23 December 2008

United Nations admits East Timor on brink of anarchy

From Times Online 23 December 2008 Anne Barrowclough, Sydney - East Timor remains on the brink of anarchy and could easily slide back into the violence that fractured the country in 2006 according to a UN report.

The country's dysfunctional police force, divided political leadership and weak economy has left it vulnerable to rapid political collapse said the report by the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Warning that a "precipitous fall" in oil revenue threatened to bring more social unrest to Asia's youngest nation, which has been independent from Indonesia for only six years, the report said urgent international intervention was needed to ensure the country's stability.

In 2006, the capital Dili exploded into violence when a mutiny in the armed forces pitted East against West, resulting in dozens of deaths and leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.

In February this year, rebel soldiers carried out an unsuccessful attempt to kill President Jose Ramos Horta, who was wounded and flown to Australia for surgery. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped injury in the attack.

The report, prepared as part of the UN's evaluations on the future of its peacekeeping operations in the country and leaked to The Australian newspaper, recommended UN forces stay in the country, despite growing pressure from East Timor for them to depart.

In an apparent admission that it has failed to create a strong police force and credible judicial system, it said local police were struggling to cope with no operational budget and admitted "troubling" tensions were rising with UN police due to unrealistic Timorese demands for a stronger role.

More than 2,500 foreign troops and police remain in East Timor to help local security forces maintain stability, the bulk from Australia, New Zealand and former colonial ruler Portugal.

East Timor's senior political leadership was bitterly divided and depended on the "personal chemistry" of the four political leaders - Prime Minister Gusmao, President Horta, Mari Alkatiri the Fretilin opposition leader and Tuar Matan Ruak, the army chief, the report added..

Mr Gusmao was facing a difficult political balancing act. Timor's economic outlook had weakened because of the collapse of oil prices but at the same time social conditions in a country where three in four households struggled to find food had to be improved, it said.

"With regard to the security institutions, there will be no easy choices, and donors should be prepared to provide new reinvigorated assistance in the security area while the government continues to be under pressure to redeem on its social promises," it said.


Images added by ETLJB : The destruction of the rule of law in Timor-Leste: The 2006 political crisis in East Timor culminated in the massacre of unarmed police officers by Falintil-East Timor Defence Force soldiers directly in front of the Ministry of Justice in Dili on 25 May 2006 - incontrovertible proof of the incapacity of the present East Timorese leadership to construct a viable polity in the wake of the devastation of the Indonesian occupation. Falintil-East Timor Defence Forces is commanded by Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak whom the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the 2006 violence recommended be prosecuted for his participation in the illegal transfer of weapons in that crisis. He is yet to face court.

Read the article entitled 25th of May 2006 Massacre & War Crimes in Timor-Leste by Andrew Harrington published in the East Timor Law Journal. Note: Clicking on this link will take you to a pdf file on the web site of the East Timor Law Journal.

For an account of the prosecution of the soldiers who committed this atrocity, see Reports on Proceedings in the Case Relating to the 2006 Shooting of PNTL Members. Note: Clicking on this link will take you to the web site of the East Timor Law Journal.

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