Australia’s national interest versus Timor-Leste, 1941-2006
For more on East Timor, click HERE.
By Gaetano Greco, Francesco Faraci and Michael Cooke
In our Manichaean enthusiasms we in the West made haste to dispense whenever possible with the economic, intellectual and institutional baggage of the twentieth century and encouraged others to do so likewise... Not only did we fail to learn very much from the past – this would hardly have been remarkable. But we have become stridently insistent – in our economic calculations, our political practices, our international strategies, even our educational priorities – that the past has nothing of interest to teach us. Ours, we insist, is a new world; its risks and opportunities are without precedent. -- Tony Judt
December 10, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This historical fog is never more evident than when the discussion turns to one of our smallest neighbours: Timor-Leste. In a news item on ABC television on the 28th of August 2012, a group of Australian veterans in their nineties visited Timor-Leste to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battles that took place during WW2. There was no mention made of the huge sacrifices in lives and livelihood, of how the people of Timor harried the Japanese and protected our soldiers, in a war in which served Australian interests but not theirs.
They were just background against which our tragedies and triumphs were played. This selective historical amnesia was reinforced in the following current affair program, 7:30, which led with the news that elite Indonesian police officers trained by the Australian Federal Police were involved in the extra-judicial murder of a West Papuan independence activist. Apologists for our policy of military and security assistance produced the usual reason: we try to inculcate the notion of human rights - a justification associated with the training given by us and the United States of America (USA) to the Indonesian security services for over thirty years. The result was that the Indonesian armed forces were guilty of the gravest human rights violations in Aceh, West Papua, Ambon and Timor-Leste.
This paper’s central thesis is that a certain concept of the national interest, as defined by our political, intellectual and business elites, overrides in most cases the rights of people who live in the margins of our imaginations, like the inhabitants of Timor-Leste. The policy shifts (as in 1999) only when public opinion and the mass action of the electorate intervene and we see the collapse of authoritarian regimes like Suharto’s. This paper examines our elite’s interpretation of national interest in the light of our interaction with Timor-Leste during World War 2; the 24 year occupation by the Indonesians; our military and ‘humanitarian’ intervention in 1999; a critical re-examination of what led to the ousting in 2006 of Dr Mari Alkatiri, FRETILIN’s General Secretary, who was Prime-Minister at the time; and our ongoing relationship with Timor-Leste, which holds up a mirror to Australia’s conduct in relation to its foreign policy positions and actions in the international arena.
Days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 a contingent of 1,400 Australian soldiers, known as Sparrow Force, landed in Timor, violating the neutrality of Portugal, much to the annoyance of the Governor of East Timor at the time. Timor was an important strategic point between Australia and the American forces in the Philippines. By February 1942 the Japanese had landed and the Australians were forced to retreat into the countryside, fighting a rear-guard action with the support of rural Timorese and disaffected and exiled Portuguese. A commentary on the war observes:
During the early months, the success of the guerrillas in East Timor was only made possible by the support they received from the local Timorese who, risking execution by the Japanese acted as porters and guides and provided food and shelter.
The price they paid was incalculable. As the Department of Defence publication blandly states: ‘The Allied troops’ guerrilla campaign against the Japanese resulted in the loss of 40,000 to 70,000 Timorese lives’. We had a much larger population and yet only had 27,000 deaths in the European and Asian theatres of war combined. WW2 set the pattern. In pursuit of our national strategic interest we violated Portugal’s neutrality and landed troops, inviting a Japanese response. The Timorese and Portuguese who supported us paid a huge price and were then abandoned. Our government had no intention of supporting the East Timorese desire for independence. The status quo was restored and the Timorese were forgotten. When one of the soldiers (Steve) who had fought side by side with the Timorese asked in 1970 why they had been given no official recognition, he was told the military did not recognise ‘native troops’ as they were not part of the official army.
The ending of WW2 ushered in the Cold War between the USA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Australian elite allied itself firmly with the USA, an alliance which remained firm through the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict and the current ‘War on Terror’. The rhetoric of freedom and democracy hid a more venal agenda – the furthering of the business and strategic interests of the USA and its associates. If these interests clashed with the aspirations of the local population, as they did in Chile, Vietnam, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, Nicaragua etc., resort was had to proxy coups, friendly dictators and a never-ending series of dirty little wars. These, they hoped, would be kept from public view or brushed over by emphasis on the other side’s crimes. Hence Chomsky’s acid summary:
[F]or the USSR the Cold War has been primarily a war against its satellites, and for the USA a war against the Third World. For each, it has served to entrench a particular system of domestic privilege and coercion. The policies pursued within the Cold War framework have been unattractive to the general population which accepts them only under duress. Throughout history, the standard device to mobilise a reluctant population has been fear of an evil enemy dedicated to its destruction. The superpower conflict served the purpose admirably…
This war against the Third World was not going well for the USA in the post-war years: anti-colonial movements were rending the old European empires asunder, and this affected US interests. It is in this context one should see the acquiescence of Australia and the United States in the Indonesian annexation of Timor-Leste.
Asia has played a special role in Australia’s imagination and fears. We have always been terrified of being overrun by Asiatic hordes, bent on destroying the unique and ‘egalitarian’ white civilisation we worked so hard to build. So we invented policies like the notorious Dictation Test to keep them out. Echoes of this xenophobia can be seen in the hysterical over-reaction to refugees who come to the country by boat, a fear ably and maliciously fostered by Scott Morrison and Tony Abbot from the opposition frontbenches. Indonesia, populous and close, has periodically exercised our imagination as a potential invader. Our policy makers’ need to appease the Indonesians became paramount in the post-war years, as Indonesia was seen (and still is) as vital to our defence and is our most important strategic relationship in the Asian area.
As the Vietnam adventure went pear-shaped, Indonesia became even more important. It has a population of 248, 645,008 and consists of a large chain of islands comprising an area of 1,904,569 square kilometres. It is located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and straddles a sea route of enormous strategic and economic importance; thus a friendly, stable and pliant regime has always been essential for America’s geo-political and economic interests and, by default, ours.
But things were not always so secure during the rule of the politically neutral Sukarno with occasional tacit support from the large Indonesian Communist Party - Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI). The PKI was one of the largest Communist parties in the world at the time. In 1965, with the knowledge and support from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), General Suharto seized power. The army, helped by Islamic anti-communist groups, killed between 500,000 to 800,000 and jailed another million or so in a ten month period. It is this bloody incident that ushered in the corrupt and brutal rule of Suharto. The PKI was annihilated politically, and Suharto, his cronies and foreign commercial partners started pillaging the country’s riches. By the end of Suharto’s reign, his family were rich beyond the dreams of avarice. This was conveniently ignored by our mainstream media till the very end of the dictatorship. For the Indonesian people it must have been an intolerable burden. Richard Tanter:
Until the very last years of Suharto, public discussion of the killings was impossible – the topic was literally unspeakable. It was if citizens of Germany East and West had been unable to speak of the Holocaust from 1945 until the 1990s and then only with great caution.
Suharto unleashed his terror machine on those he deemed to be opponents of his New Order regime. At different times he set his security and intelligence forces on his erstwhile allies, the Islamic groups who were disappointed at the venality of the New Order, radical students, criminal gangs out of favour with their army handlers, human rights activists, and unionists who had the temerity to organise independently of government controlled unions. These bursts of violence served as a reminder to the populace that dissent was dangerous, perhaps fatally so. This terror was on full display on unruly provinces like West Papua and Aceh, converting civil disobedience over time into violent resistance.
Tanter characterises Suharto’s New Order economy, much vaunted at the time, as a ‘rentier economy’. In the domestic sphere it consisted largely of the allocation of resources under the auspices of the government. Successful bidders were the ones who had direct access to government officials, mostly senior military officers. The economy was not based on productive enterprises in the traditional sense, but on monopolistic control over the import of particular goods and services or on sole control of a natural resource. The use of state terror against progressive elements in Indonesian society, such as labour activists, was thus essential.
The second important feature of the economy was that the great bulk of the country’s income came from oil revenues and foreign aid. This, however, was not a lever ever used by international donors and customers like Australia and the USA to bring the regime into line. Tanter sees this arrangement as essential for Suharto’s longevity:
A government that can expand its activities without resorting to heavy taxation acquires an independence from the people seldom found in other countries. In political terms, the power of government to bribe pressure groups or coerce dissidents will be greater than otherwise.
Keeping this edifice intact were the Indonesian armed forces. Amnesty International characterises the Indonesian military as being set up to deal with domestic threats and disturbances, not international ones. Troops were deployed like a steel band across the archipelago, in city, town and hamlet. The army also had wide-ranging command over political, social and economic matters. It was supported by a number of elite units like Kopassus - Komando Pasukan Khusus (Special Forces Command) - who were serial human rights violators.
Timor-Leste is located at the eastern extremity of the Indonesian archipelago and approximately 718 kilometres from Darwin. It is about 480 kilometres long and around 100 kilometres across its widest girth, and covers an area of approximately 14,953 square kilometres. At the time of its invasion it had around 650,000 inhabitants. Timor-Leste did not commence its anti-colonial struggle in the 1970’s, though this was the first time the international community and media took notice. There was resistance since it was declared a Portuguese colony in 1702 - funu against the Portuguese, and fights amongst various chieftains, clans and ethnic groups. There were revolts against the traditional feudal structures and revolts by devotees of messianic leaders that predated annexation by the Portuguese. As the Portuguese Governor Affonso de Castro (1859-1863) wryly remarked: ‘Rebellion in Timor continues successively, leading us to conclude that revolt is a normal state and peace is exceptional’.
All these currents fused into the first modern anti-colonial movement on the island spearheaded by FRETILIN – Frente Revolucionaria do Timor-Leste Independente (Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor-Leste) in the 1970s. Their movement was helped when progressive sections of the Portuguese military, known as the Armed Forces Movement, staged a peaceful coup d’état in April 1974 (the Carnation Revolution) against the tottering fascist regime of General Caetano. They had been influenced by the very revolutionaries they had been sent to quell in places like Mozambique and Angola. Immediately they began to decouple Portugal from its empire. In May 1975, when FRETILIN won 55 per cent of the votes in local elections, the UDT – União Democratica Timorense - Timorese Democratic Union dropped out of the coalition and attempted a putsch. It failed, and they fled into the waiting arms of the Indonesian armed forces. A declaration of independence by FRETILIN on November 28 was followed by a massive invasion by the Indonesian armed forces on December 7.
On one side there was a dictatorship supported by us and propped up by the Indonesian armed forces, whose brutality towards their own citizens was in 1965 of genocidal proportions. On the other side you had a country with a long history of resistance and a band of young radical nationalists who, like many revolutionaries in Africa, Latin America and Asia with popular support, declared their intention to determine their own destiny. When they were allies of UDT they bluntly stated that “FRETILIN and the UDT are interpreting the will of the overwhelming majority of the People of East Timor for National Independence, thus we reject strongly any form of domination and our position is – INDEPENDENCE OR DEATH!”. The result, sadly, was not hard to predict.
The Indonesian forces illegally made incursions into the West of the country under the guise of anti-independence forces. They met with stiff resistance from FALINTIL – Forças Armadas de Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste (National Liberation Forces of East Timor). Later a main force consisting of between 20,000 and 30,000 Indonesian troops landed by ships and others were parachuted into Dili on December 7. This was also met with fierce resistance, resulting in many Indonesian soldiers being killed. Retaliation by the Indonesian soldiers was brutal, unleashing a reign of ruthless terror resulting in killings, raping, looting and burning. In the first two months of the invasion it was estimated that 60,000 Timorese had lost their lives. But given the sheer number of troops, superior artillery and the support of the Indonesian air-force and navy they wore down FALINTIL, who retreated to the mountains with the bulk of the population. By 1979, with the population being forcibly moved or used as shields against the resistance, with famine following the burning of crops, and constant bombing (all the armaments being provided by the USA) the genocidal death toll had reached around 200,000, out of a population of 650,000 before the invasion. Our government and the USA had full knowledge of the events and had periodically provided training to many Indonesian officers who took part in the invasion.
There are two main aspects to our government’s complicity. The first relates to its support of the invasion of Timor-Leste, the second to its knowledge of the bloodbath taking place just off our shores. Richard Woollcott, Australia’s ambassador at the time and later one of the most persistent supporters of the New Order regime and denier of its atrocities, sent a cable dated 17 August 1975 to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs five months before the invasion. It read as follows:
We are dealing with a settled Indonesian policy to incorporate Timor … What Indonesia now looks to from Australia in the present situation is some understanding of their attitude and possible action to assist public understanding in Australia rather than action on their part which could contribute to criticism of Indonesia … I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand but that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about.
Whitlam, prime-minister at the time, was a strong supporter of Suharto. In a meeting that took place in September 1974 in Java between him and the dictator he stated that he believed that Timor-Leste should be part of Indonesia and that this should happen with the consent of the inhabitants of the country. He also stressed his belief that an independent Timor-Leste was not an economically viable proposition. A contradictory position: when he was confronted with the invasion, he corrected the contradiction by ditching the self-determination of the people of Timor-Leste. His stridency on the issue nullified the doubts of his passive foreign minister Senator Don Willesee and the head of Foreign Affairs Alan Renouf. It seems he made decisions pertaining to Timor-Leste without reference to Cabinet or the parliamentary subcommittee on foreign affairs and defence.
Our government, embassy officials and the security apparatus knew more than they admitted. Two senior officials from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta were fully briefed that on the 16 October 1975 3,200 Indonesian soldiers, including the elite and deadly Kopassus, would illegally attack in three places across the border from West Timor, including Balibo where an Australian film crew was holed up. These and other briefings were made at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Djakarta, an academic think-tank which had strong ties with the upper echelons of the military, like Suharto’s son-in-law Major General Benny Murdani. The purpose of these briefings was to let the Australian government know beforehand what was to take place, so they could present it in the best light and to advise the Indonesians how much they could get away with. Woollcott and his officials from the embassy became so involved in this dirty game they neither remembered nor cared that five Australian journalistswere in the line of fire. They had access to key military personnel and indirectly to the dictator Suharto, yet did not intervene. Ball and McDonald:
So on the 16 October; Canberra went about its business, focused on the game of bluff between Whitlam and the Opposition leader Fraser, as the newsmen met their deaths in far-off Balibo that night. They went off, holding this terrible secret, to a cocktail party at the Lake side hotel followed by dinner at Government House for Malaysia’s Tun Razak.
Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), an important research and intelligence wing of our security establishment, had by the mid-seventies successfully intercepted and decrypted the Indonesian military signals and cables. They were also able to decrypt all Indonesian radio communications of diplomatic and political significance. American intelligence briefs published in 1982 showed that Australia and the USA had been aware of Indonesian invasion plans for many months. They had fully realised Djakarta’s determination to annex Timor-Leste and were aware of its government’s efforts to cover up the brutality of its officers. At no stage did any Australian government confront the Indonesian government, criticise it publicly or cajole it. Instead they provided justifications and support for Indonesia’s invasion in the media and international forums like the United Nations.
By the late 1980’s the armed resistance was corralled up in the hills, playing more a symbolic than a material and political role. By 1989 the Indonesia government felt confident enough to open up Timor-Leste to the world, seeking legitimacy for their annexation. Since the invasion the population had been educated in Bahasa, Indonesia’s main language. The number of tertiary students exponentially increased and quite a few went over to Indonesia to study. By the late 1980’s they were becoming increasingly politicized. Partially influenced by the Palestinian intifada taking place at the time, they engaged in a number of very effective non-violent civil disobedience protests to make known the plight of their country to the rest of the world. This climaxed in the Santa Cruz cemetery protest in 1991 where the Indonesian army’s brutality was broadcast around the world.
This event occurred when five thousand protesters, including many students, gathered to air their legitimate grievances. The strategy was to gain maximum publicity for their cause and at the same time avoid any clash with the military. They felt that if the protest took place in the environs of the Catholic Church and under the gaze of the international media they would be safe. After attending mass for a student who had been killed by the Indonesians, they marched to the cemetery chanting independence slogans. The Indonesian armed forces allowed them to enter the cemetery. The cemetery was surrounded by a high wall. Once the protestors entered the cemetery Indonesians troops began firing indiscriminately and killed 271 of the protesters and wounding countless more. All this was done under the gaze of journalists from several countries who were there to cover a Portuguese parliamentary delegation. Scores were executed while they lay wounded in their hospital beds. Gareth Evans, Foreign Minister at the time, described this as an ‘aberration’. Unperturbed, the Keating Government was awarding contracts under the Timor Gap treaty signed by Evans and the Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas in 1989, which had by then come to fruition.
Gareth Evans is considered by many of the intellectual glitterati as an antipodean Kissinger and struts the international stage like a cut-price Metternich. He has been a prominent member of international bodies like International Crisis Group and is currently honorary professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. The vanity of the man was captured well in Keating! The Musical. His self-importance was manifested at a seminar about the Arab Spring in Melbourne in March 2012. Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics at San Francisco University, reminded the audience of Evans' long and substantial support of Suharto’s dictatorship. Evans replied with expletives, yelling at Zunes and stating that such remarks deserved a ‘smack on the nose’. When asked about the embarrassing incident he quoted a previous imperialist: ‘As Clive of India said, I stand astonished by my own moderation’.
He is angry because we fail to see what he, as Australia’s ‘best foreign minister,’ was trying to achieve. Good relations with Indonesia were not, it seems the be-all and end-all of the policy. It was one that was both ‘realistic’ and idealistic’. Evans:
[P]rotecting our security. Advancing our prosperity. Solving problems like Cambodia, where Indonesia’s regional security mattered. Helping the fourth biggest Islamic country manage its own social, economic and political transformations. And not least, helping the people of East Timor.
Laudable and altruistic aims which were he said marred by his and the government’s naivety. The biggest mistake made by all governments since Whitlam, according to Evans, is what he terms the ‘congenitally over-optimistic belief in the Indonesian military’s capacity for redemption’ and our ability to influence it. He did not see anything ‘morally offensive’ in recognising Indonesian sovereignty over Timor-Leste, a decision ‘triggered’ by the need to secure Australian jurisdiction over part of Timor Sea. This, he hastens to add, would not stop us from recognising Timor-Leste as a self-governing territory entitled to self-determination, which at the time seemed impossible. He goes on to add that he did strongly condemn the massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery, but states that on the evidence available to him it was ‘an aberration, not an act of state policy.’
Gareth Evans’ defence of his actions, shorn of his urbanity, is replete with euphemisms. On reading the above one would think of an intelligent, articulate and idealistic statesman trying to get the best outcome for all the parties involved. His words hide a much harsher and morally suspect policy. After Whitlam, successive Australian governments (especially Keating’s) tried to build a close relationship with Suharto to further the geo-political interests of Australia and America and to provide business opportunities for our companies. By the 1980s Suharto’s history was known. Beginning with the bloody coup of 1965, Australian intelligence was able to eavesdrop on Indonesian communications and Australian authorities were aware of the intertwining of the Indonesian military, the New Order regime and Suharto’s business cronies.
If Evans did not have full knowledge of this, why did he not seek it? Nothing in his public statements at the time offered any concrete assistance to the Timorese; he signed a treaty with the Indonesians about oil and gas rights which excluded the Timorese, though he states that the Timorese once independent would get their share. He claims that at the time of the treaty there was no realistic hope for Timorese self-determination and that one of his intentions was to get a treaty to exploit the oil and gas sea beds. In return for the recognition of the illegal annexation of Timor-Leste, Australia got a giant share of the royalties. Our government’s lack of concern for the economic fate of the inhabitants of Timor-Leste was shown by the unfair conditions the subsequent Howard government wanted to impose on the oil and gas royalties in the post-independence period (which we will discuss later in this paper).
The times were certainly changing by the late 1980s. The USSR perestroika-ed itself out of existence, ushering in for many what seemed the end of history and the ascendancy of a particular form of liberal democracy – one in thrall to the ‘free market,’ with the fire sale of government assets, low taxation, unfettered capital movement, deregulated labour markets and the diminution of the role of national governments.
One of the success stories was the rapid economic growth of the Asian tigers. Phenomenal growth rates in the 1990s led many a commentator to wax lyrical about the joys of capitalism married to what they termed Asian values. As these countries either were dictatorships or authoritarian democracies with huge underlying social inequities and resultant social tensions, the addition of unfettered capitalism was going to come a cropper at some stage. More worryingly, these governments (with the exception of Malaysia) had abrogated their rights to control the flow of capital in and out of their the economy, meaning that when a crisis came the explosive dialectics of uncommitted capital, latent social tensions and authoritarianism could bring the enterprise to a chaotic end.
Yet the economic indices for Indonesia, according to those in the know, looked good. The country had a healthy trade surplus, huge foreign reserves and a stable banking sector. The local currency, the rupiah, was linked to the dollar. The economy being strong, the rupiah was favourably balanced against the US dollar. Many Indonesian firms had borrowed in American dollars. However markets can display an ‘irrational exuberance’ that can dismay even its most fervent apostles, like the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve in the USA, Allan Greenspan. Suddenly international capital started pulling out its money, leading to the Asian Flu and an economic tsunami for Indonesia. By 1998 over 11,000 rupiah bought only one 1USD and the Indonesian GDP shrank by 13.5 per cent. The IMF intervened and demanded massive cuts in government expenditure, which exacerbated the situation. Unemployment rose, economic hardship became endemic, and prices increased dramatically. This reinvigorated the democratic forces within the country. Suharto resisted for a while, then complied with the dictates of the IMF. He was forced to resign and the mercurial and unpredictable Dr B.J. Habibie took his place.
Suharto, like dictators before and after him did not go out gently into the night. The masses having lost their fear forced him out. There were riots and public protests. In particular, students at various universities started to organise and a number of mass protests ensued. The armed forces, the faithful servant of the regime, swung into action and started to abduct torture and kill many of the political activists. In these lawless times the ethnic Chinese became scapegoats for the economic and social ills befalling the country. Many Chinese women and children became targets of a systematic campaign of murder and rape. More than 1,100 were killed in Djakarta. This was done in the full view of the media, both local and international. Yet the protests continued and grew, drawing many of Suharto’s supporters into the opposition's bosom.
Habibie surprised many, including the Howard government and the Indonesian military, when in early 1999 he announced that he was going to hold a plebiscite on whether the people of Timor-Leste wanted independence or integration with Indonesia. This was a view which some in his cabinet and advisors felt needed to be put, and was not surprising given the depth of the economic crisis. Timor by 1998 was costing the government $1 million dollars a day (the majority being swallowed up by the occupation forces), money the government could ill afford. The military came round, thinking that, given the high numbers of Timorese who voted for the ruling party at the recent elections, there would be a comfortable majority in favour of integration.
A process was negotiated, to be put in place under the auspices of the United Nations (U.N.). The Indonesians were adamant that they would provide the security, which they proceeded to do with a vengeance. Eyewitness and intelligence reports all pointed to the fact the Indonesian military and their local stooges created an atmosphere of terror and intimidation. Regardless of this, 78.5 per cent of the population voted for independence, the trigger for a (widely televised) campaign of terror. This was done partly to get FALINTIL to come down from the mountains and engage with the Indonesian forces, thus giving the latter an excuse to remain and restore order between the rival forces of integration and independence. The violence put pressure on the Australian government to intervene militarily to restore order, which they did in 20 September 1999, officially ending 24 years of Indonesian rule.
The Howard government did not intervene willingly. Clinton Fernandes shows how Alexander Downer, foreign minister at the time, with the help of Howard and some in the foreign service, did all he could to not only avoid intervention but to support the Indonesian government and the military.
The Howard government had played on Australians' fear of foreigners, especially those of the Islamic faith, and had shown a slavish devotion to the imperial adventures of the USA and an almost evangelical adherence to the dictates of free market theology and anti-labour laws and statutes. To shift this government’s support of the Indonesian government and its military would require more than rhetorical persuasion and the moral aptness of intervening. The offer of a plebiscite, America’s waning support of the annexation of Timor-Leste and the growing movement in Australia and across the globe all played a part in forcing the government to change its mind.
The Howard government continued Keating’s policy of denying refugee status to the Timorese. They did this by disingenuously claiming that the Timor-Leste refugees were dual citizens of Indonesia and Portugal. It did not matter a jot to the government that the Timorese did not see themselves as Portuguese citizens or that Portugal did not give citizenship to those who did not want it. In November 1996 there was an international conference in Malaysia on Timor-Leste attended by many Australian delegates. It was disrupted by a group of thugs from the ruling party and watched by the police. Instead of pointing out that the delegates had not broken any Malaysian laws, Alexander Downer chastised them. When Ramos-Horta and Bishop Belo received their Nobel peace prize the Howard government boycotted the ceremony.  All these incidents signalled Australia’s firm support of the illegal annexation of Timor-Leste.
Whilst Habibie was having his Hamlet moment on Timor-Leste (the question being whether to offer a plebiscite on autonomy or independence) the Howard government was doing its best to down-play the idea of independence. Once Habibie announced he was going to fast-track the vote the Howard government was forced to backtrack.
Most shameful was the Howard government’s complicity in the Indonesian strategy in enhancing the vote for integration. The Indonesian military created, armed and unleashed a group of pro-integration thugs, with the full support of the Indonesian army. Sam Pietsch argues that there was another reason for the violence: to prevent the further break-up of Indonesia and signal to critics of the status quo (trade unionists, human rights activists and the proponents of democracy) that there were limits. Fernandes summarises the four arguments used in support of the Indonesian military monopoly on security and against international scrutiny of the terror that was unfolding:
Deny the atrocity, and say the facts are unclear.
When proof of the atrocity is provided, say that there was violence on both sides.
When it becomes clear that only the Indonesian military was engaging in violence, claim that it was ‘rogue elements’.
Continue to insist that the military is only ‘keeping the warring factions apart’.
As with the 1975 invasion, the Australian government worked hand in glove with the Indonesians. As the massacres committed by the militia and the Indonesian government came to light they used the above strategy to muddy the waters. Operation Spitfire was put in place by the Australian military whilst the tragedy was unfolding. Its aim was to evacuate Australian citizens once the ballot result was announced, but not to provide a buffer for the inhabitants of Timor-Leste against the Indonesian army’s brutality. They did not want to send armed Australian peacekeepers because they considered it was not safe, yet at the same time in their public statements were saying that the Indonesian military had the situation in hand. The truth was being relayed by DSD. They provided direct evidence of the Indonesian army’s complicity in the atrocities which any senior government member could access.
What did the government do when faced with the irrefutable proof of the atrocities? It tried to silence those who were bravely trying to tell the truth. In September 2000 the Australian Federal Police raided the homes of Dr Fernandes and Dr Philip Dorling. Dr Dorling had been providing advice to Laurie Brereton when he was Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs. It also tried to prevent a human rights NGO in Timor-Leste (Forum Ta Matan) that had been critical of the Australian Government from receiving any government money. The amount was a paltry $65,830, though a vital sum for the NGO. The head of the Australian aid program at the time, Peter Ellis, who worked under the auspices of AusAID and Foreign Affairs, was asked not only to provide false reasons for refusing the funding but also to maintain a secret blacklist for future funding decisions. Ensuring the government was not embarrassed was the real reason for not providing the funding (i.e. plausible deniability).
In the meantime the Clinton administration was coming under pressure from some of its more influential legislators, like the late Edward Kennedy. The need to forge links with the new democratic forces emerging in Indonesia meant that it was no longer necessary to support Suharto and his cronies or the Indonesian claim to Timor-Leste. More importantly, people in Australia got tired of their government’s lies. Huge rallies were organised in the major cities and news reports on radio, print and television drenched us with the horror unfolding. Around 77 per cent of the Australian population supported some sort of military intervention. The Howard government realised that with the Indonesians leaving Timor-Leste it needed to have sort of military and diplomatic presence in the area to shore up our strategic interest. It reluctantly cobbled together an international force of peacekeepers in which Australian soldiers played a primary role. They intervened, but not before the Indonesian forces had destroyed most of the country’s infrastructure, killed two thousand civilians and forced over a quarter of a million Timorese to move to West Timor (in Indonesia). With international intervention in the form of peacekeepers, the departure of the Indonesian army and with the help of the United Nations, the country was preparing for its long-held dream of independence. It seemed the future would be bright for this young country.
It was not to be. Even with the help of the United Nations, the nation-building came unstuck in 2006. Long simmering tensions in the capital Dili erupted: open conflict between the police and the army, the sacking of 591 army soldiers, the mutiny of a band of soldiers led by the enigmatic Major Renaldo. All this resulted in the resignation of Alkatiri as prime minister on 26 June 2006. He was replaced by Jose Ramos-Horta; 23 civilians, 12 police officers and soldiers were dead, 150,000 people were displaced from their homes and were living in makeshift camps. Fifteen per cent of the children in the camps suffered from malnutrition and 57 per cent of the adult population had lost their primary source of livelihood. In addition 1,650 houses had been destroyed.  Who was to blame for this and what were the reasons for such a tragedy?
Professor Kingsbury, whilst acknowledging that poverty was an important factor, blames the FRETILIN government for poor economic decisions like using the US dollar as currency and thus exacerbating the economic situation. He goes on to state that allegations of corruption, nepotism and smuggling undermined the government’s legitimacy. It was authoritarian in its conduct and there was a lack of tolerance of dissenting views, as reflected in the poor relations between the Prime-Minister Alkatiri and the President Xanana Gusmao. The FRETILIN government seemed ‘distant, combative and largely unaccountable’. There must be proper mechanisms to alleviate grievances and social conflict. National unity was harmed by making Portuguese the national language, instead of Bahasa Melayu (largely Indonesian) which was spoken by many more. Two key state institutions failed: the police and the defence forces. They were security threats from local gangs and ‘self-defence’ groups. All these could undermine democracy in Timor-Leste, leaving it on the path to being a ‘failed state.
The U.N.’s report is also very critical, especially with regard to the behaviour of Alkatiri during the crisis. The then Prime Minister, it states, must bear a large share of the responsibility for the mayhem that ensued because of his decision making, speeches and leadership. His reluctance to impose his authority and rescind the decisions made by other members of his cabinet displayed a lack of authority and desire to discipline. The Australian’s Greg Sheridan is even blunter in his accusations:
Certainly if Alkatiri remains Prime Minister of East Timor, this is a shocking indictment of Australian impotence. If you cannot translate the leverage of 1,300 troops, 50 policemen, hundreds of support personnel, buckets of aid and a critical international rescue mission into enough influence to get rid of a disastrous Marxist Prime Minister, then you are just not very skilled in the arts of influence, tutelage, sponsorship and ultimately the national interest.
We are not sure if he is concerned about the national interest of the Timorese or that of our elite. One of the constant criticisms of FRETILIN and in particular of its General Secretary is they are Marxist and thus their beliefs are inimical to democratic processes. This view is given more urbane expression by Professor Kingsbury, who says that ‘many of the key members of the government spent their exile in Mozambique, which has a poor reputation for democratic practice (until 1992 it was a one-party state), respect for the rule of law, or the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary’. Behaviour, it seems, which was replicated by the FRETILIN government.
The facts, as usual, are more complex.
Dr Helen Hill points out that Mozambique was the only country that gave Timorese scholarships to prepare and study for an eventual return to an independent Timor-Leste. Six members of the cabinet had important careers in Mozambique, where they had practical experience in leadership and policy making, skills not developed by those educated in the Indonesian system. Mari Alkatari has an academic background in economics and law and, like Ramos-Horta, spent many years lobbying for the cause of independence. He was one of the few Timorese at the time with the ability to negotiate and did achieve more favourable terms and conditions on the Timor Sea agreement, which of course would have irritated the Australian negotiators like Downer. The language issue was not unilaterally decided by FRETILIN. All the major political parties at the time supported it and it was two FRETILIN parliamentarians who ensured Tetum (a major indigenous language) was added as the other national language. Ultimately any other language chosen would have been controversial, as there are many oral dialects which could not be used in a functioning state.
The demonisation off Mari Alkatari (wily, Marxist, arrogant) is in sharp contrast with the description of Xanana Gusmao (the President at the time) who is seen as charismatic and less abrasive and with his photogenic Australian wife is described in the Australian press as being ‘universally loved and admired,’ a ‘circuit-breaker’ etc. The United Nations report indirectly reflects this adulation and puts the primary blame of the crisis on Alkatiri. It is critical of a Presidential speech made by Gusmao but goes on to say he acted in an appropriate way and dismisses allegations of links between him and the rebel soldiers led by Major Renaldo. We beg to differ.
Gusmao, by the time FRETILIN was in government, found himself out of sympathy with it and more supportive of the conservative parties who were congenitally hostile to FRETLIN and their aims. The prime minister and the President disliked each other, making any working relationship almost impossible. The President in Timor-Leste has, like our Governor-General, a ceremonial position, and is supposedly above parliamentary politics. Gusmao did not always act within these boundaries and when he did intervene political tensions were raised. The United Nations report dismissed the allegation of a close relationship with Major Renaldo and his soldiers, who were openly in conflict with the FRETILIN government. The distinguished reporter John Martinkus has had a look at the letter the President sent to Major Renaldo; he does not see the contents as being benign and feels the President has a case to answer. The letter spoke of close and cordial relationship between the two men. In an interview Martinkus conducted with Major Renaldo and his armed supporters under the benign gaze of Australian soldiers (who for a long time were reluctant to capture him):
He (Renaldo) proclaimed he was not a rebel and he was still a member of the army and had a right to carry weapons as he was still under the orders of the Supreme Commander of the armed forces Xanana Gusmao.
The ease with which he escaped from prison, when together with 56 other fellow mutineers, he simply walked out, and the fact that he conducted an interview near the President’s house in Dili, shows there might be more than a sliver of truth in his contentions: a view reinforced by Kirsty Sword Gusmao on ABC radio in which she stated that he was incorrectly being portrayed as a rebel. She went on to say that ‘when he defected from the military police, it was a protest action against what he saw as terrible violations committed by our armed forces’. The President has remained silent on the contents of the letter he sent to Major Renaldo and the Major’s subsequent statements. The issues relating to the crisis of 2006 are much more complex than those preoccupying some Australian commentators.
In the end, arguments about who did what to whom trivialise the problems facing developing countries like Timor-Leste. These problems relate to the administrative arrangements set up by the international community and how suitable they are for poor rural-based economies. The question left unexamined is how a certain type of liberal democracy based on the market and free trade fits the needs of states like post-independence Timor-Leste.
With the end of the Cold War a number of humanitarian interventions and nation-building projects took place in places as diverse as Bosnia, Cambodia, and Kosovo. Katherine Green in a recent paper saw the UN intervention in Timor-Leste as ‘deeply flawed’ as it replicated the old colonial top-down approach. It was good in dealing with ‘macro-level tension and ignored the grassroots causes of the violence.’
Joel C. Beauvais argues that there was a contradiction between the UN’s short-term administration of Timor-Leste and the long-term objective of preparing the people of Timor-Leste for self-government. This was exacerbated by pressure from its donors like Australia and Portugal for quick results on their investments. This led to more and more projects being controlled by the UN instead of being left to the Timorese.
The key question is how, in the short term, notions of good governance, democracy, an accountable bureaucracy and the rule of law can be established when we, with over a hundred years of experience, have still problems in that respect. A pertinent example is our mandarins’ blatant disregard for the right of Timor-Leste to self-determination. The situation becomes even more complex in the case of Timor-Leste whose inhabitants had for 24 years, endured a violent, corrupt and anti-democratic regime imposed by the Indonesian army, preceded by hundreds of years of Portuguese rule. The dominant political formations that developed had no basis for unity except their opposition to Indonesian rule, with a formidable minority having tenuous links with the Indonesian bureaucracy and armed forces. The antipathy between Gusmao and FRETILIN was well known. The other main grouping at the time was the UDT, who had been bitter enemies of FRETILIN in the pre-invasion phase. There was also a certain amount of tension between the Portuguese speaking expatriates and the Bahasa speaking students who had spearheaded the drive for independence in the 1980s and 1990s. None of this was fully understood by the mandarins in the UN.
In the end the UN administration developed its own capacity to function as a de facto state and made secondary the aim of preparing the fledgling country for statehood. The U.N. did consult by creating a non-democratic consultative forum to advise them on nation-building issues. Xanana Gusmao had a very good working relationship with Viera de Mello, the head of the U.N. in Timor-Leste at the time. It was reported that he and his confidantes were engaged in drafting a constitution before the elections and that other members of the consultative committee had been excluded. Beauvais:
Engagement with one or a small set of political leaders risks elite ‘capture’ of the participation process. This issue is particularly problematic in East Timor where there is a popular perception that a Dili based elite dominates the political process. 
This forced many of the excluded parties to form parallel processes which had the potential to lead to conflict.
Good governance, democracy and the rule of law in order to flourish need not only an institutional framework but a material context to sustain them. When the Indonesian army and their militias left, much the country’s infrastructure lay in ruins. It needs to be reiterated: the Indonesian army and its proxies forcibly moved approximately 300,000 people to West Timor, while displacing two thirds of the population; they burned, looted and blew up most of the country’s infrastructure, homes, water supplies, government buildings; schools, banks, stores, irrigation systems; 100 per cent of the electricity grid lay in ruins; and many doctors and administrators had left. Timor-Leste had a near complete absence of government structures and formal institutions.
The social indices under the UN administration remained abysmal. Officially the unemployment rate was 43 per cent; unofficially it was closer to 70 per cent. Per capita income was US$370 a year. It was estimated that 44 per cent of Timorese subsisted on less than one dollar a day. The presence of the U.N. and lack of basics made Dili the eighth most expensive city in Asia.
There was also a glaring income disparity between the Timorese and the UN administrators which was reflected in the amount of money spent: $692 million on the UN administration and just $59 million on the inhabitants of Timor-Leste. Australia had one of the biggest presences in Timor-Leste. It spent around $3.5 billion on its military and police deployment, which met our elite’s strategic interests, and just $150 million on humanitarian aid. Exacerbating this was the fact that many Timorese were not being employed in the administration; the U.N. favoured international personnel. These were paid first-world salaries and generous bonuses, something which lessened the legitimacy of the UN in the eyes of many Timorese.
Most of the displaced people came to live in Dili, where there was a chronic housing shortage. Compounding this, a small group of Timorese from the east had taken tenancy of many of the houses and were renting them at rates beyond what most Timorese could afford. Timor-Leste is a predominantly rural country where people’s ties are to family, clan and village. With the departure of the Indonesians, the sense of national unity frayed and old pre-colonial tensions re-surfaced. There has been a simmering conflict between the east (firaku) and the west (kaladi) of the country that predated the Portuguese, reflected in the electoral reality that most of the east of the country votes for FRETILIN and the west does not. The UN administration did not see economic redevelopment and sorting out problems of land ownership as priorities, with the result that a number of violent incidents and riots took place in Dili. These tensions infected the police and army and eventually led to the tragic incidents of 2006.
Many commentators on Timor-Leste have looked forensically at democracy at the local level and how the failure to build essential services like health, education and basic infrastructure can lead to the ‘fragility’ of the state. They have also examined the appropriateness of multiparty politics in Timor-Leste. All these scholarly articles enhance our understanding of history, anthropology and current academic, political and social theory as it applies to Timor-Leste. We do not disagree with their broad outline and their treatment of some of the issues they canvass, but we feel that a number of key economic and political assumptions have not been critically examined.
Like those commentators we think it is essential for a state to have robust political institutions, a strong economic base underpinned by social equity; if not, discontent is engendered, leading to a crisis of legitimacy. Until the 1980s the traditional model of development could be described as a national industrialisation model, where tariffs, subsidies and government intervention helped to buffer and develop these countries’ economies. The only difference being that the more radical the regime, the more interventionist the state was. But with the rise of market based economics, deregulated (i.e. non-unionised) labour markets and the disappearance of Keynesian economics, a different model was developed. Neoliberals have argued that greater integration into the global economy allows a country to develop what it is best at, and to import those commodities and services where its efficiency is inferior. The best way to do this, they say, is through the private sector, which (it was hoped) would provide the bulk of new jobs and wealth in Timor-Leste. It was estimated that by 2007, 40,000 new jobs would be created in the private sector and 55,000 more in agriculture. The government would abstain from regulating prices and developing certain sectors of the economy. It was also decided that the currency would be the US dollar.
Most of the economic activity was generated by the UN administration and was centred on Dili. The city grew by around 10 per cent a year, resulting in overcrowding and social tensions in a city that only recently had been shattered and burnt out by the Indonesians. Rents and the cost of electricity rose, making it a very expensive city to live in. The only jobs available for the Timorese were for those who were well educated and fluent in English or Portuguese, a tiny percentage of the population then as now. By 2004 unemployment in Dili was a shade under 30 per cent and for those under twenty nine rose to 43.4 per cent. The private sector was unable or unwilling to develop and generate the requisite number of jobs. Start-up costs and running a business were high - 30 per cent and 50 per cent higher respectively than in their nearest trading neighbours. The situation in agriculture was even worse, with the price of staples like rice increasing dramatically. Government intervention in terms of subsidies, training and development was almost non-existent. Government expenditure on agriculture was only 2.1 per cent of total expenditure. As a result Timorese farmers could not develop the economies of scale required by neoliberalism and were unable to compete with rice producers from Thailand, who were subsidised by their government. With the country’s currency tied to the US dollar it did not even have the means of using monetary policy to reduce costs and increase competitiveness.
The FRETILIN government, faced with this instrumentalist view of nation building, tried to alleviate some of its gross inequities. This resulted in donor countries like Australia demonising FRETILIN and their ‘wily and hard-line undemocratic Marxist’ prime minister Mari Alkatiri .
Before we look at these areas of disagreement we need to examine the political formation of FRETILIN. In the early and mid-seventies FRETILIN, like other new left-wing formations in Sri Lanka, India and South America, had a radical agenda that emphasised anti-colonialism, independence, alleviation of poverty, land reform, health and social justice. This, if one takes out the anti-colonial rhetoric, military uniforms, fondness for slogans and solidarity with other oppressed nations, was no different from the social policies followed by the Whitlam government. The leading cadres of FRETILIN came mostly from urban middle-class backgrounds and immediately established a democratic platform to appeal to the agrarian majority. They did this by song, education campaigns, proclamations and meetings at the village level. The refrain was that the nation’s future was in the hands of the rural people. Moxham:
They subverted the term Maubere – a derogatory label for highland peasants – elevating into a source of national pride. ‘Mauberism’ stood for the struggle against hunger and colonialism itself.’
It was this connexion and the heady idea of the people determining their own destiny which delivered FRETILIN the votes that won it the first election in 1975 and subsequently in 2002.
This economic nationalist agenda was incompatible with the neoliberal assumptions and structures imposed by the UN and donor countries like Australia. Gusmao and to a lesser extent Horta were more accommodating. FRETILIN always wanted to fuse the consciousness of the peasantry to the notion of economic and political autonomy. Gusmao on the other hand wanted to unify groups that were politically inimical to each other: the church, the student movement, the mostly middle-class diaspora and those Timorese who had made some sort of accommodation with the Indonesians but now supported an independent Timor-Leste. Once independence was achieved this coalition quickly fragmented into pro and anti-FRETILIN groups, the latter (a majority) becoming a formation that Gusmao ultimately led. This political formation was seen as more accommodating to the neoliberal project of nation building.
Tim Anderson pinpoints the key areas of contention: the unfair demands made by the Australian government for access to resources such as oil and gas reserves, with the FRETILIN government’s fight to assert sovereignty over these resources; the insistence of the IMF and the Australian Government on the private enterprise path to development and the FRETILIN government’s attempt to avoid this by forging alliances with Portugal and China which were seen as inimical to Australia’s ‘strategic’ interests.
The Howard Government described itself as generous when it changed the 50-50 share of oil and gas reserves in the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea to 80-20 in favour of Timor-Leste. This was to pre-empt a legal challenge to its share of the resources. Alkatiri managed to change the percentage to 90-10. Just before the signing was to take place the Australian government unilaterally withdrew from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction over maritime boundary disputes. This was done not because of the above deal but because of the Greater Sunrise gas field, of which only 20% was covered by the previous agreement. The revenue from this gas field was $38 billion, of which Australia was claiming $30 billion. The government of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmao and the people of Timor-Leste felt they were being robbed. Alkatiri refused to back down, though Downer tried to lecture him on ‘realpolitik’. Alkatiri asked Petro China and Italian companies to bid to develop these reserves. This alarmed the USA and irritated the Howard Government, which had promised to develop a refinery in Darwin. By 2006 the Howard government blinked and agreed that Australia would share the revenue equally. This did not prevent the Timorese government from preparing contracts not only with the Chinese but with an Italian company. Before these could come to fruition the FRETILIN government had collapsed. The 50-50 share remained. Let it be remembered also with regard to our contribution to the development of Timor that since 1999 Australia has taken more than 2 billion dollars from outside the Joint Petroleum Area, which is closer to Timor than Australia.
Agriculture and its development are vital to the development of countries like Timor-Leste. The countryside is where most people live and work. It is also important given the fragility of the food supply and with a population living on the verge of penury and malnutrition. It is therefore important to rebuild rural infrastructure. During the period of UN tutelage (1999-2002) the Timorese asked for money to rebuild destroyed rice fields, build grain silos and public abattoirs. These were denied by the World Bank, as the proposal was inimical to its concept of nation building. Money was available, of course, for corporate welfare and privatisation, but not for discredited ‘socialist projects’. Since 2002 Australia has, through its aid agencies like AusAID, pushed an agricultural policy appropriate to our commercial agricultural interests (we are a huge food exporting country) but not those of Timor-Leste. In forums like the Cairns group of Agricultural exporters, Australia has been insistent, almost shrill, on the virtues of trade liberalisation and greater market access to developing countries. The argument is that this will greatly benefit developing economies. Alkatiri’s government ignored this, tried to improve domestic food production, and increased rice production from 37,000 tons in 1998 to 65,000 tons in 2004. These gains were dissipated once the crisis of 2006 ensued.
This has left Timor-Leste in a very precarious position when it comes to food security and the possibility of increasing agricultural revenue. Timor-Leste is dependent on food imports. Rice is a staple food for the inhabitants of Timor-Leste, yet they only produce 37 per cent of their needs and import the rest. Coffee has been since colonial times the main cash crop of Timor-Leste. Twenty-five per cent of the population is partially dependent on coffee for a livelihood, with 16 per cent dependent to a ‘significant’ degree. Coffee plantations were by the beginning of the 21st century recovering from their expropriation by the Indonesian army’s senior officer corps and the subsequent destruction of plants and infrastructure. The price of coffee dropped by half between 1998 and 2001 and is still low. Timor-Leste’s share of the world crop trade is miniscule, less than one tenth of one per cent, so its ability to affect the market is low. It is, in economic jargon, a ‘price taker,’ not a ‘price setter’. The price setters are the middlemen who determine the price paid to farmers. This reduction in the price of coffee, the primitive infrastructure and no economic protection or subsidies has contributed to the dismal social indices of the country. Joseph Nevins:
The loss in coffee-related income over the last few decades has contributed to East Timor’s designation as Asia’s poorest country by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a May 2002 report. It is also one of the 20 poorest countries in the world.
This neoliberal form of nation building is just as stark when it comes to the provision of health. Even in a rich first world country like ours, the health system frays at the edges. Emergency departments in our large public hospitals resemble on some weekends a war zone, with a small band of dedicated health professionals keeping things going. Costs are cut, yet administrators receive high salaries. It is vital for countries like Timor-Leste not to replicate our blunders. The model they followed was the Cuban one: this had its genesis in a meeting between Cuban and Timor-Leste’s leaders during a non-aligned summit held in Kuala Lumpur in 2003. At the end of 2003 Timorese medical students went to study in Cuba, and a small group of Cuban doctors arrived in 2004.
When Mari Alkatiri as prime minister visited Cuba, the Cuban President at the time, Fidel Castro, made a formal offer of one thousand scholarships and a brigade of 300 health workers, which would give Timor-Leste a ratio of one doctor to a thousand: a huge commitment from a small cash-strapped state like Cuba compared to our own. Cuba is recognised by reasonable people as having an excellent and well-run health service which they have exported very successfully to countries like Venezuela. A model, therefore, well suited to needs of a country like Timor-Leste. Tim Anderson:
First, the health training is at a well-recognised international standard of technical excellence. Second the program is oriented to the needs of developing countries, focusing on rural, primary and preventive elements, and making more use of human resources than expensive technology. Third the program is systematic, aiming to build public health systems, and not simply provide project aid or individual training. Fourth, the ethos of training prepares students as public spirited community health workers rather than medical entrepreneurs…
Cuban doctors in Timor-Leste earn US$200 a month plus housing and allowances. This is only a fraction of the salary earned by doctors who come to Timor-Leste from other countries. We saw how successful this collaboration when we visited the major public hospital in Dili in July this year.
We are not arguing that the tension between the FRETILIN government and the neoliberal policies of the Australian Government led to an Australian coup d’état, though the changeover certainly suited the economic and strategic interests of our elite. We are certainly arguing that to blame FRETILIN and its authoritarian tendencies and poor governance for the crisis in 2006 is unfair. It leaves out a much more important and pertinent issue - the aptness of the current neoliberal version of nation building and the resultant tensions and economic dislocations.
In looking at our elite’s relationship with Timor-Leste two things stand out. First, a great deal of scepticism is needed when our political leaders, both Liberal and Labour, talk of introducing democracy and accountability in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is sadly always a more venal agenda. Second, we should be trying to help the society itself to heal, and to do this fair play is needed. The Timorese political elite have been silent on this, but so have we.
In order to bring such a change in spirit, mind and action a good degree of self-reflexivity and mutual respect is fundamental to accept and bring forward a more active and responsible ethical approach. From this perspective justice is central to nation building of countries like Timor-Leste, marked as they are by invasion and conflict. Given the scale of the devastation there is not a family in Timor-Leste that has not suffered the loss of one or more a loved ones. In many cases several. Healing requires historical memory, acceptance, not revenge. Justice involves not only bringing the main perpetrators to trial but also a critical look at the structures and processes that encourage such barbarity, including the present behaviour of the Indonesian military in places like West Papua. We have a duty to force our political and business elite to make public the misdeeds of our neighbours and allies and to prosecute the perpetrators. At the same time we can agitate to develop more transparent political processes to hold our elite accountable for what they do in our name. We can do no less.
Such is life
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Nevins, Joseph (2003) Restitution over coffee: truth and reconciliation, and environmental violence in East Timor in Political Geography 22.
Pietsch, Sam. (2010) Australian imperialism and East Timor Marxist interventions 2, 2010 p 14. Retrieved: www.anu.edu.au/polsci/mipietsch.pdf
Pilger, John (1998) Hidden Agendas. Vintage Press.
Pilger, John (2000) A voice that shames those who are silent on Timor: 23 July 2000. Retrieved: http://johnpilger.com/articles
Pilger, John (2012) East Timor: why the poorest threaten the powerful in The Drum April 2012. Retrieved: www.abc.neuau/unleashed/3933544.html
Pinto, Constancio (2001) The Student Movement and the Independence Struggle in East Timor: An Interview in editors Tanter, Richard Selden, Mark & Shalom, Stephen R. Bitter Flowers, Sweet Flowers – Indonesia, And The World Community .Pluto Press.
Plain Facts about Australia and East Timor’s Maritime Boundary March 2005. East Timor Action Network. Retrieved: www.etan.org
Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste Geneva, 2 October 2006. Retrieved: www.ohcr.org/Documents/Countries/COITimorLeste.pdf
Sheridan, Greg (2006) Throw troops at Pacific failures. The Australian June 3, 2006 Retrieved: http://www.theAustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867.19347867-601,00.html
Shoesmith, Dennis (2012) Is Small Beautiful? Multiparty Politics and Democratic Consolidation in Timor-Leste in Asian Politics and Policy-Volume 4, Number:1.
Tanter, Richard (2001) East Timor and the Crisis of the Indonesian Intelligence State in editors: Tanter. Richard, Selden, Mark & Shalom, Stephen R, Bitter Flowers Sweet Flowers East Timor, Indonesia and the World Community.
 Judt, Tony (2009). Reappraisals - Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. Vintage Books p. 2.
 March, Stephanie (2012). Australian veterans visit WWII battlegrounds in East Timor. Retrieved from: www. Net.au/news/2012-08-28/an-darwin….timor/42228738
 Cooper, Hayden and Main, Lisa (2012). A counter terrorism unit trained and supplied by Australia is accused of acting as a ‘death squad’ in Indonesia’s West Papua province – 7:30 28/08/12. Retrieved from: www.abc.netau/7:30/
 Op. cit. Written response from the Australian Federal Police. They first try to dismiss the allegations, saying that previous allegations were 'unfounded or misreported’. They then say that they have no ‘mandate’ to investigate foreign police forces in a foreign, sovereign country. Their bland conclusion is that ‘the principles of human rights are embedded in JCLEC programs and police and police accountability is incorporated into scenario-based activities’.
 See Nairn, Allan (2001). U.S. Support for the Indonesian Military: Congressional Testimony in Tanter, Richard; Selden, Mark; Shalom, Stephen R. (eds.). Bitter Flowers Sweet Flowers – East Timor, Indonesia, and the World Community. Pluto Press, pp. 163-172, in particular p. 171.
 Fall of Timor - Retrieved from: www.Ww2australia.gov.au/japadvance/timor.html
 A Short History of East Timor (2002). Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 3 January 2006. Retrieved: 3 January 2007.
 Long, Gavin (1963). The Final Campaign. Australia in the War 1939-45. Series 1 – Army Canberra: Australia War Memorial.
 A more detailed history of this period is contained in Gunn, Geoffrey (1999), History of Timor. Centro de Estudos sobre Africa e do Desenvolvimento Universidado de Lisboa pp. 121- 131.
 Pilger, John (1998). ‘Anzac Day,’ in Hidden Agendas, Vintage Press, p. 252.
 For a revisionist view of US foreign policy, which reveals its self-serving economic and strategic interests, see Chomsky, N. (1991), Deterring Democracy, Verso, pp. 1-68.
 Op. cit. Chomsky, p. 28.
 Hobsbawn, Eric. (1995). The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991. Abacus. In particular pp. 199-224 for a brief summary of what Hobsbawn terms the End of Empires.
 McQueen, Humphrey (2004). A New Britannia. University of Queensland Press, pp. 1-72. A short, caustic and amusing demolition of the official view of Australian history. He shows the deep seam of xenophobia and racism under the fair dinkum-mateship ethos. It seems our egalitarian traditions did not involve the coloured man or woman, or for that matter any woman.
 Indonesia – CIA – The World Factbook. Retrieved from: www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html
 Tanter, Richard (2001). East Timor and the Crisis of the Indonesian Intelligence State in Tanter. Richard; Selden, Mark; Shalom, Stephen R (eds.). Bitter Flowers Sweet Flowers East Timor, Indonesia and the World Community. Pluto, p. 195.
 Op. cit. Tanter, Richard (2001), p. 198.
 Ibid. Pilger (1998.p. 266.
 Jolliffe, Jill (1978). East Timor: Nationalism and Colonialism. University of Queensland Press, p. 12.
 Gunn, Geoffrey G. (2001). The Five-hundred Year Timorese Funu in Tanter, Richard; Selden, Mark; Shalom, Stephen R. (eds.). Bitter Flowers, Sweet Flowers: East Timor, Indonesia, and the World Community. Pluto, pp. 1-14, in particular pp. 6-8.
 Quoted in op. cit: Gunn (2001), p. 8.
 Op. cit. For the best account of this period, greatly enhanced by first hand observation, see Jolliffe, Jill (1978), East Timor: Nationalism and Colonialism.
 Ibid. Communique from the FRETLIN-UDT Coalition in Jolliffe, p. 339.
 Ibid. Jolliffe, pp. 92-232.
 Ball, Desmond and McDonald (2000). Death in Balibo: Lies in Canberra. Allen & Unwin, p. 160.
 Op. cit. Ball and McDonald (2000) pp. 69 & 70.
 Ibid. Ball & McDonald, pp. 66 & 67.
 Ibid. pp. 79-99.
 See Aarons, Mark and Domm, Robert (2000), East Timor: A Western Made Tragedy. Left Book Club, especially pp. 45 to 77.
 For a lively and very personal account of these activities see Gusmao, Kristy Sword with Lennox, Rowena (2003), A Woman of Independence, Macmillan.
 Pinto, Constancio (2001). ‘The Student Movement and the Independence Struggle in East Timor: An Interview,’ in Tanter, Richard; Selden, Mark; Shalom, Stephen R. (eds.). Bitter Flowers, Sweet Flowers: Indonesia and The World Community. Pluto Press, pp. 34 to 36.
 Op. cit. Pilger (2000). A voice that shames those who are silent on Timor.
 Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859) was the leading figure in European governing circles till 1848. As political master of the Austrian Empire, he was the architect of an alliance system among the European powers after Napoleon's defeat - a system which ushered in a period of reactionary monarchical rule in Europe. This was shattered by WW1.
 Keating! the Musical. The musical we had to have. Staged in 2005/6. Lyrics and music: Casey Bennetto.
 Evans, Gareth (2011). ‘East Timor and me: A response to Noam Chomsky.’ The Interpreter, 3 November 2011. Retrieved: http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2011/11/11/03/
 Op. cit. Evans, Gareth (2011). ‘East Timor and me: A response to Noam Chomsky.’
 Ibid. Evans.
 The countries in question being: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.
 For an excellent explanation of the Asian financial crisis we draw your attention to: Klein, Naomi (2007) The Shock Doctrine The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Allen Lane pp. 263-280.
 Fernandes, Clinton. (2004) Reluctant Saviour Australia, Indonesia and the independence of East Timor Scribe pp. 31 to 34.
 Op cit. Fernandes, Clinton (2004) Reluctant Saviour Australia, Indonesia and the independence of East Timor pp. 39-44.
 A detailed narrative of this can be gleaned from Cotton, James (1999) East Timor and Australia – twenty five years of the policy debate September 21 Nautilus in their Special report on East Timor p11-16. Retrieved: oldsite.nautlis.org/archives/pub/ftp/napsnet/special_reports/East_Timor
 See Bartu, Peter (2001) The Militia, the Military and the People of Bobonaro in editors: Tanter, Richard, Selden, Mark and Shalom, Stephen R Bitter Flowers Sweet Flowers East Timor, Indonesia and The World Community. Pluto pp. 73-90.
 Ibid. Fernandes . A thesis that some Marxist critics like Sam Pietsch (see the above paper cited) are critical of.
 Ibid. Fernandes pp. 26-27.
 Ibid. Fernandes p.27.
 Ibid. Fernandes p.35.
 Ibid. Fernandes: p. 45.
 Op cit. Pietsch, Sam (2010) Australian imperialism and East Timor p. 16
 Ibid. Fernandes p. 49
 Ibid. Fernandes pp. 49-73.
 Hitchens, Christopher (2001). The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Text. P 90-108 to see how grass root activists in America were taking the issue up to the likes of Kissinger and Opp cite: Nairn, Allan (2001) US Support for the Indonesian Military: Congressional Testimony pp. 163-172.
 Ibid. Pietsch, Sam pp. 17-20 & 25.
 Ibid. Fernandes pp. 86-114.
 For a fuller narrative of these events we draw your attention to: Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste Geneva, 2 October 2006 pp. 5-7 & pp. 19-42 . Retrieved: www.ohcr.org/Documents/Countries/COI TimorLeste.pdf
 Kingsbury, Damien Timor-Leste way forward: State and nation building. Retrieved:126.96.36.199/timor-beyond crisis papers/Kingsbury.ml.doc
 Op cit. United Nations Report et al p. 75.
 Sheridan, Greg (2006) Throw troops at Pacific failures. The Australian June 3, 2006 Retrieved: http://www.theAustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867.19347867-601,00.html
 Op cit. Kingsbury Timor-Leste way forward: State and nation building.
 Cabral, Estevao & Wark, Julie (2006) Timor-Leste: Behind the demonisation of Mari Alkatiri 24.06.2006 Retrieved: www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13747.htm
 Ibid. United Nations pp. 75-76.
 Op cit. Martinkus, John (2006) East Timor: The President’s Man
 Green, Katherine (2012) Failed Humanitarian Intervention in East Timor: A Bottom-up Hypothesis – April 6, 2012. Retrieved: http://www.e_ir.info/2012/04/06/failed-humanitarian-intervention-ineast-timor
 Beauvais, Joel C. (2002) Benevolent Despotism: A Critique of U.N. State-Building in East Timor. NYU Centre of International Studies May 2002. Retrieved: friendsoftimor.asd.au/bin/TAP.DLL/
 Op cit. Beauvais, Joel C. (2002) Benevolent Despotism: A Critique of U.N. State Building in East Timor p. 1134.
 Harrington, Andrew (2007) Ethnicity, Violence and Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste. East Timor Law Journal 2007 p 4. Retrieved: internal-disapperance.org
 Op cit. Harrington, Andrew (2007) Ethnicity, Violence and Land and Property disputes in Timor-Leste pp. 39 & 40.
 Ibid. Pietsch, Sam p. 26.
 Ibid. Beauvais pp. 1125-1127.
 Ibid. Harrington pp. 22-38
 Cummins, Deborah & Leach (2012) Democracy Old and New: The interaction of Modern and Traditional Authority in East Timorese Local Government in Asian Politics and Policy-Volume 4, Number:1 pp. 89-104
 Kingsbury, Damien (2012) Challenges of Constructing Postcolonial unity: Timor-Leste as a Case Study in Asian Politics and Policy-Volume 4, Number: 1 pp. 15-32.
 Shoesmith, Dennis (2012) Is Small Beautiful? Multiparty Politics and Democratic Consolidation in Timor-Leste in Asian Politics and Policy-Volume 4, Number:1 pp. 33-51
 Moxham, Ben. (2008) State-Making and The Post-Conflict city: Integration in Dili, Disintegration in Timor-Leste February 2008. Working Paper 32-Cities and Fragile states LSE Development Studies Institute pp. 1-28. Retrieved: www2.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/research/crisisStates/Publications/phase2papers.aspx
 Jolliffe pp. 325-338.
 Ibid. Moxham p. 8.
 Anderson: Tim (2006) Timor-Leste: The Second Australian Intervention. Journal of Australian Political Economy No: 58 pp. 62-93. Retrieved: media.wix.com/ugd/b629ee_5c4d952beba99fcee6c7cee00f212013.pdf
 Op cit. Anderson, Tim ((2006) Timor-Leste: The Second Australian Intervention pp. 63-67.
 Op Cit. Plain facts about Australia and East Timor’s Maritime Boundary pp. 3
 Ibid. Anderson (2006) Timor-Leste: The Second Australian Intervention pp. 67-68.
 Ibid. Anderson (2006) p. 72
 Anderson, Tim. (2006) Food Security and Agriculture in the Australia-East Timor Relationship in Kingsbury, Damien and Leach, Michael, East Timor: Beyond Independence, Monash Asia Institute Press Melbourne.
 Nevins, Joseph (2003) Restitution over coffee: truth and reconciliation, and environmental violence in East Timor in Political Geography 22 (2003) p. 694.
 Anderson. Tim, (2010) Cuban Health Cooperation in Timor Leste and South West Pacific in Aid Watch – The Reality of Aid – Special Report on South-South Cooperation 2010 p 77. Retrieved: www.realityofaid.org/userfiles/roareports/roareport_eca617f3d4.pdf
 Ibid. Anderson. Tim, The Second Australian Intervention p. 73.