Subject: Horta urges Australia to lead UN force [+The Unusual Suspect]

- Age: Ramos Horta urges Australia to lead UN force

- AFR: 'Own goals' only in East Timor [By Whit Mason]

- ST/John McBeth: The Unusual Suspect


The Age [Melbourne] Monday, July 3, 2006

Ramos Horta urges Australia to lead UN force

Lindsay Murdoch, Dili

Malnutrition in camps as bad as Africa

NOBEL laureate Jose Ramos Horta, who has taken control of East Timor's crippled Government, has called for Australia to lead a UN peacekeeping force for at least 12 months.

Mr Ramos Horta has called a meeting of ministers this morning to discuss crises confronting the country, including chronic malnutrition and fears that food supplies to 150,000 refugees who fled violence could run out.

Australia doubled its donation for emergency rations for the refugees after the United Nations World Food Program warned that chronic malnutrition in refugee camps was already as bad as in the worst places in Africa.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said an extra $4 million would help make up a shortfall in emergency food aid to 66 refugee camps in Dili.

"Food supplies are getting lower," Mr Downer said. "If nothing is done for several weeks, then this will become a real problem."

The ruling Fretilin party opened the way for Mr Ramos Horta to become caretaker prime minister when it agreed to consider a candidate who was not a party member. "I am not a member of Fretilin. I left 15 years ago," he said. "But I am a founding member of Fretilin and I have strong relationships with all of their leaders."

Mr Ramos Horta said President Xanana Gusmao agreed to negotiate the formation of a caretaker government with Fretilin after party leaders calmed their supporters and called on "Fretilin elements" with weapons to hand them over.

Mr Gusmao, who must approve the new government, had earlier said he would refuse to deal with Fretilin's leaders because they were illegally elected at a party national congress.

"The President told me he had relented and asked me to convey to Fretilin that he was prepared to talk with their leaders," Mr Ramos Horta said.

"I believe that this really broke the deadlock and I believe that by the end of the week we will have a consensus name for prime minister."

Mr Ramos Horta revealed that Fretilin had "sounded me out" on serving in a caretaker government. "I said I am available to serve in any capacity in a Fretilin government," he said.

The constitution states that Fretilin as the majority party has the right to nominate the prime minister.

As co-ordinating minister, Mr Ramos Horta effectively became the country's leader when Fretilin prime minister Mari Alkatiri was forced from office last week following allegations that he knew about a hit squad to eliminate political rivals.

The new prime minister will lead the country until elections next year.

In an interview, Mr Ramos Horta called for the first time for Australia to lead UN peacekeepers in East Timor.

The UN has already agreed to send 1000 international police, many of them Australians.

"The security situation has significantly improved compared to when the Australians first arrived," Mr Ramos Horta said, "but the situation is still very precarious".

"If we do have a problem breaking out in remote areas . . . I prefer that we have robust army here with helicopters to quell any problems."

Mick Slater, the commander of Australia's more than 2000-strong peacekeeping force in Dili, said yesterday: "Whether we transform into some sort of UN force is yet to be seen."

The United Nations has a team in Dili assessing the situation.

"Once the UN decides what it is going to do, we will no doubt tailor our future commitment here to support the UN intentions," Brigadier Slater said.


Australian Financial Review Monday, July 3, 2006

'Own goals' only in East Timor

By Whit Mason

Australia failed at the one important thing East Timor needed, argues Whit Mason.

In the past few weeks, two Australian dreams have come crashing to earth. First, there was chaos in East Timor and then the Socceroos' defeat by Italy. Notwithstanding some dubious officiating in the latter, both disappointments stemmed from much the same shortcoming.

As Guus Hiddink said after the Socceroos lost to Italy, dominating the game in midfield is all very well, but in itself it doesn't achieve the goal of the game; to win, eventually you have to put the ball in the net. Incremental successes, in other words, don't necessarily add up to ultimate victory.

In East Timor, successfully managing the nuts and bolts of constructing a tiny new state could not in itself achieve the goal of the intervention: to help midwife the birth of a new East Timorese society free of the violence, insecurity and indignities its people suffered under Indonesian rule.

The Australian-led peacekeeping force and the UN administration in East Timor earned their reputation for success by doing well the things that other missions have often also done well. We know how to address the material needs of displaced people. We know how to deploy security forces to keep a lid on some forms of violence, at least temporarily. We know how to organise elections. And we know how to draw up new political institutions that conform, on paper, to our notions about prosperous, democratic societies.

What today's nation-builders do much less effectively - if indeed they attempt it at all - is to heal the wounds or fill the gaps in a society's political culture which either caused, or resulted from, their violent collapse. Societies don't fall apart because they lack the manual skills to build simple shelters or even to describe idealised political institutions. They fall apart because their people, often aggravated by trauma, material privations or institutional shortcomings, lack the capacity to resolve their differences civilly. This lack, in turn, reflects the absence of a sense of belonging to a community that extends beyond the family or village, and the confidence that one's countrymen will operate according to an identity of interests and a set of shared mores.

While realising that even collapsed societies can have very good elements, nation-builders must recognise that their political cultures invariably require first intensive surgery and then lengthy rehabilitation. Much of the failure to address the essence of the nation and state building challenge - in Kosovo and Afghanistan at least as much as in East Timor - can be traced to ignorance about the host society (and non-Western and traumatised societies in general), to ideologically imposed constraints (often reinforced by timidity and stinginess), and to self-defeating hastiness.

East Timor's recent crisis was sparked by frustrations among soldiers and police from its western provinces. Mike Smith, a retired Australian major-general who was deputy commander of the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor, said last week that the peacekeepers were never aware of any ethnic or regional divisions within the army.

In a fractured society, nation-builders must assume that people's loyalties are primarily local. They should also assume that being victimised has not generally ennobled people but made them anxious and mistrustful.

Most of those involved in the East Timor intervention were laudably loath to act like neo-imperialists. But such unobtrusiveness can be self-defeating. The Falantil freedom fighters, for example, were allowed to create an army - without mechanisms to prevent its domination by a regional power base. East Timor is the poorest nation in Asia and has one of its highest birth rates. Yet foreign nation-builders deferred to the Catholic church's view of family planning, even while struggling to build an economy to provide for the exploding population.

Nation-building is a long process - much longer than the political and budgetary cycles that drive the politicians and bureaucrats who decide when interventions begin and end. Officials on the ground in East Timor pleaded with the UN Security Council to maintain a robust presence well after the country's independence in 2002 to no avail.

Alas, time was up before the goal was found.

Whit Mason is the co-author of Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo, Hurst, London, published last week. He is a former UN official and NGO director in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East and East Asia.]


The Straits Times (Singapore)

July 2, 2006

The unusual suspect

By John McBeth

After weeks of resisting calls to step down, Timor Leste's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri finally resigned on Monday. Senior writer John McBeth explains why the practising Muslim has always been regarded with suspicion in the staunchly Catholic country.

A DESCENDANT of Islamic-proselytising Yemeni traders, educated in the then-Marxist-ruled states of Angola and Mozambique, the newly deposed prime minister of Timor Leste Mari Alkatiri is a complex and enigmatic figure who has easily worn the image of the villain in the months of unrest that has wracked Asia's newest country.

Labelled variously as corrupt, a control freak and even a communist, the slight 55-year-old technocrat is facing the same accusations now formally levelled against ex-interior minister and close ally Rogerio Lobato - that he distributed weapons to civilian militia, allegedly with the intention of liquidating his political opponents.

But if Lobato has implicated him in the purported conspiracy, many questions remain unanswered. 'More evidence is needed to determine conclusively that he was involved,' says one Western diplomat in Dili.

'The difference between arming civilians and actually hiring hit squads has been lost on most people.'

Diplomats also question the capacity of the Timor Leste authorities to conduct a proper investigation, given the ethnic, political and historical factors that continue to divide the society. Chief among them, according to one analyst, is the struggle for the levers of power between those who fought for independence on the ground and those who worked in the political underground abroad.

Mr Alkatiri, who often comes across as cold and autocratic, is no match for President Xanana Gusmao in the popularity stakes. Although he and his Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor (Fretilin) may have outgunned the President in drafting the country's Constitution, the charismatic former guerilla fighter has demonstrated that he still commands moral authority when the chips are down.

Not everyone seeks to demonise Mr Alkatiri, a constitutional expert who appears to genuinely believe he is doing the best for his country.

'He's very capable and has an immense understanding of things Timorese,' says one Western diplomat, who admits he is baffled by current events. 'He's hugely astute, there wouldn't be a strategic thinker better than him. But he does have a penchant for going off the rails.'

That showed in the inflammatory speech Mr Alkatiri delivered after he was forced to step down. It may also be shown in the current investigation into why as many as 4,000 automatic weapons were imported over the past four years and why the Lobato-controlled police force grew in the same timeframe from 1,800 to 3,000 men - more than twice that of the army, which is generally loyal to Mr Gusmao.

Mr Alkatiri was born in Dili in November 1949, one of 10 brothers and sisters. After completing primary and secondary school, he left in 1970 to pursue higher education in other sleepy Portuguese colonies, graduating as a chartered surveyor at the Angolan School of Geography and then earning a law degree at Mozambique's Eduardo Mondlane University.

He was already active in the independence struggle, helping to establish the Movement for the Liberation of Timor Leste and then, in 1974, co-founding Fretilin and its armed wing, the National Liberation Armed Forces of Timor Leste.

Returning to Dili after the Portuguese abandoned the enclave in 1975, he became Minister for Political Affairs in the newly declared Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

But it was all to be short-lived, with the impoverished island colony sliding into a bitter civil war between followers of the Marxist-orientated Fretilin and Indonesian-backed rightists. In December 1975, Mr Alkatiri left Dili as a member of a three-man delegation seeking to head off Jakarta's impending invasion. It was to be the last flight out.

Three days later, Indonesian troops poured across the border, leaving Mr Alkatiri to spend the next 24 years in Mozambique, working in the shadow of leading Timorese lobbyist Jose Ramos-Horta to rally international support for the resistance movement. He was not to return to the country until October 1999, six weeks after the country's bloody vote for independence from harsh Indonesian rule.

In September 2001, Mr Alkatiri was appointed Chief Minister of the United Nations-guided Second Transitional Government and Minister for Economy and Development. Six months later, on May 20, 2002, he became Prime Minister and Minister for Development and Environment of the fully independent Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

In the four years since then, Mr Alkatiri has been unable to shake the suspicion with which he is viewed by a majority of Timorese - not least because he is a practising Muslim in a staunchly Catholic country. His plan last year to make religious education optional in schools only alienated him even further from influential church leaders.

Then there is the Marxist tag, which continues to haunt him in an era when the Cold War template seems strangely out of place.

Australian-educated Resources Minister Jose Texeira, who worked closely with him in the testy negotiations with the Australian government over oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea, described that accusation in one recent interview as 'very, very foul'.

Certainly, Mr Alkatiri is not popular in Canberra. But he was not alone in taking a tough line.

UN administrator Sergio de Mello, later killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, brought former US diplomat Peter Galbraith on board in 2000, first as director of external affairs and then as minister of external affairs in the first transitional administration.

According to Mr Galbraith, Mr de Mello 'smelt a rat' over Australia's rush to negotiate a new agreement to replace the controversial Timor Gap treaty it had signed with Indonesia in 1989 - seen as quasi-recognition of Jakarta's 1975 annexation of the territory. Mr Galbraith and Mr Alkatiri, both equally combative, proved to be an effective tag team.

Still, there is something familiar and old-fashioned about what Mr Alkatiri's government hoped to achieve, electing to force the Portuguese language on a population that overwhelmingly speaks Tetum and Indonesian. Dominated by other like-minded exiles from Mozambique, it has been edging towards the establishment of a one-party state with little adherence to the most basic of democratic principles.

The approach to free and fair elections has been one major cause for concern, given the fact that Timorese have yet to directly elect their representatives - something they perhaps should have done under initial UN tutelage. Although the first parliamentary elections are due next year, little effort has been made so far to introduce a new electoral law or form an independent commission to conduct the exercise.

Particularly worrying for critics is the way Mr Alkatiri retained his controlling position as secretary-general of Fretilin by replacing a secret ballot with a show of hands at last month's party congress.

Diplomatic sources say he had hired goons sitting next to each voting candidate to ensure they voted the right way.

Would-be challenger Jose Luis Guterres, the former ambassador to the UN and the US, dropped out of the running in disgust. As he put it: 'They have chosen an electoral method that is typically Leninist and used by the leaders of communist countries to maintain their hold on power.'

As the architect of the country's national development plan, Mr Alkatiri was popular with donors.

But analysts say while the plan was fine on paper and did not betray any ideological bias, its implementation has become bogged down because he was trying to keep everything under Fretilin's control, including jobs in the civil service. The result has been a grossly underspent budget for 2005-2006 and a failure to build on what the UN prematurely left behind.

Mr Alkatiri's ultimate fate will be decided over the next few weeks as the political drama plays itself out. The father of three children may have his back to the wall, but no one is counting him out just yet.

Strategic thinker

'He's very capable and has an immense understanding of things Timorese. He's hugely astute, there wouldn't be a strategic thinker better than him. But he does have a penchant for going off the rails.' A WESTERN DIPLOMAT, on Mr Alkatiri

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

Back to July menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu