Subject: Irish Times Editorial: Violence in East Timor

Source: the Irish Times (Editorial Section)

Date: Saturday August 11th 2007.

Title: East Timor Violence.

EAST Timor's long transition to a properly functioning independence from Indonesia has been bedevilled by deep-seated factionalism originating in the occupying power's violent and arbitrary rule of the small state. It was widely hoped this year's presidential and parliamentary elections would help allay these divisions, but so far they seem rather to have reinforced them, as renewed violence broke our throughout East Timor this week.

Now that the new president Dr. José Ramos-Horta has asked his political ally and outgoing president Xanana Gusmao to form a government there is an opportunity to create a more effective governing bloc. Both men are veterans of the struggle for freedom and Mr. Gusmao has the support of three other parties, giving hima potential 37 seats in the 65-seat parliament. But everything will depend on whether he can translate that majority into a wider unity by creating political trust in a new government. Outgoing prime minister Mari Alkatiri and his Fretelin party won 21 seats in the June parliamentary elections but was unable to form a coalition.

Having first dismissed Mr Gusmao's appointment as unconstitutional Mr Alkatiri has now agreed to sit in the parliament and promised not to encourage civil disobedience. But he boycotted Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony and his party is ill prepared for opposition. It remains to be see whether he will rein in his supporters responsible for the latest violence and burnings. If they go on, last year's intervention by neighbouring states such as Australia and the United Nations, which followed a more severe such outburst after a third of the army was dismissed, are likely to be repeated. Over 100,000 people are still displaced from their homes after that grisly episode. Popular distrust and despair are fuelled by continuing poverty and high unemployment. Many people say now that they are worse off than before independence.

The most urgent task facing a new government in these circumstances is to create a good functioning team that can encourage economic recovery. East Timor is rich in coffee and potentially in oil, but its economic and human infrastructure have never recovered from the damage done by the Indonesians. A failure to address responsibility for atrocities committed during the occupation has helped create a damaging culture of impunity that feed into continuing violent factionalism and gang warfare.

East Timor has received and deserves substantial international help in tackling these difficult tasks, including from Ireland. Its leaders can best ensure that commitment continues by demonstrating their own willingness to co-operate in creating an effective government.



Source: Irish Times (Letters Section)

Date: Tuesday, August 14th 2007.

Title: Violence in East Timor.


Allow me to express my gratitude for the ongoing coverage of East Timor in your newspaper. You editorial of August 11th was very much in line with the unfolding situation here.

I note the accurate comment that the curent situation cannot be disconnected from the previous three decades of colonial and violent rule. The transition from occupied territory to full democracy is fraught with difficulties that the Timorese have been largely successful in overcoming. However, it should be expected that there will always be some diccifulties and the healing and reconcilitation process will take time. Recent violent incidents, while sporadic, were not unexpected.

Fretilin supporters, having won most seats in the National Assembly, but not enough to form a majority, expected to be invited to form or be part of the new government. However, this was not the case and the president, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, invited the former resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, to take the reins of power as head of a coalition after protracted talks with all parties. This has proved to be a difficult transition for some people unused to coalition government.

You are right to point out thaat East Timor has received subanstial international support in tackling the many difficulties in nation-building.

The presence on an Irish Aid Mission and of agencies such as Concern and Trócaire, show the continuing interest and solidarity of the Irish people. East Timor will continue to need--and, I am sure, receive--our generous assistance and understanding for the foreseeable future,


Tom Hyland,

Metiaut, Dili, East Timor

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