Subject: ABC: Crisis highlights problems in Timor

Crisis highlights problems in Timor

Correspondents Report - Sunday, 7 May , 2006

Reporter: Graeme Dobbell

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Now to the crisis in East Timor, which has highlighted the economic and political fault lines running through the world's newest nation.

There's still tension in the capital Dili after rioting was triggered by the dismissal of around 600 soldiers.

According to one Australian military analyst, the East Timor Government has been ambivalent about creating the military force, and there are tensions with the Timor police.

Graeme Dobell compiled this report.

JIM DUNN: I think it is quite a worrying development. We shouldn't make too much of it, but it's one that does need attention and I think it's a reminder of some of the frailties in the development of the new nation of East Timor that probably were overlooked a little under the UN mandate.

GRAEME DOBELL: Jim Dunn, who's been writing about East Timor for 30 years, and has served as an adviser to the United Nations mission to Timor.

JIM DUNN: What we mustn't forget about this present crisis is that it's not one that's uncommon to former colonies that had to struggle for independence. Invariably, after a couple of years, there are difficulties with their military because the transformation from guerrilla status to being a military component in a democratic state is a very difficult one.

GRAEME DOBELL: Mr Dunn says the 600 rebel soldiers at the centre of riot are a focus for the grievances of others in Dili. He says that formal unemployment of more than 60 per cent of the workforce makes East Timor a ticking bomb.

JIM DUNN: It wasn't just the troops. We must add to this. One of the big problems East Timor's faced since independence, and that is continuing massive unemployment. There are all these youths who can't get jobs. They're very angry, they've joined in gangs and they have in the past been responsible for some demonstrations. Well, it does seem that they joined in and considerably added to the violence. In fact, it's been suggested that the dissident military weren't the main players in this last burst of violence.

GRAEME DOBELL: Australian military analyst Bob Lowry advised East Timor on the creation of a national security structure, and he says the Alkatiri Government has always been ambivalent about the military force.

BOB LOWRY: Well initially the East Timorese independence movement didn't think they would need a military, and that they could rely on a police force for internal security, and that its external defence would be guaranteed by establishing good relations with Indonesia, Australia and the region on a global organisations. But the way that independence is gained and the violence that's associated with the act of free choice and the evacuation of the Indonesian forces and their supporting militia, convinced some people that they did need some sort of armed force, just in case there's a resurgence of militia activity. And so against the better judgement of many people in government and the foreign community, they were forced into accepting the fact that they would need an armed force.

GRAEME DOBELL: Mr Lowry says the problem of Timor's military and its relationship with government is compounded because of tensions and turf struggles with East Timor's police force.

BOB LOWRY: Many in the police force, including its chief, are from the old Indonesian administration, although many people who were working with the resistance have been recruited since then. But the fact is that the senior ranks of the organisation did work with Indonesian Government at the time. And there's resentment because of the different character of the two organisations. And because, in more recent times, the police have developed specialist squads for border patrol, for reacting to incidents in the countryside, and for riot control, etcetera, which the military to some degree, see as their prerogative.

GRAEME DOBELL: Jim Dunn says the problems of East Timor are an added factor in strained relations between Australia and Indonesia. Jakarta has withdrawn its ambassador from Canberra over Australia's attitude to the Indonesian province of Papua.

Mr Dunn says Indonesian military intelligence in West Timor will be closely watching what's happening across the border.

JIM DUNN: It's not just about East Timor. It's also about relations between us and Indonesia, and East Timor and Indonesia and unfortunately, this has happened at a time when our relations are a bit testy. And it also brings into focus one issue that I find very troubling. Now, with this hostility towards Australia among some Indonesian politicians and military, we've had more Indonesian military speaking out against the loss of East Timor and speaking in such a way as to suggest the horrors of the past never took place.

GRAEME DOBELL: Military analyst Bob Lowry says the East Timor Government is paying the price for poor leadership offered the Army, both by politicians and military officers who were originally guerrilla commanders.

BOB LOWRY: Especially the older guerrilla leaders don't see that they should have to put in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, having struggled to leave the country in the last 24 years. But it's also a failure of political leadership in that the Secretary of State for Defence has failed over the last few years to really represent the interests of the Defence Force effectively and put in place effective legislation and regulation to implement things like, you know, proper housing, a disciplinary code and give some focus and purpose to the Defence Force as a whole.

GRAEME DOBELL: Why do you think the Defence Minister Rodriguez hasn't done those basic things for the military ­ does it reflect a continuing ambivalence on the part of the Alkatiri Government about this military force that it has?

BOB LOWRY: Yes, well I think that the fact that they've given the responsibility for defence to a minister who is an old fashioned doctrinaire socialist, who's never made a decision in his life is an indication that they didn't give it a very high priority. But as a result of that of course, the welfare of the military has been, to a large degree, neglected.

GRAEME DOBELL: There are reports that some hundreds of these soldiers have now headed for the mountains ­ do you accept that East Timor might now face a new guerrilla threat from within?

BOB LOWRY: No. Well first of all, they wouldn't have taken arms with them ­ the arms would have already been secured. And secondly, these are not the sort of people, I don't think, who will want to spend too much time in the hill country ­ they'll be looking for some sort of political solution to the problem.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Australian military analyst Bob Lowry. That report by Graeme Dobell.


Northern Territory News

Bureaucrat tells of Timor horror

By Chris Cart

May 07, 2006

A SENIOR Territory bureaucrat swept up in the recent riots in East Timor said villagers fled Dili, fearing more rioting in coming days. NT Government representative to Timor Leste Michael Gallagher said that East Timorese people had fled the city fearing a resurgence of violence involving disgruntled former soldiers.

"They were fleeing for their lives," he said.

"People were still leaving and most of them had their worldly possessions."

Before flying back to Darwin yesterday, Mr Gallagher said he witnessed first-hand the devastation in the wake of the April 28 riot.

"At the end of each day it was very heartbreaking to see the destruction of their houses," he said.

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