|Subject: Timor Updates: East Timorese
writers predict unhappy ending, Timor capital tense as ethnic violence
- Australian Commander to Meet East Timor Rebel Leader Reinado
Australian Commander to Meet East Timor Rebel Leader Reinado
May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Brigadier Mick Slater, commander of Australian peace keeping troops in East Timor, will meet rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado today amid an escalation of violence in the island nation.
The meeting comes as 1,300 Australian troops are deployed to secure the capital Dili's police headquarters, government buildings, airport and a United Nations compound, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, deputy chief of the Australian Defence Force, told reporters in Canberra.
The unrest in East Timor began last month when former soldiers rioted over the dismissal of about 600 servicemen for desertion. The sacked troops were protesting alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country. Nine unarmed police officers were killed and 27 people were wounded in fighting on May 25, the UN said.
``We've had violence over the last few days, we have had some violence today,'' Gillespie said. ``What we are hoping is with some movements by Brigadier Slater and his team today, we will start to see that chain of violence be broken.''
East Timor, or Timor-Leste, a country of about 1 million people, voted for independence in a 1999 referendum after a 24- year occupation by Indonesia, which invaded the territory when it was a Portuguese colony in 1975. The country, which became independent in May 2002, lies about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Australia.
Violence has increased between rival ethnic gangs, with youths armed with daggers, machetes and slingshots rioting in Dili overnight, setting cars and homes on fire, Agence France- Presse reported.
The UN is moving to a ``phase three alert'' in response to the violence, evacuating 390 non-essential staff to the northern Australian city of Darwin.
The UN will leave about 50 staff in Dili to operate its East Timor mission, spokeswoman Donna Cusumano said today.
Australia's Brigadier Slater is leading troops from New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal after East Timor's government asked for help to curb the violence.
``The Australian role here is simply to cause disengagement, cause the violence to stop to allow trust to redevelop,'' Gillespie said.
``Disarmament can come a little bid further down the path.''
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is visiting Thailand, appointed Ian Martin as a special envoy to East Timor to assess events in the country, the UN said May 25. Martin was the UN envoy to East Timor in 1999.
Weekend Australian Saturday, May 27, 2006
Writers predict unhappy ending
By John Stapleton
NOW we now what it's like to be American -- putting our troops in harm's way on foreign soil only to be pilloried.
Young East Timorese, guests of the Sydney Writers Festival, yesterday attacked Australia's intervention in their homeland as being motivated by greed.
The Diggers are not there to save a fledgling democracy, but -- like the Americans in Iraq -- for the oil, the writers said.
While most East Timorese would welcome the immediate stability the Australian forces would bring, the writers outlined considerable concerns about the intervention.
And, heaven forbid, Australia has done it to East Timor twice -- the last time in 1999 after the Indonesian pillage to mark the end of its 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.
The writers said they regarded Australia's intervention as ''highly suspicious''.
''The tragedy that has happened in the past month has meant a lot of suffering for the people of East Timor and reminds us all of the suffering of 1999,'' poet and broadcaster Vonia Veira said yesterday.
''It may seem to the Australian public that because Australia played a fairly big role in the reconstruction, that Australia has a role to play in maintaining the East Timorese Government.
''But it is suspicious and questionable. It is difficult to analyse why Australia wants to go there. I think it is driven by concerns over Australia's economic security, including the oil under the sea, rather than concern for the people of East Timor.
''I am scared it is less about East Timor's security than Australia's security and interests.''
In fairness to the young writers, a great deal of suspicion was created by the hardline stance Australia was perceived by many East Timorese -- and members of the Australian Left -- to have taken in the negotiations over the treaty for oil and gas rights in the Timor Gap.
To a packed Sydney audience, Ms Veira, 23, who is well-known in her home town of Dili, read her latest work, titled Meaningless Freedom:
The sound of guns haunts us again ...
Why do we kill our own people?
This is our own land Innocent children and babies Crying and screaming They hear the sound of guns shooting ...
I cannot stand witnessing this all.
Musician and writer Melchior Fernandes, 23, said he had been regularly arrested by the Indonesian police for singing East Timorese liberation songs.
He said the Australian Government had other motives for the present military intervention, most probably economic.
''In the short term, the result may be peace, but Australia's military involvement is not a long-term solution,'' he said.
''This is an internal dispute between different factions of the military. Australia can't send in troops every time there is a dispute. It will sustain instability rather than address it.''
In one of his recent works, God Down, Fernandes wrote of the desire to smell the wind of liberation and leave the smell of corpses behind:
Leave us to work together To stomp the land, hand in hand Do not make stupid public notices Do not kick the legs from under us!
Maybe George Orwell was right after all -- don't expect beggars to be grateful.
Canberra Times (Australia) Saturday, May 27, 2006
The divisions in East Timorese society are far from new and won't go away quickly
By George Quinn
ON ITS independence day almost exactly four years ago, the people of East Timor seemed literally to be singing on the same page. The independence movement had grabbed a massive win in the referendum of 1999. Indonesia's sour response and the brutality of its militias had been a gift to the new country's sense of solidarity.
Under the UNTAET administration, the transition to full independence had gone quickly and smoothly. A kind of euphoria gripped East Timor, spreading its warmth to the nation's many international well- wishers.
But contrary to popular perception, East Timor was not, and is not, a naturally coherent nation with a primordially distinct identity.
The euphoria of independence allowed politicians to turn a blind eye to the many divisions, or at best to paper them over with flimsy rhetoric.
Unfortunately East Timor's well- intentioned international supporters seemed happy to swallow the myth of East Timor's unity - hook, line and sinker. From deep within this myth there are already voices, unwilling to face reality, asking whether the current mayhem has been inflicted on East Timor by outside provocateurs (read: Indonesia).
So what are the main fractures in the foundations of East Timorese society?
Ethnic divisions: East Timor has at least a dozen distinct ethnic groups.
A gap has opened up between those in the west (adjacent to the border with Indonesian West Timor) and those in the east.
In the East Timor Defence Force, officers with origins in the east of the country have given themselves superior nationalist and military credentials, discriminating against soldiers from the Indonesia-tainted west. This division has infected the unemployed and angry youth of Dili, where east-oriented and west- oriented gangs are now fighting it out.
Language: East Timor's political elite is dominated by speakers of Portuguese, but they are a small minority.
Portuguese was never widely mastered in East Timor, even during Portuguese colonial times, yet now the country's leaders are making an attempt to force the language on to a largely indifferent, even hostile, majority.
This bizarre project is going to take many years to complete (if it can be done at all) and in the meantime those who don't speak Portuguese are feeling increasingly disconnected from their country's political and administrative elite.
Class: East Timor's four years of independence have allowed the emergence of a tiny but very powerful class of newly-rich.
Outside their villas, the dirt-poor scratch a living in what is easily Asia's poorest nation. Many of the very rich are of mixed Timorese and European ancestry, people who collected their business capital during years of residence abroad (including in Australia) while the majority of East Timorese suffered under Indonesian rule. Naturally, this racial and historical difference does nothing to endear the wealthy to the impoverished masses.
The Catholic Church: Almost all East Timorese profess to be Catholics.
The Catholic Church is probably the most important institution for the maintenance of stability and social solidarity in the country. Yet the Church too is riven by division.
In the first place, there is a division between "secular" Catholics and the more fervent, orthodox church establishment.
The two sides have clashed on issues as diverse as family planning (East Timor has a birth rate far above the economy's rate of growth) and the teaching of religion in schools.
Beyond this, to the horror of the Church's hierarchy, the rural masses practise forms of Catholicism that are entwined with indigenous animist beliefs. These are giving rise to some wacky messianic movements, such as Colimau 2000, whose members (all Catholics) believe that some of East Timor's dead resistance leaders will return to life and lead them to a new age of prosperity and justice.
Colimau 2000 thrives in some parts of the nation's west, and has been linked by some with the disaffected "rebels" of East Timor's western region.
On East Timor's Independence Day in 2002, I wrote in The Canberra Times "when the party is over and the euphoria has vanished, the new nation will find some menacing guests in its front room: economic crisis, political turbulence and confused identity".
These guests haven't gone away and they are now wreaking havoc. As Australian troops fan out into the wild streets of Dili, we can best support them by refusing to allow the shallow, romantic myth of East Timor's special identity and its primordial unity to blur our vision of what we are dealing with.
George Quinn heads the South-East Asia Centre, Faculty of Asian Studies, in ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific. Email: email@example.com.
Timor capital tense as ethnic violence flares
DILI, May 27 (AFP) - Rival ethnic gangs were battling each other in the streets of the East Timorese capital on Saturday as thousands of residents fled for safety and the UN ordered the evacuation of non-essential staff.
Roads were clogged with people rushing to the Australian embassy and the airport as youths armed with daggers, machetes and slingshots rampaged through Dili torching houses and cars.
Australian and other foreign troops were struggling amid the explosion of violence as gangs from western and eastern regions of the tiny country attacked each other.
"This is a communal dispute that's escalated because of the overall situation," a UN official said. "It's basically payback time between the different groups."
Australian troops began arriving Thursday after East Timor's government called for international help to stop bloodshed in and around Dili between soldiers and renegade troops.
The renegades, numbering almost half the 1,400-strong Timorese military, were sacked after protesting what they alleged was discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.
Witnesses to the violence that erupted early Saturday said the situation had gone beyond the military rebellion as violent mobs were dividing along ethnic lines and attacking each other.
"It's east against west, soldiers against soldiers, police against soldiers, everyone against everyone," said Father Lalo, a Catholic priest who was on the streets urging people to put down their weapons.
"It's total madness."
Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta condemned the mob violence, saying it was damaging East Timor.
"Today's incidents are truly saddening because the youths have destroyed the image of tolerance and peace," he told reporters.
"Therefore I am urging these youths to stop their actions because they will only create damage, discredit their family, their homeland and this country."
Residents of some neighbourhoods erected makeshift roadblocks in an attempt to protect their homes but AFP reporters saw houses and numerous cars ablaze.
"Where am I supposed to go home tonight?" shouted a woman whose house was burnt down. "Everything I have is up in smoke."
The violence sparked panic as thousands of residents with cars, carts and suitcases packed with possessions choked the main road to the airport, where the international military presence is strongest and safety is assured.
UN spokeswoman Donna Cusumano said non-essential staff and dependents, totalling about 390 people, would be evacuated to Darwin, in northern Australia, on Saturday or Sunday.
A skeleton staff of about 50 would continue operating the UN mission to East Timor (UNMISET), she said.
She said gunshots were heard around the UN compound at Obrigado Barracks, although they ceased after international peacekeepers from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia stepped up patrols around the area.
"There's been internal fighting," she said. "We've had the blackhawks (helicopters) patrolling and there's more troops coming so hopefully we can stabilise the situation very quickly."
AFP correspondents in Dili said the localised presence of international troops was keeping a lid on violence -- but only until the mobs moved to other areas and violence began anew.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) said its commander on the ground, Brigadier Mick Slater, would meet rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado Saturday after receiving agreement from other factions to cooperate with peace efforts.
"We will get the military to return to its barracks. We will get the police to return to their barracks and we will get the different dissident groups that are apparent on the scene to move back into their home environments," ADF vice-chief Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie told reporters in Canberra.
But he said the international troops were not in Dili to disarm the ethnic gangs, rather "to simply cause disengagement, cause the violence to stop to allow trust to redevelop".
The media were targeted for the first time when an AFP car -- with two reporters and one photographer inside -- also containing an AP photographer was attacked after one easterner forced his way into the vehicle and another jumped on the roof while attempting to escape a pursuing mob of westerners.
The group of westerners attacked the car, which was clearly marked as an international press vehicle, throwing rocks and swinging swords at the vehicle.
The passengers were shaken but escaped serious injury.
UN Cmdr: Australian Troops Too Quick To Leave East Timor
SYDNEY, May 27 (AP)--Foreign troops were too quick to leave East Timor after it gained independence, the former deputy commander of a U.N. peacekeeping mission there said Saturday.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mike Smith, now the chief executive of an Australian charity, said U.N. troops should have remained in East Timor beyond their withdrawal last year.
Australia led a multinational peacekeeping force involving more than 5,000 troops after East Timor voted to break free from Indonesia in 1999, triggering a wave of violence by Indonesian troops and their proxy militias in which about 1,500 people were killed and 300,000 left homeless.
The U.N. administered the half-island territory until it formally became independent in 2002, and Australia withdrew the last of its troops in June last year.
"As much as the departure of international forces and particularly Australian forces was graduated and was based on good reason, the fact of the matter is that security has been wanting since that departure," Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Saturday.
"I think it would have been much better for a U.N. military force to have remained here, because I think that would have provided much greater reassurance," he added.
At least 23 people have been killed in four days of fighting between rival police and military factions that was triggered by the firing in March of more than 40% of the country's 1,400-strong army.
The bloodshed is the most serious threat facing the desperately poor country since it broke from Indonesian rule, and comes despite millions of dollars in international assistance it received over the last seven years, much of which was spent on building up the military.
Australia has sent 1,300 troops to help quell the violence, and Prime Minister John Howard has refused to put a timeline on how long military forces will remain in the troubled country.
However, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has deployed a small detachment of New Zealand forces to East Timor, said troops may need to remain in East Timor for up to one year.
"There could be a need for an intervention force there going through until elections which could be held next year," she told reporters Saturday.
"We can sustain the kind of commitment that we are now almost certainly making, that is this company size deployment. A company all up is generally around 120 people."
South China Morning Post Saturday, May 27, 2006
A bad day at the office for East Timor's superman
By Peter Kammerer
Less than three years after independence, the violence that drove East Timorese towards nationhood has returned. And now, as then, the steady hand of Jose Ramos Horta is on the tiller, trying to steer the tiny nation through unchartered waters.
There is no better person to be taking the lead in bringing peace to a country that is barely able to feed its own people, let alone restore order. Mr Ramos Horta has, after all, spent a lifetime fighting for East Timor.
Yet he is neither the president nor the prime minister - rather, he is the foreign minister, a role he has held in one form or another since 1975, when he was just 25. The difference is that back then, the world did not care about East Timor - whereas now, as events of recent weeks have shown, international action is swift when needed.
As it became clear on Wednesday that the 800-strong military was struggling to deal with unrest sparked by 600 former colleagues angry at being sacked in March for deserting, East Timor issued a plea to Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal for help. All immediately promised troops or police, with the first foreign forces arriving on Thursday.
When Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975, in the wake of Portugal's decision to end 450 years of colonial rule, the world did not blink. Even as it became apparent that Indonesian troops were killing thousands of people, there was inaction.
From the UN and then through a relentless global lobbying programme, Mr Ramos Horta did his utmost to change minds. While former resistance leader President Xanana Gusmao was the Nelson Mandela-like figurehead of the movement, Mr Ramos Horta - a jovial, comparatively sophisticated diplomat - became its spokesman and torch-bearer.
Nonetheless, while he may opt for bow-ties on occasion and have a flawless command of English that gets him quoted in the international media many times more than the less linguistically gifted Mr Gusmao, he is also a more ordinary man.
While Mr Gusmao exudes charisma, Mr Ramos Horta is not so much a personality - a characteristic that better helps with his job of campaigning, advocating and representing.
But he is also a crusader, a characteristic that is perhaps genetic - his father and grandfather were both political exiles, just as he became for three years from 1970 for advocating political awareness among Timorese. Portuguese secret police, keeping a watchful eye on dissent, overheard an indiscrete remark and he was sent to another colony, Mozambique.
Born in Dili on December 26, 1949, his mother was Timorese and his father a Portuguese naval gunner, who had been exiled to what was then Portuguese Timor by dictator António de Oliveira Salazar in 1937 for being part of an attempt to overthrow the fascist government. Mr Ramos Horta was educated at a remote Catholic mission, and did so well at his studies that he was one of a few students chosen to attend a Dili high school.
On graduation, he became a journalist and through his wide reading, increasingly interested in the idea of an independent East Timor. That was when the secret police moved in to stamp on what were deemed to be subversive views.
On his return to Dili in 1973, Mr Ramos Horta picked up where he left off, seeking out like-minded people and co-founding the Social Democratic Association of Timor, which the following year evolved into the popular pro-independence political party Fretilin, or the Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor.
Five months earlier, in April 1974, Portugal's dictatorship had been overthrown in a military takeover and democracy was restored. The cash-strapped government decided to withdraw from most of its colonies and Timor was handed self-rule.
But the danger of Indonesia became apparent with the pullout of Portuguese troops. In an effort to head off an invasion, independence was declared in November 1975 in the hope that the giant neighbour would be less inclined to take over a sovereign state.
In December 1975, Mr Ramos Horta left for New York to lobby the UN for protection.
Three days later, Indonesia invaded on the pretext that it was preventing East Timor from turning communist, a move that had the backing of the US, Britain and other powers.
Thousands of Timorese were killed within days, and the toll by the time Indonesian militias were subdued by UN peacekeepers following an overwhelming vote for independence in 1999 was estimated at 200,000 - a quarter of the Timorese population. Among those who died were four of the diplomat's 11 brothers and sisters.
For a decade, living in New York, he lobbied at the UN to keep East Timor alive as an issue, and over time was involved in the passing of a dozen security council resolutions. Later, basing himself in Australia, he continued his efforts, meeting as many politicians, delegations and pressure groups around the world as possible.
In 1996, Mr Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "their sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of a small people". That has continued unabated, through the Indonesian-backed militia violence after the 1999 independence vote and the heady days to nationhood in May 2002.
But the nation, Asia's poorest and least developed, still has a long way to go for self-sufficiency from the oil reserves in the Timor Sea for which it has worked so hard to control. Unemployment remains high, there is no industry and foreign investment is miniscule. The unrest of recent weeks reveals the country's fragility.
Fortunately for Timorese, Mr Ramos Horta has not lost his determination to lobby world leaders to come to the nation's rescue.
The New York Times May 27, 2006
Australian Forces in Timor Capital to Deter Warring Sides
By JANE PERLEZ
DENPASAR, Indonesia, Saturday, May 27 — In their first show of force, Australian troops in armored personnel carriers patrolled parts of the East Timor capital, Dili, on Friday but were not yet in control of the warring factions of the country's military, Australian officials said.
The situation remained "unstable and dangerous," said the head of the Australian Defense Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
That became evident on Saturday in Dili, when women and children were driven from their homes by gangs of men armed with slingshots and machetes, who roamed the city throwing rocks through windows and setting fire to dozens of houses, The Associated Press reported.
Australia continued to land more soldiers, and Malaysia sent a small advance party to subdue the conflict, in which 600 rebel East Timorese soldiers are skirmishing with 800 government troops over what ostensibly started out as grievances over pay.
But beneath the squabble over promotions and salaries, which turned violent after the government fired the 600 soldiers in March, lies a tangle of political and ethnic tensions that have simmered since Indonesia invaded East Timor 30 years ago, and have remained unresolved since independence four years ago.
The rebel soldiers, who went on strike over pay in February before being fired, mostly come from the desolate western part of East Timor and are from a different ethnic group than the remaining government forces, who are from the east.
In one of the more bizarre notes, the leader of the rebel forces, Maj. Alfredo Reinado, who continues to move around Dili, said he welcomed the Australians. "I'm with Australia; I'm with peacekeeping forces," the major said. "I'm ready to cooperate with them based on any agreement that will be reached by our president." He added that he hoped the Australian soldiers had brought him "a slab of VB," Australian vernacular for a case of beer called VB.
Major Reinado trained last year at the Australian Command Staff College in Canberra, where he studied naval and maritime strategy, a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
On Friday, a mother and her five children were found dead in their house near the airport after it had been set on fire, the East Timorese government said. In the worst incident of violence so far, 9 people were killed and 27 wounded Thursday when renegade soldiers fired on unarmed police officers.
The United States commended Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal, a onetime colonial ruler of East Timor, for providing the security forces. About 100 Americans remain in East Timor.
Australia, which led the United Nations peacekeeping force in East Timor in the aftermath of a bloody independence referendum in 1999, said its forces had returned as brokers who were not taking sides. Australian officials stressed that their troops had been invited by the president, Xanana GusmÃ£o, and the prime minister, Mari Alkatiri.
The goal of the Australians is to encourage both sides to move into temporary quarters, where they would give up their weapons. The East Timorese government has ordered soldiers back into barracks, but there was little sign this was happening, Australian officials said.
About 450 Australian troops, ferried in by C-130's and Black Hawk helicopters from Darwin, were on the ground on Friday, and the full complement of 1,300 is to arrive by Saturday night, Marshal Houston said.
The fighting within the East Timorese military was the most graphic illustration of the fact that the country, poor and without any foreseeable means of supporting itself, had failed to settle into a properly functioning state since independence, said Hugh White, a former senior official in the Australian Department of Defense.
Although East Timor is tiny — about the size of Connecticut, and with only 800,000 people — it is riven by communal differences that have made it unable to "form a political whole," Mr. White said. While the number of combatants sounds small — 600 on one side, 800 on the other — they represent the equivalent of a couple of divisions attacking a major capital, he said.
Dili, population about 20,000, resembles a rural town, with a collection of ramshackle dwellings interspersed by fancy buildings of government and foreign aid institutions. "A couple of centuries ago we would have taken the place over and run it," Mr. White said. "But today we need to find a way to help the people to run it."
------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service