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Why Australia wants “regime change” in East Timor

by wsws (reposted)
If one were to believe the official version, the intervention of Australian troops into East Timor is driven by the purest motives. They are there simply to restore peace and stability after the collapse of government authority. But this political fiction has been increasingly exposed by events of the past few days as the power struggle which sparked the crisis comes to the surface.
The Howard government’s intervention has nothing to do with protecting the interests of the East Timorese people. It is aimed at bringing about a “regime change”—the replacement of the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri with an administration more in tune with Australian interests.

It is long been a dictum of foreign policy that there are no permanent allies or alliances, only permanent interests. This is certainly the case in East Timor where one of the chief concerns of the Australian government, supported by the opposition Labor Party, has been to ensure that other powers are not able to exert influence in what is explicitly referred to as “Australia’s own backyard”.

In 1999, the Howard government sent in troops to spearhead the UN military intervention in order to ensure that Australia, rather than the former colonial power, Portugal, exercised the greatest authority in post-independence East Timor and was in the best position to exploit its valuable oil and gas reserves. Nearly seven years on, the essential motivations remain the same.

The underlying conflict with Portugal came into the open last Friday when Prime Minister John Howard asserted during an interview that the crisis in East Timor was due to “poor governance”. This was a clear shot at Alkatiri’s government. It brought an immediate response from Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral, who criticised Howard’s remarks as “interference in the internal affairs” of East Timor. “We disagree with this kind of declaration by foreign countries,” he said.

But Howard was not deterred. In fact, he decided to say more at the next available opportunity.

In an appearance on the ABC television “Insiders” program on Sunday morning, Howard was asked “how bad” the government of East Timor had been and whether the responsibility rested with Alkatiri.

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by BBC (reposted)
East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao is taking control of the country's national security and defence in a bid to defuse mounting unrest.

Emergency powers would give Mr Gusmao control of the army and police, split by internal disputes and gang violence.

Mr Gusmao, a highly respected former guerrilla leader, also assumed sole charge of coordination with the Australian-led peacekeeping force.

His move comes after fresh violence and looting hit the capital, Dili.

Mr Gusmao said the decision to impose emergency rule, which would last 30 days, had been taken in "close collaboration" with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Mr Alkatiri has been blamed by other members of the government for failing to stop the violence, which was triggered by the government's sacking of hundreds of troops after they went on strike.

Thank you WSWS.

Apparently not a single other english speaking voice (including Amy Goodman, Chomsky, Zmag, etc) is willing to speaking up in defense of democracy in East Timor which is presently under attack from all sides.

East Timor's oil and gas reserves are obviously coveted by others. There are other issues too: FRETILIN is openly socialist. As such they are opposed to neoliberalism in general. It was reported on May 13th, 2006, that Prime Minister Alkatiri had promised to resign if he was not re-elected as leader of FRETILIN on May 19th, but on May 19th, 2006 he was re-elected. The next national elections were scheduled for early 2007. East Timor is therefore a real democracy of poor nonwhite socialists. It's pretty pitiful that so many white leftists are reluctant to connect the dots. Alkatiri is also a muslim, born in Yemen. He's darker than Gusmao, who is mestiço, darker than Alfredo Reinhado, and much darker than Ramos-Horta, who is white. (Incidentally, it's awful how Reinhado's role is discussed as if he's some sort of noble character in all this. This guy was not elected by anybody. He's a mestiço army commander who is leading attacks on the democratic government of East Timor and openly declaring his subservience to Australia. And yet he is painted in a more positive light than Alkatiri. This is really mentally weak.)

I'm now going back and listening to Amy Goodman's interviews with Xanana Gusmao and the interviews are really bad. She is so fawning over him and he is so vague and bland and liberal sounding.
by Tom McLoughlin (ecologya [at]
Plenty of people in ngo's, in left and progressive side of politics here know how to join the dots.

We know about systemic bias in mass media. We know about class and corporate capitalism.

We've also heard about incompetence, blind ideology, repudiation of Gandhi nonviolence, secrecy and arrogance.

WSWS are not very well known here. The impersonal (unaccountable?) body with this moniker do post summary type rhetorical pieces on Sydney indymedia which I am a very active participant as an author, not an administrator. My posts are on ecology and media analysis.

They put their rhetorical socialist spin. Well I am a socialist too and probably a very poor capitalist on a very low income as well.

How about some honesty about the geneis of this crisis. I don't have a full handle on all the facts either but I know WSWS doesn't because of the ommissions:

1. About a month ago 4 or maybe many more protesters were shot dead by govt soldiers. One reasonable interpretation is that this was a democratic protest. Another interpretation is that this was an attempted coup. Most reports say the protesters were unarmed and that a night of shooting followed with maybe exagerated reports of 60 deaths. Who the hell would really know?

2. Last Tuesday from memory, 12 unarmed police who reportedly had UN brokered protection were gunned down and murdered again by govt aligned soldiers.

3. The above deaths could well have been anti govt people but since when did that become a capital offence in a functioning 'democracy'? Since when did WSWS have the wisdom to selectively cut and paste these matters?

4. PM Alkateri has reportedly signed a joint request by the senior politicians requesting Australian military neutral peace keeping. There are rampant diverse interpretations but its safe to say Alkateri did sign it.

5. A council of civil society in ET has met as per their constitution. Guess what? 2 senior ministers voluntarily resigned. One the interior minister and the other the defense minister. Could it be they failed in their jobs to manage their state sanctioned lethal force with wisdom and moderation, indeed according to law? That at least is one decent interpretation of the murders. I say this a practicing lawyer here. Was their provocation? Was there coup attempts? I don't know but neither does WSWS. Were they scape goats for Alkateri described here as too long away from his homeland? I don't know about that either.

But WSWS is grotesquely impertinent first wading in with no actual personal authorship, second leaving out these real factors of great import indeed lethality, and third indulging in colour coded emotive 'loading up' of the narrative for a USA audience. That might play amongst the systemic prejudice of the SF Bay or USA generally with its deep issues of colour. But in Australia there has been totally colour blind media coverage and barely a thought to who is what ethnicity or shade of mixture. On the contrary we are simply horrified that all ET bleed red and are doing so with frightening regularity of late.

We love this gracious people and want the best for them even if Big Capital want to use them and us both.

In fact we hate the violence. The vast majority don't care if Alkateri remains PM as long as the killing stops and law and order and democratic elections and economic progress proceeds equitably. No doubt there are other agendas in play but that's my feel of the Big Media and the general population here.

In summary WSWS is fairly shallow and impertinent on this topic with the cliches and grandstanding. It think they might call it "entrism". And the idea WSWS carries the 'clear eyed' left banner on this is a joke. Do a goodle of Max Lane of Green Left Weekly here. Or Tim Anderson on Sydney Indymedia.

In fact here are the links:

[Tim Anderson] What is Howard’s Role in the Timor Leste Coup? at


[Max Lane]

and I've just read now Maryann Keady on the first string who is clearly a trained journalist.

Much of this echoes with WSWS but what is not accepted quite obviously and is a really big ideological blind spot is the same observation I made in 2002 in Santiago Chile. There is grassroots democratic support for capitalism to some degree. Poor people who want to be rich one day. You can deny it all you like but its real. Whether its 10%, 30% or 50% you can't dictatorially stop people in a democracy for agitating for that but it must be in a social contract of safety and peace under a legal system and justice for all.

That's the point. ET has to mediate diversity of grassroots political philosophy and especially with people who strongly disagree including in the face of red baiting. Similarly they need the wisdom of Solomon to mediate the past cold war and the future negotiation with Big Capital over their resources. That's what effective domestic politics is all about, and my guess why those two ministers resigned having lost their wheels and run into the ditch. Nor do I think Alkateri should resign but if his Parliament sacks him then so be it.

by Tom McLoughlin
Actually it wasn't in the main post, it was in a comment piece about colour and ethnicity and I direct the criticism to that comment not WSWS main post.
by Tom McLoughlin
Paul Kelly is editor at large for News Ltd/Murdoch flagship The Australian and known as "the professor" in general media circles for his authorship of tomes on Oz politics and generally encyclopaedic knowledge. I call him the intellectual lion in the gilded cage, you know like the Pink Floyd song.

Basically Kelly agree with the sentiment of real politik intrusion in ET as published on May 31st (last Wednesday) but notice he also acknowledges the primary purpose was to alleviate the God awful violence (was but maybe not now?). Refer

'A display of power',20867,19310625-12250,00.html

including this:

"THE true nature of Australia's intervention in East Timor has become apparent: this intervention is both military and political. Its primary purpose was to respond to East Timor's security crisis, accept the invitation from its Government and restore law and order. But this is not just a military intervention.

It is a highly political intervention in its impact, atmospherics and consequences. It transcends the domain of law and order and penetrates to East Timor's political crisis.

In this sense Australia is operating as a regional power or a potential hegemon that shapes security and political outcomes.

This language is unpalatable to many. Yet it is the reality. It is new experimental territory for Australia. We are evolving as a regional power and discovering the risks and dividends in the exercise of that power. We have taken complete charge of law and order in East Timor and its domestic power struggle is conducted against the backdrop of our unstated pressure. "
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