East Timor “at Risk of Anarchy”


Categorie: East Timor, Politics, U.N. Peacekeeping |

Two years after bloody ethnic fighting wracked one of the world’s youngest countries, East Timor, adjacent to Indonesia, is “at risk of anarchy,” due to corruption, political infighting and a precipitous drop in the oil revenues that account for the country’s main income. This according to a leaked U.N. report reviewed by The Australian.

Despite the efforts of the U.N. and Australia, the country’s fledgling police force remains divided, untrustworthy and lacking in basic skills. The judiciary continues to conduct its business in the old colonial language of Portuguese, instead of a more widely spoken tongue, creating backlogs when interpreters can’t be found.

At the executive level, East Timor “depend[s] on the ‘personal chemistry’ of the four leading state actors: Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, President Jose Ramos Horta, Fretilin opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and army chief Tuar Matan Ruak.”

Rebels tried to kill Horta earlier this year, months after the first national elections, complete with street battles (pictured), that brought Horta to power.

East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world.

“In order to solidify the precarious social conditions, the country may need a special massive employment generation project(s), for example in areas of infrastructure building and agriculture,” the report states.

But with oil down 60 percent from its summer high, such a program is unaffordable.

750 Australian troops plus U.N. cops remain in Dili, the capital, as peacekeepers. Australia had hoped to reduce its presence in East Timor, but worsening conditions could put on hold any withdrawal.

(Photo: me)

Timor security elusive
East Timor’s oil
On patrol with Aussie peacekeepers (plus videos here and here)
Election day (plus video)
Timor’s improvised weapons (plus video)
Street violence!
Timor pics
East Timor series


5 Responses to “East Timor “at Risk of Anarchy””

  1. TEJ says:

    Was there this July and things seemed peaceful. Timorese were hopeful, Aussies & Kiwis said they were bored, just quiet patrols.

  2. 111 says:


  3. 111 says:

    The heart of the insurgency flaired in 2002. Here is a peice on a counterterrorism agreement between Australia and East Timor.
    Aug 25, 2003
    Australia, East Timor signing anti-terrorism agreement.

    (From BBC Monitoring International Reports)

    Text of media release from the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer carried by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade web site on 25 August

    The East Timorese foreign minister, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, and I today sign a memorandum of understanding…

  4. 111 says:

    I have highlighted some insurgency ativity here. I pointed out 2 key points on who was involved. To better understand the group and their plans then and now we may have to lock in on the East Timor website, Hezbullah website, and JI website.Let’s see if the is the public affairs liason for the extremists here in this region, Sheikh Jehah Ismail. If he is not picked up yet, he may be a person of interest at this point.I saw portugese collaboration to stop the cell here. Does this mean the ETA was early involved in harboring the cell memebers before departure? This guy Ahmad Al Joufi came from Australia in 1999 with a forged passport. I did my work in 2005-2008 to disrupt the forgery cell in Thailand and Bulgeria. The notes are again on my site. My thoughts are if the cells are breeding here again under duress in falls passport identities, perhaps we should disruptt he flow of forged passports as we did in Viktor Bouts extradition and arrrest in S Thailand. As I had stated before if we target the forged passports, the terrorists stay home on ice and cannot be as active in their endeavors. This is a strong point apprentices!

    Australian police in third JI raid
    Wednesday, October 30, 2002 Posted: 6:08 AM EST (1108 GMT)

    Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir gave a number of lectures in Australia in the mid 1990s



    War against terror: Southeast Asia front

    Federal agents in Australia have swooped down on homes in Sydney and Perth, searching for people linked to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah. Channel 7 Australia’s Clinton Maynard reports (October 30 2002)

    SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) — Australian authorities have raided the home of a third suspected member of the newly outlawed terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

    Quick to exercise their new anti-terrorism powers, Sydney police on Wednesday raided the home of the father of a suspect whose premises were searched on the weekend.

    On the other side of the country, heavily armed police stormed the house of a Muslim family in suburban Perth at dawn on Wednesday.

    Australia’s Attorney-General Daryl Williams confirmed Wednesday the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO) was conducting operations that were “part of a wider and ongoing investigation into the possible presence of Jemaah Islamiyah in Australia.”

    “Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to investigate individuals and organizations of a security concern,” Williams told media in the Western Australian state capital, Perth.

    The latest raid in Sydney followed a federal police operation on Sunday night at the Sydney home of Jaya Basri, another Muslim originally from Indonesia. Intelligence agents returned to question the Basri family on Wednesday, according to Australian television reports.

    ASIO officers also took part in the operation but no arrests were made.

    Wednesdays’ raid on the home of the elder Basri took place when the family’s lawyer Stephen Hopper returned Jaya, his wife and children to his father’s home after a media conference.

    Hopper said a number of items were confiscated including bank statements, diaries, computers and other documents.

    Muslims ‘not the target’

    Muslim leaders such as Lakemba’s Sheikh Jehah Ismail were quick to condemn the Bali attacks

    Attorney-General Williams refused to comment further on the raids, saying the operation was only directed at individuals who may have some knowledge of JI in Australia.

    “I want to emphasize that it is not directed at the Islamic community or at any particular group. It is only at individuals,” he said.

    Williams rejected suggestions the police had been too heavy-handed in the raid on the family in Perth, saying everything had been done legally and within well-established procedures and guidelines but some were critical.

    “There was six or eight uniformed police officers with the black helmets, the black balaclavas, the black flak jackets … like it was from a movie scene, submachine guns off their shoulders,” a woman identified only as Helena told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

    Helena said her neighbors in Perth were Indonesian Muslims who had lived in Australia for about a decade and were polite, happy people who could not be terrorists.

    “These people are not like that,” she said, of the family with four children. No more details were available.

    Ba’asyir lectures
    Australia officially outlawed JI earlier this week, introducing penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for anyone found to be a member of the group or aiding its operations.

    The Australian government, amongst others, suspects JI of being behind the October 12 terror attacks in Bali which killed around 180 people, many of them Australian tourists.

    Many Muslim leaders in Australia have been quick to condemn the Bali bombings, but others have accused the government of creating an anti-Muslim atmosphere in the wake of the terror attacks.

    Jaya Basri’s lawyer told media Wednesday his client had attended lectures by alleged JI founder Abu Bakar Ba’asyir delivered in Australia in the mid-1990s.

    Jaya Basri has denied being a member of JI but admits to publishing leaflets reproducing Ba’asyir’s speeches.

    East Timor plot
    Speaking through his lawyer, Jaya Basri said the speeches did not advocate violence and that he was as appalled by the Bali bombings as any other Australian.

    Ba’asyir is currently being held by Indonesian police for questioning over a string of church bombings in late 2000 and an assassination plot against President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

    Meanwhile, the Portuguese army has reportedly warned of a plot by Islamic militants to bomb U.S., Portuguese and Australian interests in East Timor, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    Portuguese army intelligence identified five targets, including Australian and Portuguese bank branches and popular bars in the East Timor capital, Dili.

  5. 111 says:

    This attack Feb 11th fits profile to the 11 dates, and is a coup attempt. I would review this one after reviewing the prehistory logs of 2002-2003 of the insurgencys plauging Indonesia Span and Australia. It explains the govts internal struggle to obtain a level of order.

    East Timor: More Australian troops sent after shootout

    Tony Iltis
    15 February 2008

    East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta was rushed to Darwin to undergo emergency surgery after being shot three times in a February 11 attack on his residence by armed rebels. The apparent leader of the assailants, Major Alfredo Reinado, was killed in the incident.

    Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped without injury when his car was riddled with bullets in a simultaneous attack, declared a state of emergency in response. Australian PM Kevin Rudd, responding to a call from Gusmao, increased the strength of the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) that has occupied East Timor since 2006, dispatching an additional 270 soldiers and federal police and sending the HMAS Perth to Timorese waters.

    This brings the number of Australian military and paramilitary in East Timor to over 1100. Speaking on ABC radio on February 15, Rudd would not rule out sending more troops.

    Gusmao described the attacks as a coup attempt, a claim echoed by most of the media coverage. However other theories, such as a bungled kidnapping, have also been advanced. ABC Radio Australia reported on February 14 that at Reinado’s supporters were claiming that he had not tried to kill Ramos Horta, but had been set up.

    However, Reinado’s own statements, particularly in 2 DVDs he released, suggested he nurtured a strong sense of having been betrayed by Gusmao and Ramos Horta, and revenge would seem the most likely explanation for the attempted assassinations.

    If this is the case, the shootings can be understood as blowback from the murky conspiracies that surrounded the overthrow of former Fretilin PM Mari Alkatiri in 2006. Australia welcomed this overthrow, wishing to see a government more amenable to Australian corporate control of East Timor’s maritime hydrocarbon resources.

    Reinado, an officer in the military police, was trained at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. In May 2006 he led a mutiny of about 600 soldiers and police who claimed that they were being discriminated against by the Alkatiri government. This led to fighting between different factions within the security forces and between rival street gangs.

    Gusmao, who was then president, called for Australian military support to restore stability — a call subsequently supported by other government figures including Alkatiri. However, the arrival of the ISF failed to stop arson attacks from increasing, eventually leaving over 150,000 people homeless, many of whom are still living as “internally displaced persons” in camps. The violence cost an estimated 37 lives.

    While the majority of victims of the violence were Fretilin supporters, Gusmao and Ramos Horta, who was then foreign minister, expressed sympathy for the “petitioners”, as Reinado’s mutineers became known, and put the blame for the violence on Alkatiri, whose resignation they called for.

    Australian government leaders, including then-PM John Howard, joined the call for Alkatiri’s resignation after the screening of a documentary on the ABC’s Four Corners in July 2006 that accused Alkatiri of establishing a death squad to assassinate his opponents, including Reinado. Alkatiri resigned, but was later exonerated of the allegations by a UN enquiry.

    He was replaced as Prime Minister by Ramos Horta. In May 2007, Ramos Horta won presidential elections. In parliamentary elections in July, while Fretilin won the largest number of seats of any party, they failed to get an overall majority and Gusmao became Prime Minister of a coalition of non-Fretilin parties. In both polls, Fretilin complained of hostile interference by Australian ISF troops.

    By the time of the presidential elections, Reinado and the “petitioners” were waging a low-level guerilla struggle in the mountains of Same district. It was at this point that the first of his DVDs started circulating, in which he claimed that Ramos Horta and Gusmao had promised him high office in a post-Alkatiri government.

    Following a May 4 clash with the Australian SAS, which left 5 “petitioners” dead, Ramos Horta called for an end to military operations against Reinado. The Australian forces meticulously observed this right up until the shooting of Ramos Horta. A week before the assasination attempts an Australian patrol had stumbled across Reinado, but backed away after the latter’s troops fired warning shots.

    In reality, Reinado’s chance at a cabinet position was probably lost when he was arrested by Portuguese police on charges of murder on July 27, 2006. While the Portuguese police are under UN command, the legal status of the ISF is dubious, with it not being under a UN mandate or having its status regulated by any act of the Timorese parliament.

    Father Frank Brennan, former director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in East Timor, wrote in the December 12 Eureka Street: “There is a growing perception among local critics of the Timor government that the Australian troops are the personal troops of the President, given their presence without full constitutional mandate and their ready response to Horta’s arbitrary command, which showed little respect for the traditional separation of powers between the Executive and the judiciary.”

    It was Australian ISF troops who were “guarding” Reinado and his supporters when they walked out of jail a month after their arrest, and took to the hills with weapons.

    Nonetheless, it was not politically expedient to allow a rebel charged with murder by the UN a position in the government. While Gusmao and Ramos Horta attempted to placate Reinado by allowing him to remain free, it is possible they underestimated his bitterness at being denied what he alleges he was promised.

    In his second DVD, which began circulating about a month before the fatal shootout, Reinado directly implicated Gusmao in the 2006 mutiny, stating: “He (Gusmao) calls us bad people, but it was he who created us … He is the author of the petition. He was behind all of this. Now as a Prime Minister, he has changed his tune and is washing his hands. He has turned against us, those who were ordered and created by him. It was with his support that the petition emerged in the first place … I give my testimony as a witness, that Xanana is the main author of this crisis; he cannot lie or deny this.”

    While the DVD circulated widely in East Timor, it was banned from the government television station TVTL. It was barely reported in the Australian or international media. For whatever reason, it appears that Reinado decided to seek his revenge in a more direct manner, costing him his life.

    Increasing Australia’s military presence cannot increase stability in East Timor. Rather than a force for stability, the ISF has been a participant in fomenting violence and instability.

    The partisan and unaccountable nature of the ISF has made it a tool for political leverage. While in opposition, Rudd had argued that Australian forces in East Timor should be under UN command. Unfortunately, his decision to boost the unaccountable ISF suggests he intends to continue the previous government’s policy.

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