Subject: Lusosphere blogs report the latest political twists in East Timor

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006 @ 22:14 EDT

Lusosphere blogs report the latest political twists in East Timor

Since the 
last report from the lusophone blogosphere, the crisis in East Timor has evolved with the country now divided between the President Xanana Gusmão and the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Once again, reading about the situation in the Anglophone media tells a quite different story from what appears in Portuguese language blogs. There is quite a gap between the two perspectives.

“Australian media news, which influences all the regional and international information on the issue, describes Timor crisis as an internal fight for power where an ‘unpopular’ prime minister is opposed by a popular movement. Although the words ‘oil’ and ‘gas’ are the cause of the Australian intervention, they are rarely mentioned in these news reports.”  East Timor: a new cold war - Informação Alternativa

“The Australians use Ad Hominem arguments in the attacks on Timor’s government. In this,20867,19286334-601,00.html article published in Australian News ­ owned by Rupert Murdoch (see wikipedia) ­ the writer, a neoliberal (as only a neoliberal journalist would be tolerated by Murdoch), demonizes the Timor government using the strategy of using leftist labels.,20867,19286334-601,00.html Marxist leaders have failed: it’s the ‘label’ (homophobic, fascist, Marxist, etc.) The labeling marginalizes the opposition and avoids better reasoning. As we know, Marxism has not guided the Fretilin party of the Prime Minister for years. But the author resurrects the late 70’s ideological language with obvious intentions.”  Timor: hearing the Australian version - Letras com Garfos “The history of the struggle for independence of East Timor is also a narrative about the Australian political acrobatics in trying to put its hands in the vast amount of oil in the surrounding seas, currently evaluated as worth 30 billion dollars. Nevertheless, Australia always made its support of Timorese independence appear as a humanitarian mission of fostering and protecting ‘human rights’. Today, the media still echoes this storyline.”  East Timor: Australia - Peacekeeper or Petroleum Predator? - Expresso Online

The absence of cross-language reports in traditional media may be the reason for the gap in perspective and in understanding of what’s going on. There is a great chasm between what is reported in English and what is appearing in Portuguese. It’s the passion for blogging about the East Timor crisis in the Lusosphere that is amplifying and expanding awareness of the many sides of the conflict and bringing the gaps in interpretation within the different language spheres into high visibility.

Last week, President Xanana Gusmao’s formal request to Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to resign was the expected movement in response to the unrest. But the fact that the decision was announced as being triggered by an Australian media piece came as a very interesting political spice in the debate in the blogosphere.

“Xanana decided that Alkatiri could not stay in power based on this documentary (via Pantalassa). ‘Alkatiri is a terrorist, a communist and a Muslim’. That’s how the well informed Australian journalist describes the ousted prime minister. That’s how she defines the credibility of his work. The President’s use of this piece of political propaganda to bring down a prime minister defines his absolute political irresponsibility.” A terrorist, a communist and a Muslim - Arrastão

“If more proof is needed for us to perceive the meaning of last week developments in Timor, the political pearl is the letter Xanana Gusmao sent to his Prime Minister, printed in the newspapers today. The East Timor President talks about an ABC TV program ­ North American, not the Australian network ­ which supports the thesis that Alkatiri was preparing a counter-revolution. While sending this video as an attached file, Xanana warns of the request for Alkatiri’s resignation. It also says that if he fails to step down, he will be fired after the State Council meeting, which comes as a formality as the decision is already taken and delivered to all news outlets in the world. In a two paragraph letter, the political ridiculousness achieves astounding dimensions.” A country at play - DiárioDigital

The networked conversation is becoming wider and involving more influential actors. The Portuguese deputy Ana Gomes, who is well known for her activism in favor of East Timor’s independence and who is President Xanana’s close friend, has been posting about the unrest on the blog Causa Nossa. As we would expect, her blogging attracts heated conversations.

“‘Mr. President: do not resign. Fire him!’ This is what I’ll send in a sms to President Xanana! Interference in internal affairs is what they will accuse me of. But I am not the government; I am a deputy, a Portuguese citizen and a friend East Timor. I worked a lot to see the Timorese people free and independent and I am not going to passively watch a bunch of totalitarian idiots leading the country to chaos again. I ‘interfered’ a lot in the past, and have no regrets. It’s important that we understand in Portugal that Mari Alkatiri has not yet gathered the thousands of Fretilin protesters which he says he is controlling to avoid more unrest ­ because he doesn’t have them.”  Mr. President: do not resign. Fire him! - Causa Nossa “An example of how the ‘friends of the East Timor people’ can turn out to be their biggest enemies would be right here (Causa Nossa, 25.6.2006). To an already huge fire which is getting out of control, Ana Gomes adds even more gasoline. Instead of calling the parties to a more serene and calm mood, instead of controlling a situation which nobody knows how will end, Ana Gomes does quite the contrary. Ana Gomes ­ I’m sorry to have to say as I have personal esteem for her ­ seems to be more of Xanana Gusmão’s friend than a friend of the East Timor people.” Political Piromania - Bloguítica

As personal connections become more transparent through the flow of narratives, it’s inevitable that intimate details of the political characters get picked up by the bloggers radar. This is especially true in this case where the already mentioned cultural gap is replicated in the composition of East Timor’s first couple.

“A terrible caricature of the Timorese conflict was the interview that Kirsty Sword-Gusmão gave to the Australian radio ABC. Kirsty is Xanana Gusmão’s Wife and, as it stands, she doesn’t have any institutional legitimacy. Nevertheless, Kirsty feels comfortable playing the President’s authorized voice, and she almost fired Mari Alkatiri through the Australian radio microphone. Kirsty Rules - Diário de Notícias

“The State relations in Timor had already gone down to the lowest level in terms of parochialism when it was broadly perceived that the situation was dependent on the President’s domestic life. Now things have gone to the most worrying phase: the common terms with which the institutional relations have been discussed have come from the President’s kitchen”.

“The headlines are madness: ‘  Timoreses are with Xanana“. All of them? The majority? The right answer is ’some’ and that might even be many, the ones who are carried by ‘trucks and cars to the Timorese capital and have joined the 700 people that have spent the night in front of the government’s Palace’. More than that, this journalist can’t say and probably can’t know.” Reading, watching, hearing, atoms and bits of June 23, 2006 (2ª series) - Abrupto “Thousands of supporters, more than 15,000 as reported by LUSA, gathered 10 minutes from Dili, in Hera. The protesters went back to Metinaro where they will stay for the night. Alkatiri and Luo’Olo escorted them to Metinaro in order to allow the anti-government protesters to leave the city. The protesters were carrying banners saying ‘Viva Alkatiri’, Viva a Fretilin’, ‘we are not a banana republic’. Among the people there were many Katuas, older men and many old combatants.”  Fretilin appeared - Timor Online

We will be following the news in Timor, hoping for peace.

Jose Murilo Junior 

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