Subject: The states that failed East Timor

Also NZ Intelligence Failure Evident in Timor Leste Crisis

The States That Failed East Timor 

Thursday, 8 June 2006, 2:07 pm

Opinion: Matt Robson

The States That Failed East Timor

By Matt Robson, Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party

Scoop Editor's Note: The John Roughan referred to in this commentary writes for the New Zealand Herald and is not the Solomon Islands based John Roughan that writes for Scoop.

As East Timor is wracked with crisis and the western media pour into another "failed state" my thoughts turn to the states ( and the media) that failed East Timor when Indonesia seized it in 1975 and over a period of almost a quarter of a century of brutal occupation were responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people in a nation of 1 million.

The New Zealand Herald with breathtaking haughtiness described the murderous Indonesian occupation as "several bloody incidents." In the same dreadful editorial it sneered at Xanana Gusmao as "once a hero of its independence struggle" and mused about "whether we are stepping into a passing storm or the first stage in the failure of a new state".

How the rich countries and their media which fail to uphold international law and just treatment of the underdeveloped world love to lecture "failed states". It absolves them of their indifference to the causes of the failure.

Senior Herald journalist John Roughan, who probably wrote the abysmal Herald editorial with its patronising cant, bemoaned how good people like him were tricked into supporting East Timor's independence when clearly it would have been better if this "two-bit state "had been left in the hands of Indonesia even if that country did hand out "rough justice". So there we have it from John and his paper. Indonesia's Suharto and his generals were responsible for "a few bloody incidents" and of handing out a bit of "rough justice" to some natives who probably deserved it.

But I remember. I remember being in Dili at the independence celebrations in May 2002 as New Zealand's minister responsible for overseas aid. I remember that the heads of the states that armed and financed the Indonesia killing machine were there to join in the festivities.

The most noticeable was Ex-President Clinton who had betrayed promises to help East Timor for Indonesian money. But he was not alone. Britain, a great flag waver at independence, had made a killing, literally, from its massive armaments sales to the Indonesian military. These sales were mad under the Blair "human rights" foreign policy. But all the rich nations who had turned their backs on the pleas of a helpless nation and its desperate people and made lucrative deals with their persecutors in total defiance of international law showed no shame or remorse at attending.

Australian politicians were prominent. Yet it was under Labour leaders Hawke and Keating, who declared that the mass murderer and totally corrupt President Suharto was like a father to him, that Australia trained the most feared of all the Indonesian occupying forces ≠ Kopassus. This policy was continued under Howard and Downer, The self-same Downer who has tried to cheat East Timor out of its oil and gas reserves, so desperately needed to prevent a failed state, who now struts through Dili as a saviour.

And our own country from Labour's Bill Rowling through to National's Jenny Shipley had failed the long-suffering people of Timor. They followed MFAT's advice to talk about respect for the processes of international law while secretly supporting Indonesia's annexation.

National PM Muldoon refused to see Ramos Hortha when he came to New Zealand as part of a world tour as East Timor's foreign minister in exile begging nations like New Zealand to protect his country through the processes of international law. In fact Muldoon and MFAT tried to prevent his visit. David Lange complained that Indonesia was nowhere near grateful enough for New Zealand's work in keeping East Timor off the international agenda.

Mike Moore snarled at Labour activists who wanted their party to side with an oppressed nation and international law that they didn't have to do trade deals as he did with Indonesia's foreign minister Ali Alitas. Helen Clark on a trip to Indonesia in 1987 saw things the way of the Indonesia generals and declared that East Timor's independence was no longer an option.

To Don MacKinnon of National, East Timor was irrevocably a part of Indonesia and those Timorese seeking asylum in our Jakarta embassy were to be bundled out as soon as possible. Meanwhile commerce with Indonesia was the main game.

But the East Timorese refused to accept their prescribed fate. Their heroism won through and with Indonesia in upheaval with the fall of the corrupt Suharto regime East Timor won its independence in 1999. The states that failed East Timor could no longer cover up for their ally in front of world opinion that was witness to the reality of Indonesian rule.

Six Years On

It is good that New Zealand has sent troops to East Timor. It is at the request of the legitimate government. The people deserve protection from the violence.

But let us not forget that we owe those people big time. New Zealand made no noise, in fact applauded, when Suharto came to power in 1965 and bathed his nation in blood. When he swept into East Timor we concurred with the Americans and the Australians that this was in our best economic, political and strategic interests. Our diplomats worked overtime for us to be friends with Suharto and to explain away his daily practice of torture, murder, corruption and annexation.

Officials and politicians who were part of the spin machine that waved away these crimes are now in high places in MFAT. Some are in Parliament .Some like Mike Moore and Don McKinnon went onto lucrative international positions to lecture others about human rights.

In the international arena so much was promised with international aid post 1999. So much has not arrived.

In the meantime Australia has been determined not to give up the dominant position in the oil and gas fields in the Timor Gap that Indonesia had handed to them. Prime Minister Alkatiri has had to confront an arrogant Downer (what other one is there?), who in negotiations has attempted to bully and blackmail East Timor into taking far less than its due share.

It is this revenue, estimated to be over US$30 billion and rising that could if matched with the OECD actually delivering on aid promises provide the investment to lift Timor out of its "failed state". It would be a big part of the solution to the unemployment rate of 50 percent, of a life expectancy rate of just over 40 and of one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

The gangs trashing Dili are overwhelmingly young. Little wonder when very few of the 10,000 students who finish school every year are employed and when only 30% get to secondary school in the first place.

The international force must stay until the day to day safety of the people is secured.

However, New Zealand must oppose any moves to implement what seems to be the game plan of Australia. That is that East Timor's future is, as leaked Defence documents show, to fit into Australia's plans for the region to meet its economic, military and political interests.

Nor should we be part of a policy that obviously wants to paint Alkatiri as the cause of the failed state. Alkatiri might indeed go as part of the political crisis. However, it shouldn't be because then Australia neess to lose a thorn in its side in regard to its theft of Timor's oil and gas revenue. It shouldn't be because the Americans are opposed to his acceptance of Cuban doctors and because Timorese medical students are training free of charge in Cuba. And it shouldn't be because we are the deputy-deputy sheriff for Australia as it carries out its assigned duties from the American sheriff.

What East Timor has a right to ask of us is that we show respect for its sovereignty, help it with its internal security and advocate in international forums for adequate long-term investment for its infrastructural needs and its rightful share of its oil and gas revenues.

It is a time for humility in regard to East Timor not humiliation from the states that have failed that nation. ********

Matt Robson is a former New Zealand Cabinet Minister and MP. In the Labour-Alliance Government Mr Robson was the Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs


NZ Intelligence Failure Evident in Timor Leste Crisis

Tue, 06 Jun 2006 18:35:52 -0700

By Paul G. Buchanan

Republished from <>Scoop Independent News

Political instability and collective violence in Fiji, the Solomons and East Timor raises questions about New Zealandís intelligence and security capabilities.

Political instability and collective violence in Fiji, the Solomons and East Timor in recent months raises questions about New Zealandís intelligence and security capabilities in its primary area of geostrategic concern, the southwestern Pacific Rim. The specific areas under scrutiny are New Zealandís intelligence gathering capability in the region, its military preparedness to respond to emergencies region-wide, and the possibility of mission creep due to ill-defined strategic objectives in its sphere of influence.

Political intrigue and tense civil-military relations have been the order of the day in Fiji for more than a decade, with the abortive coup staged by George Speight and his armed followers in 2000 being the immediate backdrop to saber-rattling and political interference by current commander of the Fijian Defence Forces Commodore Frank Bainamarama. Even so, each new military demand and political twist appears to force the New Zealand government into reactive crisis management rather than proactive institution building in pursuit of democracy promotion.

In the case of the Solomons and East Timor there appears to be a complete intelligence failure. Ethnic tensions between the indigenous population and Chinese community, translated into often-armed struggles between power contenders contesting national elections in the Solomons, rippled seemingly unnoticed by New Zealand intelligence for months prior to the rioting of mid April. This resulted in the New Zealand government being surprised by the outbreak on collective violence in Honiara after a Chinese-supported candidate won the prime ministership.

In East Timor rising tension between Eastern and Western Timorese in conditions of mass unemployment, overlaid on the increasingly bitter rivalry between Timorese army and police over control of national security, raised questions about the quality of Timorese democracy at least a year ago. Yet here too the outbreak of collective violence after the firing of 600 soldiers two weeks back caught the New Zealand government off-guard, seemingly unaware and unprepared to deal with the contingency.

Instead, the latest annual threat assessment offered by the NZSIS, the main New Zealand intelligence agency, focuses on the threat posed by local would-be jihadis and Islamicist supporters. Not a single mention is made about the possibility of political crisis and ethnic violence in the southwestern Pacific, or of the threat that such poses for New Zealandís interests. Since the NZSIS receives most of external threat assessment data from the External Assessment Bureau (EAB) in the Prime Ministerís cabinet, the failure to collect and accurately analyse intelligence on these regional hotspots extends to the core of the Labour government.

In the Solomons and East Timor New Zealand waited for the Australians to react, and contributed police and soldiers to the contingency forces sent to Dili and Honiara after violence became wide-spread. To be sure, the Australians appear to have been caught on the back foot as well in both instances, so it may be the case of the blind leading the blind into these conflict zones, with leadership of the reactive intervention forces being determined by size as opposed to superior knowledge of the tactical realities on the ground. Given that both countries had armed personnel stationed in the Solomons and East Timor in the months leading up to the outbreak of violence, it begs the question as to the quality of military intelligence reporting from the area, or at least its interpretation by intelligence analysts within the respective Ministries of Defence.

New Zealand has promised a complement of 200 soldiers and police to help restore order and stabilize the political situation in Dili. This is approximately 100 more troops than the number sent to Honiara two months ago. Aside from an initial platoon, the bulk of the New Zealand troops have just begun to arrive in the Timorese capital. In both cases there were problems in delivering soldiers and equipment to the crisis zone in timely fashion due to equipment failures, logistical logjams and problems of coordination with Australian military authorities. This raises questions about the extent of contingency planning for such events, and about the physical and material capacity for New Zealand to operationalise regional crisis contingency plans should they exist. Such is the stuff of futures forecasting, strategic planning and net assessment, all of which can be focused on the short to medium term requirements of regional crisis management if policy-makers are cognizant of the need for said capabilities. If that has been the case here, it is not apparent.

Then there is a more fundamental issue. What exactly is the mission being undertaken? Geostrategic perspectives determine mission definition. Mission definition determines force composition, and force composition determines tactical orientation and deployment. The entire syllogism ideally determines weapons system acquisition and professional training, which are the ultimate determinants of mission accomplishment.

What then, is New Zealandís security mission in the Solomons and Timor Leste? Originally defined as defending the East Timorese from Indonesian-backed militias and military aggression during the period surrounding national independence in 1999 and operating under UN mandates, the mission has evolved into something else. But what exactly is it? Peacekeeping? Nation-building? Embassy protection? Policing? Establishing Law and Order (if not the Rule of Law)? Showing the Flag? Humanitarian assistance? Support for the UN? Support for the (widely despised) Timorese and Solomon Island governments? The reason mission definition matters is that without clear and concise grounds and guidelines governing the rules of engagement in conflict zones, these military expeditions run the risk of suffering mission creep: the re-definition of the objectives and rules of engagement over time due to changing circumstances in-theater. When that happens, as in the case of US military interventions in places as disparate as Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq, the threat of being bogged down in an irresolvable political-ethic quagmire looms large. This means a potential waste of resources and possible weakening of New Zealandís security position there and elsewhere, as well as potentially compromising its economic and diplomatic interests in the region. More importantly, mission creep is most often a product of inadequate strategic planning resulting from faulty intelligence, lack of foresightedness and logistical incapacity. This scenario courts disaster, as mistakes in the field of international security assistance are measured in blood≠in this case potentially that of Kiwis as well as those they seek to dissuade or protect.

Hard questions need to be asked of New Zealandís national security leadership regarding these matters. It is bad enough not to have adequate intelligence collection and analysis in the region, particularly given that New Zealand has primary responsibility within Western intelligence gathering networks for monitoring southwestern Pacific island states. It is equally bad not to have contingency plans in place for likely regional crisis scenarios requiring a security response. This is worsened by not having the capacity to effectively carry out contingency plans once ordered to do so. That is made more grievous by failure to specify the mission≠its terms, its conditions, and its duration≠in a clear and transparent manner, so as to bring it into the realm of public opinion and parliamentary debate.

Ignoring these questions makes for one more. Is Timor Leste Portuguese for ďKiwi Vietnam?Ē 

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