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East Timor Declares State Of Emergency As Violence Spreads
by Democracy Now (repost)
Tuesday May 30th, 2006 8:49 AM
As President Xanana Gusmao assumes emergency powers we speak with Jose Luis Guterres, East Timor’s ambassador to the United States and United Nations, and Charlie Scheiner, co-founder of East Timor Action Network, both of whom have just returned from East Timor.
We turn now to the situation in East Timor. East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao assumed emergency powers earlier today in order to give him control over the army and police.

Gusmao’s order comes as violence in the country has reached its highest level since Timor gained its independence in 2002. At least 30 people are reported to have been killed and tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced.

Several weeks ago Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatari fired more than 600 striking members of the country’s military. This exacerbated tensions between the country’s military and police forces in what is Asia"s newest and poorest state. As rumors of attacks against police units spread through Timor’s capital of Dili, police fled, leading to a complete breakdown in security.

Last week, UN and East Timorese officials called for the deployment of a multinational peace-keeping force composed of Australian, Malaysian, and Portugese troops. On Monday, Timor’s President and Prime Minister met in an attempt to resolve the crisis. As Timorese President Xanana Gusmao called for an end to the fighting, protesters gathered outside the meeting, many of them calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister. The Timorese cabinet has also asked the defense minister, Rogerio Lobato, to resign.

* Jose Luis Guterres, East Timorese ambassador to the United States and United Nations.
* Charlie Scheiner, co-founder of East Timor Action Network, and also works closely with the Lao Hamutuk Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis in Timor.


Comments  (Hide Comments)

Has Amy Goodman been sloppy in supporting Gusmao so uncritically? if so, why?

Alkatiri is the legitimate democratic leader of the elected ruling party of East Timor, FRETILIN. Why will nobody defend democracy in East Timor? Is it because Alkatiri has darker skin and Gusmao and Ramos-Horta have lighter skin? Is it because FRETILIN is socialist and Gusmao and Ramos-Horta are neolibs?

Amy Goodman is supposed to be all about real democracy, right? But why then is she in lock step with english language mass media all around the world in ignoring the fact that East Timor has a democratically elected government that is under attack (by Xanana Gusmao, whom Amy Goodman seems incapable of looking at critically, and by Alfredo Reinhado, the rebel army commander who openly declares his subservience to the Australians and Gusmao). FRETILIN is the legitimate ruling party of East Timor. FRETILIN won 54.7% of the vote, and over 91% of eligible voters participated. The next most popular parties all got less than 10% each. So FRETILIN has a hell of a lot more legitimacy than any USA President and yet apparently no english language commentary, including Amy Goodman, will defend real democracy in East Timor.

I suspect that concerned people areound the world were waiting impatiently through the Memorial Day weekend, for Amy Goodman to give a different picture of events in Dili from the corporate propaganda. But that did not happen this morning. Instead she interviewed Jose-Luis Gutterez and ETAN, a competitor for Alkatiri's position and an NGO which has refused to speak out in defense of the existing democracy in East Timor.

It sure would be nice to see more real discussion about East Timor among people of the left, especially nonwhite people of the left.

In my opinion as a nonwhite person, the biggest thing missing from all english languag commentary and reporting East Timor is the fact that East Timor is a real democracy, much more democratic than the USA for example. That means that the government of Prime Minister Alkatiri is a democratic nonwhite (and leftist) government of a nonwhite population.

The corporate media have clearly decided that Alkatiri is to blame for the current crisis but consider:

- the soldier group that is rebelling are reported to be mostly "western" Timorese who supported the Indonesians during the brutal occupation years.

- the leader of the rebel soldier group, Reinhado, has openly declared that he is under orders from president Xanana Gusmao (Amy Goodman's favorite Timorese guest) in opposition to Prime Minister Alkatiri.

- Alkatiri was just re-elected as leader of Fretilin, the ruling party, on May 19th 2006.

- It was reportedly Gusmao who called in the foreign troops from adjacent outposts of euro empire (Australia etc) over the bitter objections of the Prime Minister Alkatiri.

- Regardless of what one thinks of Alkatiri himself (and it's unlikely that anyone in the english speaking world could have much of an informed opinion about him as an individual leader anyways), what matters is what the East Timorese people want, and they have a real process there (unlike here) so Alkatiri has that legitimacy.

- if ETAN and the USA left stand aside and watch while Alkatiri is removed from power and replace by a neolib Gusmao, the population of East Timor will really be silenced. again.

Maybe I have this wrong...
I would appreciate any comments about this stuff.

by Renelux
Thursday Jun 1st, 2006 1:56 AM
Poster is correct to question implications of unilateral adoption of emergency powers on democracy.
At the same time, yes, I think poster probably does have it wrong that ETAN are an NGO that haven't defended democracy. I'm not affiliated with ETAN, but - see comments from recent statement on their website: "Statements by Australian government leaders that providing security assistance entitles them to influence over Timor-Leste’s government are undemocratic, paternalistic, and unhelpful. Who governs Timor-Leste is a decision to be made by its people within its constitution."

Jose Luis Guterres has most recently attempted to vie for Fretilin's leadership so given his vested interest in portraying Alkatiri as unfit to govern, I am not surprised poster is outraged by his interview.

But to define Fretilin on the one hand as socialist and Gusmao and Ramos Horta on the other as Neolib is very simplistic. Fretilin members among others that drafted the consitution included an article that effectively guarantees the sanctity of the free market. While PM Alkatiri admirably deflected early pressure to take World Bank loans, (because of knowledge that oil revenues would subsequently take care of budget deficits) this hasn't stopped investment laws being implemented that present quite lax regulations to foreign companies wishing to invest in T-L, including making provisions for free-trade zones.

Where does ETAN condemn the overt efforts to remove the legitimate Prime Minister? They don't. Why not? Where does Amy Goodman speak out against this destruction of democracy? She doesn't. Why not?

does. Znet does. The truth will prevail in the long run.

It's quite shameful that any supporter of democracy who hears about this can fail to condemn this unelected "rebel" leader (Alfredo Reinhado) who openly declares his loyalty to the Australian military which trained him and openly declares his intention to drive out the legitimate Prime Minister of East Timor (Alkatiri) who was re-elected as leader of the elected ruling party only two weeks ago. It's understandable that white imperialist interests in the corporate media worldwide would pretend that this is all so confusing, but for people of the left to go along with the official confusion or remain silent is simply another sign that real democracy is not valued in our society. Remember: 91% of East Timorese voted in the election that installed the Alkatiri government by a huge margin. And remember: that legitimate ruling party, FRETILIN, is a socialist party.

For Gusmao and Ramos-Horta and Amy Goodman to fail to condemn the brazen and destructive lawlessness of Reinhado is a big failure. People have now died. Why? Partly because a clear message has been sent that violent actions to overthrow the Prime Minister will be tolerated by Gusmao, Horta, and the international community.

It would be useful if we could discuss the reasons for this failure of important segments of the USA left.

Personally, and this is just my opinion, I would feel pretty stupid if I didn't notice some racial patterns. Alkatiri and the East Timorese population have brown skin. Alkatiri wanted Australia to stay out. But Gusmao felt differently. Again this is my opinion, but I would feel pretty stupid if I acted confused about why. Some people are just whitewashed.

Gusmao and Albright

Gusmao and Blumenauer

Gusmao and Clinton (this is my favorite)

Gusmao and Howard (Prime Minister of Australia and close ally of Bush)

Gusmao and Jack Straw (UK Bush ally)

and finally...
Gusmao in love

oh and here's Jose Ramos Horta

Does it still seem very complicated?
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