Subject: Call to work with Timorese

Canberra Times

December 3, 2007 Monday

Call to work with Timorese

David McLennan

Poverty, poor governance and the military will be continuing threats to the future of East Timor, according to a report.

East Timor and military expert Bob Lowry, writing in an Australian Strategic Policy Institute paper, said Australia needed to work in cooperation with the East Timorese Government or risk another crisis like last year's riots.

He said the initial power imbalance between Fretilin and its political opponents meant the Parliament had been "unable to fulfil its constitutionally designated legislative and oversight role, especially in relation to defence and security matters".

This had been compounded by the weakness of the rule of law, with a politicised and factionalised police force, leading to the riots.

The emergence of four major parties from this year's election with Fretilin in opposition to a coalition government gave some hope the institutions of state might become more autonomous.

However, East Timor still needed to resolve the constitutional tensions between the presidency and executive government and strengthen "political and judicial accountability mechanisms to prevent high-level corruption".

Mr Lowry, urging a security review, said East Timor did not need its military and ought to freeze recruitment and make sure it was not involved in routine policing.

High population growth meant poverty would worsen, providing "fertile ground for political and social unrest".

[Read the report at]

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