The media seems intent to avoid investigating the underlying causes of tension in East Timor. There are more questions than answers.There are however some known facts. Xanana Gusmao and Ramos Horta have moved to align themselves with the leadership of both Australia and Indonesia. Gusmao and Horta both agreed to shelve charges against Indonesian soldiers accused of killing civilians in East Timor in 1999. This stance placated both Australia and Indonesia. Both favour private investment from Australia and Indonesian interests. Mari Alkatiri is liked by neither the Indonesia nor Australia. He is in favour of the prosecution of Indonesian soldiers . On this issue Indonesia has done everything to avoid being made to answer for these crimes and Australia has moved to avoid embarrassing Indonesia.Downer was incensed with Alkatiri’s dogged negotiations over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.
Howard is deeply suspicious of his communist past, his caution toward businessmen and his hostility to the World Bank and IMF. Howard is concerned with his links to Cuba and has got himself into the state of mind where he belived an Alkatiri government might have been prepared to harbour terrorists.
This line of thought is supported by the US administration. This might seem a bit hysterical but that is the prevailing intellectual atmosphere in the offices of Howard and Bush at the moment. Through laziness or ignorance the Australian media has lined up with this thought process and by and large is reporting events from East Timor through this prism. On the left we have the baddie, Mari Alkatiri and on the right we have Gusmao/Horta.There is real tension in East Timor but is this tension being encouraged by major outside influences ?
Who are the youth from the west of East Timor? In my opinion their rioting tenacity went beyond grievance and had a resilience and focus beyond ordinary understandable emotion. They destroyed forensic evidence against Indonesian soldiers held in the Attorney – Generals office in Dili and stole 36 computers. How many rioters would target forensic evidence and pinch 36 computers when they might have taken TVs or HiFi systems?
More recently they targeted the homes of leaders of the resistance who remain hostile to Indonesia.Why was an Australian trained officer of the East Timorese army sitting in the hills demanding the resignation of Alkatiri? His family having earlier made good their escape to stay with relatives in Australia.Alkatiri had and continues to have popular support. He was not defeated on the floor of the house so what was this officer on about?Why did Alkatiri feel it necessary to ‘dismiss’ 600 soldiers? The elusive hit squad theory being touted by the ABC may have something to it but the question needs to be asked who was Alkatiri seeking to protect himself from?
In any case the small number of people allegedly recruited by Alkatiri would not have been enough to carry out the program of killings being bandied about and they certainly could not have taken on the 600 troops that Alkatiri gave marching orders to. And why did the Minister for Agriculture who is a contender for the office of Prime Minister come to Australia at the height of the rioting in Dili?If there is an unholy alliance between Indonesia and Australia over a mutual desire to get rid of Alkatiri it will not last long beyond the present game plan.Australia does not want East Timor to be a mendicant state, Indonesia does.
It has a point to prove to its other restless provinces. So it will continue to stir the pot.Australia is apparently aware of this. There is a proposal to quickly erect barracks to house 3000 soldiers ( Where are they coming from?)However for the time being in the absence of any thoughtful or investigative reporting spin prevails. Spin ruled for a time in 1999 when Downer claimed there was no connection between the Indonesian Army and the so called militia (Downer’s rogue elements) but the truth came out before the end of that year without hint of an apology from Downer or Howard and so it will be again.
However the danger is that having failed to knobble Alkatiri by one means or another he may still be in a position to mess up the Australian game plan for the creation of a compliant entity and bolster the Indonesian game plan by keeping East Timor in a state of unrest. With two powerful and rival neighbours is it ever going to be thus for East Timor?
Just because of the players involved it should not be hands off for the Australian media and nor should spin be allowed to rule.We need to know to who have been advantaged by the prolonged rioting when in view of the recognized and mutually experienced pain of the past all East Timorese have a vested interest in a negotiated settlement. In whose interest has it been to get rid of Alkatiri ?
Who is stirring the pot, for what reason and for what gain?
Last Updated (Thursday, 11 October 2007)