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La’o Hamutuk

Timor Leste: `Foreign soldiers should stay out of Timorese politics'

By La’o Hamutuk

March 11, 2010 -- La’o Hamutuk calls on the military and civilian commanders of Australian and other foreign soldiers in Timor-Leste to direct their soldiers to avoid involvement in local politics, including asking Timorese citizens their political views or encouraging them to identify with one political grouping or another.

We recently received the attached letter (also below) from Mr. Mateus Fernandes Sequeira, Chefe do Suco of Lore I (Lautem District), which describes Australian and New Zealand military observers inviting local residents to a community meeting on February 23. After arriving by helicopter, the soldiers asked the residents to raise their hands if they like the AMP [Alliance of the Parliamentary Majority coalition] government better than the previous one. In addition to this being none of Australia’s business, coercing people to publicly express their political leanings in this newly sovereign nation is dangerous and destructive. It can lead to violence or retaliation, undercutting the “stabilisation” that the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) is ostensibly here to secure.

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