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.
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)
East Timor series