 2001. Its intentions are suspect. Opposition politicians believe it wants to establish a one-party state. Mari Alkatiri, the prime minister, said recently that Fretilin could be in power for 50 years.
Mr Alkatiri is not at all popular. Some of his properties were destroyed in rioting in Dili in December. His family, of Yemeni origin, owns substantial amounts of land around Dili. He is in the ascendant within Fretilin, but the party itself is divided. It includes moderates whose views are close to those of the opposition. There is also a small but influential faction tied to Rogerio Lobato, minister of internal administration, who before independence spent much time in Angola, where he once went to jail for diamond smuggling.
As president, Mr Gusmão has been a stabilising influence so far. Before independence, Fretilin pushed through a constitution with a division of powers between president and prime minister. Everyone knew that Mr Gusmão would win the presidency and cynics say the aim was simply to curtail his power. Mr Gusmão is resented by hardliners in Fretilin for steering the party away from Marxist dogma. But he is formally commander-in-chief of the army and all the senior officers have personal ties of allegiance to him.
With much bad blood from the past, a weak economy and the militias over the border poised to make trouble, many people are wondering whether there could be a new civil war. Mario Carrascalão, who was governor of East Timor for ten years under Indonesia, thinks probably not. These days, in poverty-stricken East Timor, there are simply not enough weapons about to have a civil war.
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/