31 May 2009

East Timor Courts: Trial of Railos et Ors: Step forward in case of attack on the F-FDTL HQ

JSMP 31 May 2009 DILI - The case of Railos and others was one of a series of important cases listed for trial before the courts of Timor-Leste. This case was one of a number of cases that occurred during the national political crisis in 2006. This group is accused of playing a major role in the attack on the F-FDTL HQ in Tasitolu, Dili on 24 May 2006. Some time ago the Dili District Court continued the trial of this case, which had been postponed several times, in order to establish the involvement of the defendants Railos and others in the aforementioned attack.

The first hearing in the trial against the defendant Railos and others was carried out on 12 January 2009, but was then adjourned because one of the defendants M ‘AR’ did not attend the scheduled hearing. The trial was adjourned until 1 April 2009 by the Dili District Court but this hearing did not eventuate because an international prosecutor appointed to handle this case was visiting his home country, Cape Verde, because of the death of his child.[1] Another judge was appointed as a replacement to take over this case however he needed time to examine the indictment and the details of the case.

The third hearing was conducted on 28 April 2009. For the third hearing there was a separation of charges relating to the main perpetrator Railos and one of his men. At this stage of the trial the whereabouts of the suspect remained unknown. For the third hearing the international prosecutor who was initially handling this case had returned from Cape Verde and therefore the trial progressed smoothly.

JSMP believes that charges were separated because one of the defendant’s whereabouts was unknown[2], and the other defendants are entitled to a speedy trial and to have their rights guaranteed. JSMP welcomes and supports the decision of the judge to separate the charges. JSMP believes that the right to justice is a fundamental human right that cannot be denied. The right to due process is based on the norms, principles and practices of a state based on the rule of law, as set out in Articles 1 and 2 of the RDTL Constitution and access to courts is also set out in Article 26 of the RDTL Constitution. These principles are not merely the realization of a legal process in a criminal matter, but rather are the manifestation of the broad aim of democracy itself. Namely, that the law needs to be applied and upheld in a consistent and serious manner to ensure that justice is provided to all layers of society in Timor-Leste. The judicial system is a fundamental and basic element of efforts to protect human rights in strict accordance with the Constitution, as demonstrated through democratic governance. Human rights and core principles that are enshrined in the Constitution must be interpreted and implemented in the strictest manner to ensure the provision of an independent and fair judicial system.

JSMP believes that if the aforementioned principles are respected and administered in accordance with the applicable law, then each case that is registered with the competent court will be processed through the judicial system in accordance with standard procedures and without any exceptions, including the case of Railos and his group.

The trial of the defendant Railos and his group was adjourned three times. JSMP believes that this shows that the parties who are responsible did not take the matter seriously and have given a limited response to the demands of the community because the cases from 2006 have progressed very slowly.

The fourth hearing in this trial was adjourned on 15 May 2009 because the judges were suddenly summoned by the Court of Appeal to attend training on the new Timor-Leste Penal Code[3]. The trial continued on 21 May 2009 to examine testimony from several witnesses in relation to an attack on the F-FDTL HQ in Tasitolu.

Charges presented by the Public Prosecutor

The public prosecutor charged two defendants Railos and Grayhana for committing the crimes of illegally possessing firearms, murder, making threats, kidnapping and maltreatment.

A) Vicente da Conceicão “Railós”

CHARGES made by the Prosecutor against the defendant Railos

The Prosecutor charged the defendant Railos for criminal acts committed on 24 May 2006. The PP charged the defendant pursuant to:

a) Articles 4 and 4.7 of UNTAET Regulation 5/2001

b) Article 338 of the Indonesian Penal Code

c) Article 336 of the Indonesian Penal Code

d) Article 333 of the Indonesian Penal Code

e) Article 352.1 of the Indonesian Penal Code

The prosecutor used the aforementioned articles to charge the defendants with serious criminal offences. The actions of the defendants correspond with a number of elements set out in criminal offences. JSMP is aware that the articles charged against the defendant Railos basically fulfill the necessary criteria, although they have to be proven during a trial through comparison with other facts establishing the motive behind their attack on the F-FDTL HQ in Tasitolu. It has to be legitimately and convincingly proven that the defendant committed the crimes charged by the prosecutor.

JSMP also believes that in a nascent legal system like the one in Timor-Leste there should be attempts to interpret the law in order to fulfill international human rights standards. JSMP believes that Railos has to be given the right to speak freely and tell the court about his actions, to reveal if he was given support by particular individuals or groups.

B) Leandro Lobato “Grey Arana”

The defendant Leandro Lobato a.k.a Grey Arana was charged by the prosecutor as being a member of the Railos group and for committing criminal acts in violation of the following articles:

a) Articles 4 and 4.7 of UNTAET Regulation 5/2001

b) Article 338 of the Indonesian Penal Code

c) Article 336 of the Indonesian Penal Code

d) Article 333 of the Indonesian Penal Code [4]

After examining the prosecutor’s charges it appears that there is a slight difference between the charges made against each of the defendants (Railos and Leandro Lobato “Grey Arana”) because the defendant Grey Arana was not charged with Article 352.1 on light maltreatment.

JSMP believes that the defendants are members of a group called ‘the secret group’ which was eventually known as the Railos group, and therefore their actions were similar.

JSMP respects the courage of the public prosecution service for upholding the rule of law in this nation, for bravely charging the defendants in accordance with the authority and constitutional mandate bestowed upon it.

Although it appears that the establishment of the rule of law has encountered some obstacles, JSMP is certain that the defendant Railos and his group, who are well known in Timor-Leste, are not private individuals who can be simply ignored, but careful consideration must be given to them by the competent authorities. The authorities should have knowledge and understanding about the background of the national crisis that involved the state institutions and politicians of this young nation. JSMP also appeals to the prosecution to impartially carry out their duties without being influenced by the political intervention of high ranking officials so that justice can be administered and the rule of law can flourish.

JSMP recommends for the court to immediately locate the associates of the defendant Railos and his group, including M ‘AR’, so that they can be brought to justice in accordance with the applicable law of Timor-Leste. Ideally, the defendant M ‘AR’ should be tried together with the others but for a variety of reasons the charges had to be separated. The reason for the separation of charges between the defendant Railos and his associates was because of the non-attendance of the defendant M ‘AR’, because the court does not know his whereabouts.

JSMP recommends for the authorities to be ready to execute the court’s decision if the court decides to issue a warrant of arrest against the defendant and place him in pre-trial detention so that the trial of the defendants can progress as anticipated. JSMP also recommends for the defendant to adhere to the trial process so that everyone can know if the defendant is guilty or not in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution which provides protection for every person before the law.[5] Those held in pre-trial detention are considered innocent until proven guilty and therefore there are no reasons to deny their fundamental rights, such as the right to justice and the presumption of innocence. The state is obliged to guarantee the rights of its citizens as set out in the Constitution.

JSMP believes that if the aforementioned matters are ignored then the state will have failed in its duty, as set out in Article 6 of the RDTL Constitution[6], because it has not protected and implemented fundamental human rights, including the right to justice and due process. JSMP hopes that the absence of the defendant will be dealt with as quickly as possible to avoid further delay because this can set a bad precedent for other defendants and can result in the back log of cases at the courts.

[1] Press Release JSMP (early April): Case of Attack on F-FDTL HQ is adjourned once more

[2] Press Release JSMP (early February): Need for separation of proceedings

[3] Press Release JSMP (mid May): Trial of case relating to attack in Tasi Tolu postponed again.

[4] Refer to the charges of the international prosecutor, page 4

[5] RDTL Constitution, p. 20

[6] RDTL Constitution, p. 7

For further information please contact: Luis de Oliveira Sampaio Executive Director of JSMP Email: luis@jsmp.minihub.org Landline: 3323883

East Timor Legal News 29 May 2009

A baby found dead in Delta 3 Radio Televisaun Timor Leste 29 May 2009 - Residents in Delta 3, a suburb of the Capital Dili, on Thursday (28/5) morning found a the dead body of one-day-old age baby, police report.

Carrascalao to present evidences about RTTL broadcasting cars case Radio Televisaun Timor Leste 29 May 2009 - Deputy Prime Minister for Management and Administration Mario Viegas Carrascalao plans to present evidences about the RTTL broadcasting cars purchasing case to the Public Prosecution for further legal process.

KAK will combat corruption in Timor-Leste Suara Timor Lorosae 29 May 2009 - Timorese Public Defender Sergio Hornai said acts of nepotism, collusion and corruption should be cleaned up in Timor-Leste, as such action could impede development of the country.

Minister Pires considers things going well Timor Post 29 May 2009 - MPs have criticised Minister for Planning and Finance Emilia Pires of engaging in nepotism in the recruitment of international advisers but Minister Pires considers that things are going well.

LABEH rejects to receive subsidies provided by Government Timor Post 29 May 2009 - Christopher Henry Samson, Director for a local NGO known as LABEH, said his NGO rejected subsidies from the Government because there was no transparency in this process of budget execution.

AMP calls for Government to hold profound investigation Timor Newsline 29 May 2009 - Spokesperson for the AMP in the Parliament MP Fernando Gusmao called on the Government led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to hold a thorough investigation into Government officials who are alleged to be engaging in corruption.

Corruption is a threat to democracy building: Fin Rieske Nielson Radio Televisaun Timor Leste 29 May 2009 - Deputy UN Secretary General Representative in Timor-Leste Fin Rieske Nielsen said corruption was a negative threat to democracy building and security development in the country.

East Timor Legal News 28 May 2009

Parliament approves draft abortion law Radio Televisaun Timor Leste 28 May 2009 - The Parliament has approved draft laws relating to the new Penal Code article 141 about abortion. The law was approved after a two-day presentation made by Justice Minister Lucia Lobato in the Parliament.

50% of Govt officials engaged in corruption Timor Post 28 May 2009 - Deputy Prime Minister II Mario Viegas Carrascalao said the inspection report findings of the Inspectorate General show that 50% of Government officials are suspected of being involved in corruption.

I have not been investigated yet: Justice Minister Lobato Timor Post 28 May 2009 - Minister for Justice Lucia Lobato said she had not received any official request from country's Prosecutor General about indications of corruption in her ministry.

Parliamentary Committee B supports PNTL's rotation of officers Timor Post 28 May 2009 - Parliamentary Committee B has supported the Secretary for Security’s policy of making a rotation program for all Timorese National Police officers (PNTL) to work in different districts.

Image: East Timorese fisherman rest on their boat.

East Timor Law Journal - Towards the rule of law in Timor-Leste!

30 May 2009

The case to intervene and stop East Timorese killing witches

2009 ETLJ 7 The Case to Intervene and Stop East Timorese Killing ‘Witches’

Wright's fascinating article published in the East Timor Law Journal documents recent cases of killings of alleged witches in East Timor as instances of traditional justice (Witchcraft and Murder in East Timor 2009 ETLJ 6). He cites the “anti-democratic” and “maladaptive” nature of such killings as evidence for the claim that outsiders should sometimes intervene and stop certain cultural practices.

However, as an anthropologist who is unsure about intervening in other societies, I would like to analyse his case to intervene and stop ‘witch’ killings. In this short essay, I recap Wright’s argument and then point to three areas where the case to intervene could be strengthened. First, I point to complexities in the anthropological position on relativism. Second, I indicate problems with intervening. Last, I suggest the need for criteria for a legal system which are not cultural specific. Rather than disproving the case to intervene and stop witch killings, these three objections indicate ways in which the case to intervene could be strengthened.

Wright documents four cases of attacks of alleged witches in East Timor: a 1999 torture of a woman; the killing of three ‘witches’ in 2008; an anecdote about a man advised by a United Nations police officer to deal with witchcraft in the ‘traditional’ way, and who subsequently killed the ‘witch’; and an anecdote about hot coals being fatally placed on a ‘witch’s’ back for punishment.

Wright finds these attacks “draconian” and “anti-democratic”. He appears to be targeting “overly relativist anthropologists” who he implies would support these attacks. Wright criticises “many anthropologists who lack a comprehension of the concepts of democratic secular law and justice” and “are ardent supporters of traditional justice systems”. He implies that there is no role for traditional justice such as ‘witch’ killing. Nevertheless, he feels that traditional justice “will play an important role” if “we know how to take advantage” of its “positive aspects”. The grounds for this claim seem to be established if the traditional legal system is open, accessible, not draconian, respecting of human rights, and is secular and democratic. Wright’s argument that one can judge and also intervene in another society thus runs against relativism. I suggest three weaknesses in this case in the following.

Wright critiques many anthropologists for being relativists who fail to understand democracy. However, relativism has been the subject of persistent debate in anthropology with regard to two issues.

First, with regard to writing about or recording culture, anthropologists have debated whether they should merely describe (if that is possible) other cultures, or prescribe what they should do. Battle lines have been drawn over issues such as the wearing of a veil by Muslim women, clitorectomy and other forms of genital mutilation, the Hindu sati, cannibalism, and so on. To quote one undergraduate text book, “There is no easy answer to the question of when or if it is proper to judge the beliefs and practices of others to be right or wrong”. The same text also warns against the dangers of the “relativist fallacy”—“the idea that is impossible to make moral judgments about others” (Robbins 1997:11-12).

Second, if moral judgments are accepted, it is debated whether outsiders (such as anthropologists often are) have the right or responsibility to tinker with society. This is the great debate as to whether anthropology should be “pure” (for knowledge’s sake) or “applied” (achieving practical results) (Keen 1999:33-5). In view of this, I suggest that it is not simply the case that “many anthropologists” misunderstand secular law or are ardent supporters of traditional justice systems, rather, there is much debate and subtlety with which they approach the issue of relativism. As the debate regarding relativism is well documented in anthropological writings, I will focus on problems with intervening specific to ‘witch’ killings in Timor Leste.

One problem with stopping witch-killing is that it can cause consternation for local people and upset the balance of relations within the community. This has been the experience of some colonial and post-colonial regimes. For the Lozi of Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the 1940s, sorcerers…were “patent criminals protected by British law” (Gluckman 1955:159). The Bimin-Kuskusmin of PNG perceive that the nearby Oksapmin people attack them with witchcraft, yet they “can no longer stage revenge raids against Oksapmin, because the government has outlawed warfare” (Zelenietz 1981:9).

In Cameroon, “the State appeared as the objective ally of the witch (Rowlands and Warnier 1988:127). This was also observed among the Navaho: “white courts refuse to acknowledge the existence of witchcraft…Hence, “witches” are in a highly favourable position to practice indirect extortion—they are feared and yet almost immune from punishment, for white governmental agencies exert every force to prevent the killing of witches” (Kluckhohn 1944:116).

The ‘protection’ of the perceived sorcerer or witch creates problems. This can be seen among the Korowai, who live to the east of Timor Leste, in New Guinea. Bereaved survivors of witch attacks, until recently ambushed and killed the alleged witch outright. Otherwise they took the witch to a third-party who would assemble to execute the witch and eat his body. The consumers of the witch ‘transferred’ the witch back by hosting a sago-grub feast and providing brides to the witch’s people, to paraphrase Stasch (2001). Attempts by Indonesian police to stop this interrupted this exchange. For the Korowai, giving up this homicide at the state’s behest “is tied to recognition of a larger transformation in the very make-up of the world” (Stasch 2001:47).

Tinkering with one element of the system may cause larger, unintended, transformations. Intervening also risks denying indigenous people the ‘right’ to act according to their own will. Missionaries, colonial and neo-colonial states have attempted to eliminate witchcraft beliefs and recriminations (as well as many other apparently abhorrent cultural practices).

Timor Leste’s struggle for freedom has more often than not been an attempt to stop foreigners telling its population what to do. Of course, the missionaries, colonisers, and neo-colonisers might have been right and the anti-colonialists wrong in some cases; but if this is to be asserted, the grounds for distinguishing what is right and wrong must be established. Such intervention can also come from within societies.

Wright cites Xanana Gusmao’s antipathy to witchcraft and other feudal elements of traditional laws. It could be argued that this socialist critique of the killings of witches is typical of the modernising ideas of ‘indigenous’ elites in post-colonial societies. Indeed the first case of witch killing Wright refers to led to prosecutions of the alleged witch killers.

However, even this kind of intervention can be harmful. For instance, government attempts to modernise and assimilate indigenous peoples has caused suffering and hardship throughout the world (Gomes 2007:2-4). This is part of a wider problem of states’ well-meaning attempts to modernise and improve populations with devastating results (Scott 1998). Before intervening, we should be sure that it would not damage Timor Leste’s societies or that it would damage Timor Leste’s societies but should be undertaken anyway.

The final problem with the case to intervene and stop East Timorese killing witches, is that the criteria Wright provide are themselves susceptible to a relativist critique. He advocates, for example, the criterion of “non-draconian”, implying a good legal system is not draconian. For some Aboriginal people living in traditional communities, the formal justice system which incarcerates them (often with fatal results) is more draconian than their system, which might resort to spearing an offender. For many Whites, traditional Aboriginal justice of spearing is draconian.

Another problematic criterion for Wright’s legal system is “democratic”. Killing ‘sorcerers’ where I did fieldwork was the wish of almost all local residents - often the ‘sorcerers’ own family, friends, and neighbours. In the sense that it is the will of the majority, it is thus democratic. If a trial by jury were established, I strongly suspect that ‘sorcerers’ would be similarly condemned. I suspect that most villagers in Timor Leste would also wish to kill witches. To the extent that this is true, it appears that democracy is not antithetical to witch killings.

It might be that we are justified in morally judging and intervening in other societies. I suggest that engaging with the long debate over relativism in anthropology would be a good place to begin this debate. In any case, we should be wary that intervening in societies, even with the best of intentions, most often has a damaging effect.

Finally the criteria we assert for changing a society - such as making the legal system “democratic” and “non-draconian” - should be defined in a manner which is not culturally specific. The case to intervene and stop witch killings in East Timor could be strengthened by taking this step.


Gluckman, Max 1955 The Judicial Process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Gomes, Alberto G 2007 Modernity and Malaysia: Settling the Menraq forest nomads. London: Routledge.

Keen, Ian 1999 The Scientific Attitude in Applied Anthropology. In Applied Anthropology in Australasia. S. Toussaint and J. Taylor, eds. Pp. 27-59. Nedlands WA: University of Western Australia Press.

Kluckhohn, Clyde 1944 Navaho Witchcraft. Boston: Beacon Press.

Robbins, Richard H 1997 Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach. Itasca, Illinois: F.E. Peacock.

Rowlands, Michael, and Jean-Pierre Warnier 1988 Sorcery, Power and the Modern State in Cameroon. Man 23(1):118-132.

Scott, James 1998 Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Stasch, Rupert 2001 Giving up Homicide: Korowai Experience of Witches and Police (West Papua). Oceania 72(1):33-52.

Zelenietz, Marty 1981 Sorcery and Social Change: An Introduction. Social Analysis 8:3-14

Dr Nicholas Herriman
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre of Southeast Asian Studies
Monash Asia Institute
Monash University

31 May 2009

Luta Hamutuk Web Site

Luta Hamutuk established on 20 June 2005 by a numbers of activists passionate about ensuring a participative and accountable development process, believing that only this would help ensure sustainable development in Timor Leste.

Staff together with focal points has been voluntary stepped forward to conduct monitoring on many importants projects such as Roads, Clinics, Schools, Veteran Houses, including the preparation and expenditures of general state budget, as well as guarantee transparency within oil and gas sector.

These activities then considered as Luta Hamutuk's strategy in order to reafirm more stronger its commitment upon struggle towards Economic Justice.

Angola's Parliament speaker analyses situation in East Timor

Agencia AngolaPress Angola 5/27/09 9:55 AM Luanda – The political and social situation of East Timor topped the audience that the speaker of the National Assembly (parliament), Fernando da Piedade dos Santos, granted to the Timorese prime minister, Xanana Gusmao.

The efforts being implemented since 2008 by East Timor's government to overcome political and institutional conflicts that have been troubling the country since 2002 were also analysed during the meeting.

According to Xanana Gusmao, the country has been entering a “vicious cycle of small-scale conflicts that ended in 2008, a time when the population decided to end the problem”.

He stated that after February 11, 2008 attacks aimed at the Head of State and the prime minister, the population, especially youths, have been aware that the time has arrived to put an end to the conflicts.

The prime minister stated that for this purpose, the government of East Timor launched a broad message to the nation, based on the motto “Goodbye to conflict and welcome development”, to which the population joined.

Xanana Gusmao explained that the law establishing the civil services commission was recently approved to guarantee a greater professionalism in the public administration sector, based on ethics and efficiency.

He informed that three laws are to be approved by the parliament, namely that of National Defence, National Security and Internal Security.

Xanana Gusmao's visit to Angola started on Sunday and is expected to end next Friday (May 29).

Australian Funded Healthcare Organisation Receives Highest Timorese Honour

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 - Bairo Pite Clinic - At the Independence Day celebrations held recently in Timor-Leste, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, paid tribute to Dr Dan Murphy and the Bairo Pite Clinic by conferring the country’s highest honour – the Medalha de Merito (Medal of Merit) de Timor-Leste, for services to Timor-Leste.

“Dr Dan Murphy is a most remarkable man who has dedicated his life to the service of others less fortunate. His profound commitment to building an institution that serves the interest of the sick and needy is an inspiration to all, a great legacy for the people of Timor-Leste and a true reflection of his extraordinary character and spirit,” said Dr Jose Ramos-Horta.

The Bairo Pite Clinic which was founded by Dr Dan Murphy in 1999 is supported by the Australian international aid organisation, The Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP).

Dr Murphy, director of the Bairo Pite Clinic acknowledged the tremendous support the Clinic has received from Australians saying, “Many Australians have contributed to the success of the Bairo Pite Clinic. AFAP’s years of generous donations and administrative support, AusAid and the many medical students and doctors who have come from all corners of Australia to help, as well as some of Australia’s leading hospitals including St Vincent’s Campus, Sydney and Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne - who provide life-saving cardiac intervention for our seriously ill patients.”

“There are literally thousands of individual Australians who have supported us in various ways including giving practical and monetary support. It is this good world citizenship and decency that is indispensable to the Clinic and people of Timor-Leste,” Dr Murphy said.

Margaret Duckett, Chief Executive Officer of AFAP said, “We are delighted that Dr Dan has received such a well deserved prestigious award. AFAP is very proud of the long-standing partnership we have shared with Dr Dan and the magnificent team at Bairo Pite Clinic since 1999. We know that through his great dedication and determination to provide primary healthcare services to the people of Timor-Leste, the Clinic has been responsible for saving many lives.”

“The support AFAP has been able to provide is only due to the tremendous support we’ve had from the Australian public. It’s this support which has allowed Dr Dan and the Bairo Pite Clinic to care for so many sick people over the years. However, we still have a long way to go to improve services and to continue to offer even basic healthcare in Timor-Leste. We are still very much reliant on the generosity of the Australian people to continue to give,” Ms Duckett said.

In accepting the award, Dr Murphy thanked the government of Timor-Leste for creating the conditions allowing the Clinic to function at a high level. He acknowledged the support of The Ministry of Health for all their cooperation and support, and especially for the general population of this newly independent country who demonstrate daily, an unshakable faith in the Bairo Pite Clinic.

“We humbly accept this recognition and understand it to be a stimulus to redouble our efforts to improve the health of the Timorese people and reduce the immense suffering that is their daily fare,” Dr Murphy said. ENDS

We are able to offer both pre-record and live interviews with:

•Dr Dan Murphy – Bairo Pite Clinic – Dili, Timor-Leste
•Margaret Duckett, Chief Executive Officer of AFAP

About Bairo Pite Clinic

The Bairo Pite Clinic which was founded by Dr Dan Murphy in 1999 is supported by the Australian international aid organisation, The Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP).

Located in Timor-Leste's capital city of Dili, the Clinic was established to serve the immediate needs of a population affected by the humanitarian crisis. As the violence subsided, Bairo Pite Clinic has adapted and transformed from an emergency medical service to a more comprehensive community healthcare service.

Today, the Bairo Pite Clinic remains one of the most highly visited health clinics in the country, seeing an average of 300 patients per day, cared for by thirty-two Timorese staff and three permanent international volunteers. Dr Murphy and his colleagues at the Bairo Pite Clinic were honoured for having provided a continuous and reliable source of free health support to the population of Timor-Leste during arduous circumstances and often when little other support was available.

Dr Murphy's vision and tireless commitment has resulted in the Bairo Pite Clinic becoming the largest and most successful non-government sponsored clinic in Timor-Leste.

About The Australian Foundation for Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP)

AFAP’s purpose is to make a positive difference to the lives of people throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

AFAP was established in Australia in 1968 and incorporated in the state of NSW in 1983. AFAP works throughout the world, specifically in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. In consultation with the community, they develop innovative models to address health, environment, sustainable agriculture, education and other key development issues. They are known for their professional competence, ethical practice and ability to work effectively with people from diverse cultures which ensures the provision of a high quality of service.

AFAP are recognised in Australia and internationally for their capacity to build sustainable partnerships that result in significant development impacts. AFAP receives funding from corporate and government donors and the Australian public.

Clare Collins Ph: 02 9319 3844 Mob: 0414 821 957 URL: http://bairopiteclinic.tripod.com
Email: clare@insightcommunications.net.au

Alice Collins Ph: 02 9319 3844 Mob: 0414 686 091 URL: http://www.afap.org
Email: alice@insightcommunications.net.au

Amnesty International Report 2009 State of World Human Rights - East Timor Chapter

Amnesty International Report 2009 State of World Human Rights


Head of state Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta
Head of government Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 1.2 million
Life expectancy 59.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 90/89 per 1,000
Adult literacy 50.1 per cent

The police and judiciary remained weak institutions. There were violent attacks on the President and the Prime Minister. Impunity for gross human rights violations committed during transition from Indonesian occupation in 1999 continued. The long-awaited report of the joint Indonesia and Timor-Leste Truth and Friendship Commission was delivered to the Timor-Leste and Indonesian governments. The UN had boycotted the Commission’s investigation due to concerns about impunity. The number of internally displaced people living in camps after fleeing the violence in 2006 remained high.

Those responsible for perpetrating human rights violations at the time of the independence referendum in 1999 and during violence in April/May 2006 continued to enjoy impunity.

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) mandate was extended until early 2009. President José Ramos Horta called for the UNMIT to remain until at least 2012.

"Approximately 40,000 people remained internally displaced."

Police and security forces
The programme to rebuild the national police force continued. However, there were reports of human rights violations by both police and military personnel. Tensions between the two forces escalated when the police came temporarily under the authority of Timor-Leste’s army following attacks on the President and Prime Minister. UN mentoring of the police force continued.

On 11 February, President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot three times during a raid on his home led by rebel soldier Major Alfredo Reinado. Major Reinado and the president’s bodyguard were killed in the ensuing gun battle. In a coordinated attack, the car in which Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was travelling, and his home were also attacked but he escaped unharmed. Reinado had been charged with murder and was wanted by police for his leadership role in the 2006 violence. The President made a full recovery.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) report into the 1999 violence was officially submitted to the Timor-Leste government and the Indonesian government in July. It went further than expected in allocating institutional responsibility for gross human rights violations to pro-autonomy militia groups, Indonesia’s military, civilian government and police. However, its mandate prevents the CTF from pursuing its own prosecutions, and it did not name individual violators. Concerns about impunity led the UN to boycott the CTF’s investigations and instead resume prosecutions through the Serious Crime Unit, set up in conjunction with Timor-Leste prosecutors. By the end of the year, twenty cases had been submitted. The UN estimated that it could take three years to complete investigations into nearly 400 cases.

In May, the President reduced the sentences of numerous pro-Indonesian militia convicted of murder during the 1999 violence.

* Militia leader Joni Marques’ sentence was halved to 12 years. Originally set at 33 years, for crimes against humanity, his term had already been reduced by nine years in 2004.
* In April, Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned on appeal the conviction and 10-year sentence of former militia leader Eurico Guterres for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste. He was the only defendant out of the six originally found guilty whose conviction had been upheld and who was serving a prison sentence.

Internally displaced people
Approximately 40,000 people remained internally displaced. They continued to be in need of adequate food, shelter, clean water and sanitation and health care.


Conflict in East Timor: Genocide or Expansionist Occupation?

Conflict in East Timor: Genocide or Expansionist Occupation?

In the annals of crime of this terrible century, Indonesia's assault against East Timor ranks high, not only because of its scale--perhaps the greatest death toll relative to the population since the Holocaust--but because it would have been so easy to prevent.... [1]

...towards the (Second World) War's end, the Royal Australian Air Force dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Portuguese East Timor in recognition of East Timor's sacrifice for Australia's war effort. This leaflet began with the declaration: "Friends, we will not forget you!" [2]

The struggle for political control in East Timor has reached a decisive turning point. For twenty-four years, the half-island territory has been governed by Indonesia, in spite of international condemnation of that country's rule and persistent diplomatic and military action by groups seeking East Timor's independence. The political upheavals triggered by the economic recession in Indonesia in 1998, which precipitated the fall of the Soeharto regime, led to a radical revision of that country's position on East Timor: for the first time in over two decades, the Indonesian government, led by the caretaker president, B.J. Habibie, acknowledged the possibility of independence for East Timor. A referendum in East Timor is planned for August 1999, but doubts persist about the viability of the plebiscite given ongoing conflict on the island and the difficulties faced by United Nations peacekeepers in ensuring a peaceful interlude prior to the poll. [3] Throughout 1999, Indonesian-backed militias have waged a campai gn of terror in East Timor, leading to deaths, the flight of independence leaders, and the displacement of thousands of persons, some of whom are cut off from essential supplies of food and medicines. [4]

Allegations of Genocide

The international focus on East Timor has once again brought to the foreground longstanding allegations of genocide during the period of Indonesian administration. [5] Most texts on East Timor give prominence to charges of genocide, often including the term in the title of the monograph or report. These claims have not yet been tested in an international court, but the potential for such legal action will become greater if East Timor becomes independent. A charge of genocide would have far-reaching implications not only for Indonesian military and political leaders, but also for the international community, since allegations of complicity by the major powers, particularly Australia, have been made repeatedly. [6]

A comprehensive gathering of evidence supporting a charge of genocide in East Timor, remains a task that can only be undertaken systematically once ongoing conflict on the island is resolved. For the present, available evidence is based on eyewitness accounts, [7] the efforts of investigative journalists [8] and academics, [9] testimony by the leadership of the East Timorese independence movement, [10] and accounts provided by communiques and ex-government officials. [11] The present article will not attempt to assess such evidence in a legalistic manner, but instead will aim only to explore some of the theoretical foundations for a claim of genocide in East Timor and the allegation that western powers such as Australia might have been complicit in such crimes against humanity.

Historical Background

Jardine has provided a succinct summary of the historical events leading up to the present crisis in East Timor. [12] Only a brief review of key historical data will be provided hereunder. East Timor came under Dutch influence in the early sixteenth century, but the official division of the island was only concluded finally in 1913, when East Timor was recognized fully as a Portuguese colony and West Timor was assigned to Dutch colonial rule. The latter territory was incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1950. The colonial history of East Timor was characterized by neglect and stagnation, with the majority of East Timorese continuing to live traditional village lives.

During World War II, the island was occupied by the Japanese after a bitter jungle war against a much smaller Allied commando force including an Australian contingent. Scores of East Timorese suffered starvation, torture, rape, forced labor, and other forms of gross human rights violations at the hands of the Japanese as retribution for the widespread support the East Timorese gave to the Allied forces. Following World War II, the island reverted to Portuguese colonial rule. The prospect of independence came after 1974, when the revolution in Portugal opened the way to the decolonization of its overseas empire. A split in the coalition of the two major parties that emerged in East Timor, widely regarded as the result of Indonesian subversion, led to civil war, with Fretilin (East Timorese Front for Independence) rapidly gaining ascendancy over UDT (The Timorese Democratic Union), both militarily and politically. Observers of the time noted that by the end of the civil war, Fretilin had established an effective and just administration over East Timor and that the party had widespread support. Although Portugal was invited to maintain its authority during the period leading to full independence, the colonial power vacillated, and Fretilin then declared independence.

Using the pretext of the civil war--which in fact had already come to an end--Indonesia invaded the territory in December 1975. The well-trained Fretilin army mounted a stiff resistance, and a bloody struggle continued for several years, even though the invaders officially annexed the territory as a province of Indonesia. During the long period of diplomatic deadlock that followed, Falantil (The East Timorese National Liberation Army) continued to wage a guerrilla war against ABRI (Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia).

The conflict intensified in 1999 after the interim Indonesian government announced its willingness to hold a referendum on the territory's future. In the months thereafter, daily reports attested to ongoing violence, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other atrocities occurring throughout the territory. [13] Large numbers of internal refugees were cut off from food, water, and medical supplies. [14] United Nations observers supported the claim that the Indonesian military continued to arm and train local militia groups intent on destroying the influence of the independence movement prior to the poll. Thus, serious doubts remained as to whether a fair and free referendum could be held in East Timor at all.

The history of the last twenty-four years of Indonesian rule in East Timor raises many questions. Most important is how the invasion and subsequent violent struggle in the territory should be construed: as a geopolitically expedient stratagem to prevent instability in the region, as a form of imperial expansionism by a newly formed power, or as a genocide against the East Timorese people. (As will be argued, these possible constructions of the recent history of East Timor are not mutually exclusive.) A further question is whether the world powers, including Australia, should stand accused of passivity and neglect, or of more serious charges of active complicity in genocide or other crimes against humanity. [15]

Definitions and Concepts of Genocide

Lemkin [16] coined the term "genocide" at a pivotal moment in the twentieth century when the systematic Nazi program for the annihilation of European Jewry first became widely known. Lemkin introduced the term to designate a coordinated set of actions that aimed to destroy the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the ultimate objective of annihilating the groups themselves. That objective could be achieved by the destruction of social and political institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, or religion, and of the economic infrastructure of a group. Lemkin also included wider actions that threatened the security, liberty, health, and dignity of individuals belonging to that group. It is clear that Lemkin's definition arose directly from, and was informed largely by, the Nazi Holocaust. Intent was a critical provision of his formulation, and that cornerstone was consistent with the recognition that the Nazi regime had developed a fully coordinated, systematic plan, supported by extensively documented ideology, a vast bureaucracy, and modern technology, to exterminate European Jewry, and that this mission was central to the raison d'etre of the Nazi regime. [17]

The notion of intent was retained as a central criterion in the "Definition of Genocide," included in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. [18] The Convention's criteria have been criticized, however, by several authorities in the field, with Chalk and Jonassohn claiming that the provisions would not apply accurately to any of the genocides that have occurred since World War II. [19] Criticisms have been directed at the difficulties raised by the need to demonstrate the intent of the perpetrator(s), as well as at the Convention's definition of what constitutes a victim group. Some authorities have favored the inclusion of a cultural form of genocide in which the identity of a group may be destroyed by actions that do not necessarily lead to the physical destruction of the population per se. [20] In addition, as presently defined, the Convention may not cover acts of "autogenocide" such as occurred in Cambodia, or acts of mass murder motivated by political i ntentions alone. Chalk and Jonassohn have attempted to address the problem of group definition by offering a revised formulation of genocide as being "a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator." [21]

Although the issue of intent presents definitional difficulties, many authorities have considered it vital in distinguishing between genocidal acts and other categories of mass human rights violations. [22] According to the Convention, whether killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm represents the outcome of warfare, human rights violations, or genocidal acts depends largely on whether there was an "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group..." (Article II). Chalk and Jonassohn [23] have expressed caution about including forms of genocide in which intent may not be clear. For example, in the course of a war, bombing and famine might threaten the survival of a group even though the intent might have been to quell an uprising or to further other military objectives. Others have defined genocide without making explicit reference to intent. Horowitz expanded the scope of the term to include any "structural and systematic destruction of innocent people by a s tate bureaucratic appartus." [24] Charny, in particular, has raised serious objections to a narrow definition of genocide. His "humanistic" definition of genocide included within the term any wanton murder of persons based on any shared characteristic, whether national, ethnic, racial, religious, political, geographical, or ideological. [25] Such a broad definition would not, it seems, require a definite demonstration of intent as a sine qua non to sustain a charge of genocide. In addition, Charny quotes a UN study submitted to the Special Rapporteur on Genocide in 1985. [26] which gave emphasis to the proportionate scale and total number of victims killed in considering a charge of genocide. Thus, there does not appear to be a dear consensus on the defining elements of genocide or where the boundaries of the term should be drawn. Which definition is adopted may be critical to the question of whether the Indonesian rule of East Timor might be regarded as genocidal or not.

A further issue of importance in analyzing the East Timor conflict is the extent to which the Indonesian invasion can be seen as an act of imperialism by an emerging regional power whose status as a nation had only recently been ratified. The new Republic of Indonesia was based on a vast grouping of loosely connected islands and territories with widely differing ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. The only defining basis for inclusion of territories within Indonesia was that all the islands had fallen under Dutch colonial rule. Apart from East Timor, the fragility of the union has been exacerbated by ongoing opposition to centralist Indonesian rule in territories such as Aceh and Irian Jaya (West Papua), struggles that continue to this day. Thus, the history of the East Timorese invasion might be construed as following a model of imperial expansionism pursued by a newly created and emerging power whose leaders were following the style of harsh colonial repression to which they themselves had been subjected. Kuper has acknowledged the close, if complex relationship between the two historical forces of genocide and colonialism. [27] He pointed out that genocidal massacres against indigenous groups were widely practiced during the period of colonialism. Characteristically, colonialism has been accompanied by a phase of brutal conquest in which genocidal massacres occurred, and a more prolonged period of destruction of the cultural, social, and economic infrastructure of the colonized society. The period of "pacification" often involved economic and political disenfranchisement of the indigenous group, dispossession of land, and the development of an underclass of native citizens who were characterized by the new rulers as inferior and hence open to discrimination and exploitation. Such conditions encouraged ongoing genocidal policies and actions, and spawned resistance groups, liberationist philosophies, and various forms of insurgency warfare. Kuper's characterization is mirrored in Fein,s [28] typology which identifies a category of "developmental" genocide reserved for acts committed in the course of colonialism. Unlike ideological genocides, such as those perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis or against the Armenians by the Turks, there often are inherent constraints on the genocidal tendencies associated with colonialism. The colonizing power is frequently dependent on the colonized for labor and for the development of the territory as a functional economic entity. Such "functional" restraints on genocide, however, vary according to the context; for example, colonialists may regard indigenous hunter-gatherer societies as offering little value, or as posing an obstacle, to the economic or administrative development of a newly acquired territory. In such cases a more destructive form of genocide may be pursued, such as was perpetrated against the San of Southern Africa. An important question that arises, therefore, is whether the primary motive behind the Indonesian invasion was one of expansionism of an imperial kind, with genocidal methods used as part of the strategy or whether parallels can be drawn with an ideological form of genocide as typified by the Nazi Holocaust.

The UN Convention and the Recent History of East Timor

Although controversy continues about the definition and scope of the term genocide, the UN Convention remains in force, and it therefore continues to represent the critical test of any charge of genocide. Thus, it would seem appropriate to use the articles of the Convention as a framework to examine the extent of the human rights violations that have taken place in East Timor. Under Article II of the UN Convention (1948), five categories of actions are defined, with any one being sufficient to constitute an act of genocide if it is accompanied by "the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." What prima facie evidence is there that actions were taken in East Timor that may match these criteria?

Article II (a) specifies the killing of members of the target group. That there has been mass killing in East Timor is beyond question, although there is no precise documentation of the numbers killed. It is widely acknowledged that during the first few months of the initial Indonesian invasion, 60,000 East Timorese lost their lives. [29] Eyewitness accounts of the killing in Dili alone can leave no doubt that the mass slaughter was widespread, indiscriminate, and not limited to military targets. Amongst several verbatim eyewitness reports, Jardine quotes the Catholic Bishop of Dili as follows: "The soldiers who landed started killing everyone they could find. There were many dead bodies in the streets--all we could see were the soldiers killing, killing, killing." [30]

Systematic murder on the wharf, and the dumping of bodies en masse in the sea, were reported by several survivors. Young girls were actively sought out and raped, and torture and other abuses were rampant. Large numbers of civilians attempted to flee from Dill into the mountains, but many were killed by aerial bombings. [31]

Atrocities continued unabated following the initial invasion. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 East Timorese have lost their lives during the twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation. [32] If this estimate is close to the truth, then it means that between a third and a quarter of the East Timorese population have died (the population at the time of the invasion was estimated to be approximately 690,000 people). There can be little doubt that most of those killed were unarmed civilians. Although the tenacity of the East Timorese resistance undoubtedly surprised the Indonesian military, direct action between the opposing forces cannot account for anything but a fraction of the numbers killed. At the height of its strength during the initial war, Fretilin forces consisted of 2,500 regular soldiers, 7,000 part-time militia, and 10,000 reservists. [33] Many were killed, but a substantial number survived. Some continued the guerilla war, others returned to civilian life, and a number fled into exile. T he numbers of Indonesian soldiers who died during the intense period of the war was 2,000 of a total armed force of between 15,000 to 30,000. [34] Thus military casualties can only account for the minority of the estimated numbers who have died. Most East Timorese live in villages. The guerilla war has been waged from remote strongholds and jungle hide-outs. Thus, in most instances, it should not have been difficult for the Indonesian military to discriminate between armed combatants and civilian villagers, even if the latter were sympathetic to the cause of independence.

Article 111(c) of the Convention specifies the "deliberate inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." Substantial evidence has accrued that large numbers of East Timorese have died from disease and starvation in the wake of the conflict, [35] but there is no evidence that the Indonesians attempted to prevent this eventuality, nor did they call on international agencies such as the UN to assist in preventing these disasters. Allowing rampant disease and famine to overwhelm a population is considered in itself by some authorities as warranting a charge of genocide. [36] Strategies adopted by the Indonesian military (ABRI) to quell resistance in the years after the invasion continued to put the whole population of East Timor at risk. By 1977, ABRI had still not overcome the small number of Falantil guerrillas that remained. The Indonesian military thus mounted a campaign of "encirclement and annihilation" [37] with the aim of driving the c ivilian population to the coastal areas in order to isolate the resistance fighters in the mountainous hinterland. Intensive bombing and the use of chemicals resulted in the defoliation of forests and farmlands and the death of livestock. Military aircraft, recently acquired from Britain and other western nations, were employed in widespread and indiscriminate bombing. Large numbers of militants and civilians were killed, displaced, or incarcerated, and many were relocated to "guarded camps" or banished to the offshore island of Atauro. As early as 1979, there were 15 guarded camps housing over 300,000 displaced people. Life in the camps was characterized by starvation, disease, and forced labor. Later, the inmates of these camps were moved into "resettlement villages," thus disrupting existing social structures.

Falantil, the military wing of the resistance movement, gradually regrouped and re-organized. Its growing military successes led to the Indonesian military mounting a campaign referred to as a" fence of legs," in which a human shield of approximately 80,000 East Timorese civilians were forced to walk in line across the countryside in advance of Indonesian troops. Many unarmed civilians forming the human shield died of starvation and exhaustion. Mass slaughter of women and children by indiscriminate bombing occurred. Agriculture was disrupted across the territory, leading to food shortages. Similar operations occurred throughout the 1980s, but the military stalemate was never broken.

In the 1990s, the brutality of the repression became more visible in the international arena. The starkest example was the massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, November 12, 1991, when, without provocation, unarmed mourners were attacked and over 250 were killed. According to Max Stahl, a British journalist who captured the killings on videotape, the atrocity had all the hallmarks of a premeditated massacre. [38] It is alleged that in the immediate aftermath of the killings, the military embarked on the systematic killing of the wounded in a nearby hospital. Eyewitnesses reported that the Indonesian military crushed the skulls of the injured with rocks, ran over them with trucks, and stabbed them to death. Although Indonesia took some diplomatic action to stem the international wave of condemnation, two senior generals in the military declared that the massacre was necessary and that no regret was warranted. The attitude underlying such statements suggests that the Indonesian military had, for a long time, abandoned all restraint in repressing dissent in East Timor.

Evidence has accrued of the deliberate destruction of the cultural, social and ecological foundations of East Timorese life. Jardine [39] has documented the many strategies pursued to effect a policy of "Indonesianization" of East Timor society. The process of relocating large populations of displaced persons to resettlement villages has disrupted traditional hierarchies and clan relationships. Within the new villages, a regime of fear and intimidation has been maintained by the military, the police, and collaborators. Indonesian control of the economy has led to the exclusion of many indigenous East Timorese from their land and has limited their capacity to participate in commercial enterprises. The Indonesian policy of "transmigration" has encouraged ethnic Indonesians from more densely populated islands to settle in East Timor, Irian Jaya, and other outlying territories.

By 1992, an estimated 100,000 Indonesians, some "transmigrants," others independent migrants, were living in East Timor, out of a total population of 750,000. (Since the recent upheavals commenced in 1999, many Indonesians have fled the island.) The slaughter and flight of the ethnic Chinese minority during the Indonesian invasion left a vacuum in business leadership which was gradually filled by Indonesians and their sympathizers. The conversion of land titles from the Portuguese to the Indonesian system in the early 1990s has hastened the process of re-allocation of collectively used traditional land--considered by the authorities as not belonging to anyone--to Indonesians and pro-Indonesian officials. A large monopoly, P.T. Denok, in which high-ranking military and other Indonesian officials hold interests, controls the coffee industry and other subsidiary enterprises to the extent that it virtually runs the East Timorese economy. Local industry has been undermined by an increasing reliance on Indonesian imports for basic commodities. Thus, there appears to be good evidence for the claim that the East Timorese have been marginalized socially and economically within their own homeland.

Control of the educational system has been another manifestation of "Indonesianization." Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of schooling in East Timor, syllabi are biased in favor of the Indonesian perspective, and all students are obliged to memorize and recite Pancasila, the official credo of Indonesian society. Military and physical education and membership in Pramuka, the state-controlled scout organization, are all encouraged, thereby creating a culture of conformity and obedience among the young. [40]

When interviewed in his mountain stronghold in 1990, Xanana Gusmao, the Falantil leader who was subsequently captured and imprisoned in Jakarta, had this to say about the impact of Indonesianization on East Timorese life:

...there have been a lot of changes, a lot of difficulties for the people to continue their customs and traditions...Our people are essentially rooted in their culture and traditions. They have their own concepts of life, of existence, and live to realize them. They are impregnated spiritually and existentially with the concept...But the Maubere (East Timorese) people...feel that they are prevented from realizing, from living, from practicing their traditions, their customs, and this is what essentially offends our people....[41]

Article II (a) of the Genocide Convention specifies the intentional infliction of serious bodily or mental harm on members of the group. Over several years, organizations such as Amnesty International have gathered increasing evidence of extensive human rights abuses in East Timor, [42] although isolation of the territory from the outside world, and the strict control of the military over access to information on the island, has made it difficult to verify such accounts. Nevertheless, the consistency of the claims, and convergence in the accounts of numerous witnesses and victims, [43] has provided convincing evidence that human rights abuses have been extensive. As a psychiatrist in a mental health program providing assistance to East Timorese asylum seekers in Sydney, Australia, I have listened to extensive accounts of extreme human rights abuses in East Timor from clients. The detailed nature of the accounts, the consistency of the assertions made, and the absence of any motive in so doing other than to u nburden feelings of distress has lent them a sense of credibility. Thirty of these clients have completed structured inventories documenting the various forms of human rights abuses perpetrated on themselves, their families, and others. Repetitive records have been provided of night-time invasion of homes, public beatings, brutal apprehension of "suspects," kidnapping, "disappearances" and extrajudicial killings, and detentions. Families list large numbers of relatives or other close associates who have been injured or killed, or who are "missing." Torture has been widespread, with some asylum seekers exhibiting physical stigmata and disabilities arising from such abuses. Often, the same victim has been arrested and tortured repeatedly while the family is forced to flee the locality because of repeated threats and intimidation. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse of women appears to have been prevalent, with such violations often occurring in the presence of the family and other onlookers.

A significant number of East Timorese, numbering approximately 6,000 people, reside in Australia. As yet, only two studies have been undertaken that have focused on the mental reactions to human rights abuses and displacement among the East Timorese. A Melbourne study, [44] based on impressions by clinicians, suggested that a high percentage of East Timorese exiles accessing a refugee service were suffering from trauma-related symptoms of stress and depression. A systematic ongoing study undertaken by our group in Sydney, in which structured questionnaires and interview schedules have been used, has revealed high rates of depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms in East Timorese asylum seekers. The high rate of post-traumatic stress is particularly significant, since that form of psychological disturbance is closely tied to exposure to torture and other forms of egregious human rights abuses. East Timorese have not been exposed to psychiatry of any kind, so that respondents would not be in a position to simulate symptom patterns recognized by western psychiatrists; thus, consistency in the pattern of post-traumatic stress symptoms described by East Timorese clients adds credibility to their reports. In the minds of these respondents, there is no doubt that the persecution they have suffered has been motivated by genocidal designs on the part of the Indonesian military. Many respondents also have intimated that they regard Australia as complicit in the persecution of the East Timorese, an issue that will be revisited below.

Article II (d) and (e) of the Genocide Convention specify acts that prevent births within a group and that forcibly transfer children from the group with the intent of weakening the foundations of the group's existence. Writing for the East Timor Human Rights Centre, Sisson [45] has documented accounts of forced sterilization of women and the implementation of coercive family planning programs in East Timor. Injectable, long-acting chemical forms of contraception have been promoted by a special birth control program implemented across the territory. It should be noted, however, that Indonesia has initiated a population control program, Program Keluarga Berencana, the "KB" program, at a national level, raising the question of whether its implementation in East Timor should be regarded in a special light. Sissons has argued that the KB program in East Timor is distinct both in its character and consequences, specifically because it has been implemented within a context of intimidation and widespread human figh ts abuses, and with direct support from the military.

According to Sissons, two historical phases of the violation of women's rights in East Timor can be identified. From 1975 to the mid-1980s, repeated allegations were made of rape, forced impregnation, killing and mutilation of pregnant women, and covert sterilization. Since the 1980s, reports have emphasized coercive contraception and denial of information or choice about family planning. The detailed account of the suffering of East Timorese women by Aditjondro [46] adds further weight to the assertions made by Sissons.

No claims have been made of a large-scale removal of children from East Timorese families. On the other hand, there is every reason to suspect that the rights of children have been violated on a large scale in East Timor. Malnutrition and communicable diseases are endemic in East Timor, and children are at most risk of the adverse long-term consequences of such afflictions. The spread of disease can be traced at least in part to the ravages of the warfare waged by the Indonesian military. [47] The campaign of extrajudicial killings, detention, and displacement has led to the mass breakup of families and kinship groups, and has left thousands of orphans and single-parent families in its wake. Exile groups in Australia, for example, often consist of "makeshift" family arrangements in which distant relatives or acquaintances take charge of orphaned or separated children. There is no doubt that the war in East Timor, together with widespread repression and displacement of the population, has posed an active thre at to the psychosocial and physical development of the territory's children; such violations would undoubtedly contravene international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.

Responsibility of World Powers

As indicated above, repeated assertions have been made about the complicity of the world powers in the unraveling of the human disaster in East Timor. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the major powers actively condoned the Indonesian invasion.48 Gerald Ford, then U.S. president, and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, met with Soeharto a few days prior to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. During the subsequent war, the western powers provided military supplies to the Indonesians, who were running short on arms. Britain and other western governments continued to supply military aircraft-British-made Broncos were instrumental in the indiscriminate bombings in which large numbers of civilians were killed in successive Indonesian military campaigns in East Timor. Indonesia's economic ties and trade with Japan, Canada, the U.S., Britain, and other European countries have strengthened throughout the period of the occupation of East Timor. Multilateral economic aid programs to Indones ia have also been in effect throughout this period. The initial condemnation of the Indonesian invasion at the UN General Assembly was not supported by the Security Council, where the major western powers vetoed the resolution. A succession of subsequent UN resolutions calling for negotiations on East Timor have failed, until recently, to lead to effective action, mainly because of the inertia of the Great Powers.

The role of Australia, the major power m the region other than Indonesia, has attracted particular criticism. [49] Accounts vary somewhat about Australia's stance in the initial invasion of East Timor, particularly with respect to the role of the Labor government of the time. Whitlam, then the Labor Party Prime Minister, who had championed the case for independence for Papua New Guinea, is reported to have commented that an independent East Timor was not "viable." Communiques from the Australian ambassador in Indonesia at the time dearly favored pragmatism in accepting an Indonesian takeover of East Timor. Indonesia's early atrocities on the western border of East Timor, including the alleged massacre of an Australian news crew, were minimized and obfuscated in the Australian parliament and media. One report suggested that Soeharto had promised Whitlam not to mount a military invasion of East Timor. Peacock, the Shadow Foreign Minister in the Conservative Opposition, allegedly met senior Indonesian officials in Bali and strongly encouraged the annexation of East Timor. Peacock gave assurances that the Whitlam government was about to fall, and that the Conservative government, once it had acceded, would support Indonesia's dominion over East Timor--a prediction that soon eventuated. Since the invasion, successive Australian governments led by both major parties have stood alone among western nations in giving full recognition to Indonesia's rule over East Timor. Throughout, the Australian government has promoted closer ties with Indonesia, forging both military and economic agreements. Most controversial has been the conclusion of a bilateral agreement with Indonesia on the exploitation of oil reserves in the Timor Gap, a stretch of sea separating Northern Australia and East Timor--in spite of Portugal mounting a challenge in the international court on the basis that it retained legal authority over East Timor. Paradoxically, successive Australian governments have rejected asylum claims by East Timorese exiles on the grounds that Portugal, the colonial power, retains responsibility for their welfare.

Classifying Events in East Timor: Problems and Paradoxes

It is beyond the scope of this article, and the expertise of the author, to attempt to reach a definitive judgment as to whether there is a case in international law for a charge of genocide in relation to East Timor--future events will determine whether such a case will be mounted. As I have noted throughout, however, allegations of genocide have been made on a regular basis and from a variety of quarters. In 1997-1998 a photographic exposition titled "Stop Operation Annihilation," that juxtaposed images from the Nazi Holocaust and the East Timor tragedy, toured several large centers around the world. [50] Whether the term genocide can be used legitimately to characterize the human disaster that has unfolded in East Timor depends both on the strength of the evidence that can be documented and on the definition of genocide that is applied. Chalk and Jonassohn have outlined the difficulties encountered in verifying claims of genocide. [51] Detailed records are rarely kept, and even if they are, there are usua lly major discrepancies between the accounts of suspected perpetrators and those of victims or their advocates. It needs to be acknowledged that the major sources of public evidence available at present on East Timor, and on which the present article has drawn, have been produced by critics of the Indonesian occupation. Having worked clinically with the East Timorese, I am avowedly in support of any initiatives to prevent further human rights abuses and trauma to that community and the comments offered herein need to be judged in that light.

Definitional issues also bedevil the question of whether the East Timorese situation can be characterized as a genocide or not. If a broad, humanistic, or popular perspective is adopted, as proposed by Charny, then events in East Timor could easily be described as genocide. A proportionately large number of persons have been killed, and many more have been subjected to a concerted military program that has repeatedly endangered the lives and undermined the fundamental structures necessary for the survival and continuation of the East Timorese as a people. The target group has been clearly identified, most of the victims have been defenseless throughout the Indonesian occupation, and the scale of the violence directed at the society as a whole is grossly disproportionate to the objective of containing a small insurgency group.

Difficulty still remains, however, in identifying with clarity the intent of the Indonesians in East Timor. A case of genocide is more easily sustained when the perpetrators have articulated an overt ideology aimed at annihilating a specific group, the Nazi Holocaust being the clearest example. Even when polemic is documented, distinctions need to be made between rhetoric and an explicit intent to follow through with a program of action. In the late twentieth century, this type of evidence is unlikely to be forthcoming.

We thus face a paradox in world history in which the advances made by the human rights movement unintentionally may have created conditions in which transgressions become progressively more difficult to prosecute. In prior epochs, for example, during the Inquisition in Europe, when no international conventions against genocide existed, rulers and religious leaders could express openly and with impunity their intent to destroy a group simply because of the group's characteristics, the most obvious at that time being adherence to a particular religious faith. Even as late as the first half of the twentieth century, explicitly racist statements by officials of government could be made with impunity in most countries of the world. Drawing extensively on public utterances by Australian officials earlier in the century in which explicitly racist and discriminatory sentiments were expressed, Tatz has made a compelling case for a charge that genocide was perpetrated against the Aborigines of that country [52] Nation al and international laws against racism and discrimination now would not only proscribe such public statements, but render the authors liable to prosecution. Nevertheless, although the legal and judicial machinery to prosecute perpetrators of genocide exists, the capacity to gather evidence, to apprehend those who have been indicted, and hence to effect judgements remains weak--as evidenced by the attempts to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. One unintended effect of establishing international human rights laws such as the Genocide Convention may have been, therefore, to put national leaders on notice of the risk they face if they declare their intent to commit such crimes. Thus, given the contemporary zeitgeist, and the threat inherent in international conventions, the likelihood of proving a case of "ideological" genocide may become increasingly remote. Instead, would-be perpetrators are encouraged by the existing prohibitions and sanctions to disguis e their motives and obfuscate their intentions.

Thus, half a century after the formulation of the Genocide Convention, there may be a need to reconsider some of its defining articles so that the instrument is more consonant with contemporary historical and political realities. Perhaps a more contemporary test of culpability would be the requirements that national leaders assume the responsibility of preventing strategies mounted by their military that, by any commonsense reasoning, could result in a threat to the existence of a defined group. In addition, in spite of the technical difficulties involved, it may become necessary to accept the principle that, under certain circumstances, genocidal intent can be inferred from the set of strategies used to undermine the viability of a group. Intentions may be complex and multifaceted; for example, the Timor debacle might be best understood as a late form of colonial or imperial expansionism in which genocidal massacres, ethnocide, and destruction of culture formed elements. It seems likely that one intent behi nd the Indonesian campaign was to absorb East Timor into the body of the Indonesian state at any cost. That process was pursued with little restraint and with a disregard for the lives, safety, dignity, human rights, and culture of the indigenous people. In the East Timor context, the prolonged period over which military operations were carried out, the methods used to effect them, and the consequences to the indigenous population might all be construed as evidence of a broad strategy--even if ill-defined--to fundamentally disrupt the basis of East Timorese life so as to assimilate the territory and its people fully into Indonesia.

Is Realpolitik a Defense?

The unconstrained brutality of the Indonesian regime in East Timor might be attributable to both internal and external factors. Since the fall of the Soeharto regime, public criticism of its rule has become more vociferous, with widespread allegations being made of corruption, nepotism, and a disregard throughout Indonesia of democratic principles, institutions of justice, and mechanisms for defending human fights. All these elements of despotic rule became evident soon after Soeharto took power and initiated a reign of terror against what was depicted as a communist threat inside the country. The ensuing repression and massacres led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in the mid-1960s. The western powers condoned these early acts of the regime, and perhaps by so doing positioned themselves on the slippery slope of acquiescence to any further acts of brutal repression by the Soeharto government.

From the perspective of realpolitik, it is easy to see why the international powers, including Australia, chose to turn a blind eye to the worst excesses of the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor. At the height of the Cold War, in the wake of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the accession of anti-western regimes in that country, Laos, and Cambodia, Indonesia was regarded as a critical bulwark against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Australia, in particular, feared the consequences of instability in Indonesia, by far the most populous country in the region. The fragile unity of a newly established Indonesian Republic, the ethnic diversity of its population, and the strategic importance of its military and economic alliance with the West undoubtedly persuaded the major powers to ignore the aspirations of East Timor, generally regarded as a backwater whose only relevance was as a potential trouble spot if those with socialist and nationalistic leanings gained ascendancy on the half-island. The "neatest" solution, then, from the perspective of the world powers, was the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. Once locked into support for the Soeharto regime's invasion and occupation, the West could, at most, voice ambivalent and ineffectual protests about aspects of Indonesian rule. Australia, in particular, exploited the situation by strengthening military and economic ties with Indonesia. So emboldened was Australia in forging that alliance that it felt no obligation to consult with the Timorese leadership in exile or the acknowledged legal authority, Portugal, in reaching a pact with Indonesia regarding the exploitation of oil deposits in the Timor Gap.

Will history judge the policy of realpolitik pursued by the world powers as justified? Can the pursuit of "larger" interests--maintaining the balance of power, fostering regional security, and ensuring economic development--be condoned? The two key questions--whether Indonesia is guilty of genocide and whether the West is complicit--may, in fact, have one answer. Unless dismissed as a cosmetic charade, the creation of the United Nations and the establishment of a large body of conventions and international instruments aimed at the protection of human rights--developments in which the Western powers have provided the key leadership--have, in effect, changed the rules of the international political "game." Since the definitive point of adopting the genocide convention, no nation can claim impunity for its actions based solely on the principle of pragmatic interest or regional security. Although full and systematic information has been difficult to gather in East Timor, there is overwhelming evidence that massiv e human rights violations have occurred on the island throughout the period of Indonesian rule. The period of oppression has been prolonged--twenty-four years--and during that time, evidence of human rights violations was brought repeatedly to the attention of the West by tireless advocates for East Timor, including respected academics such as Noam Chomsky and Nobel Laureates Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Bello. There can be little doubt that the West has failed to acknowledge crimes against humanity in East Timor, and that countries such as Australia have acted hypocritically by rushing to the defense of peoples such as the Kuwaitis and the Kosovars while ignoring the plight of their closest neighbors, the East Timorese.

Claiming that the West, and Australia in particular, has been complicit in the genocide of the East Timorese carries with it many implications. The term genocide has entered the popular lexicon of Western discourse, and in that context, it has an emotive and evocative force. Genocide has become one of the rallying points for the expression of a postmodernist commitment to the preservation of human diversity, cultural pluralism, and the identity of minority groups. Claims of genocide can quickly provoke public outrage and garner support for a cause. In that way, charges of genocide in recent publications, documentary films, and exhibitions have helped to bring the East Timorese tragedy more forcefully to public attention. Nevertheless, such charges may have unpredictable effects at the level of national and international politics. Western governments might be offended or intimidated by claims of complicity in genocide, with such charges thus leading to further minimization and obfuscation of the issues at sta ke. There is also a risk that the gap between a broad, humanistic usage of the term genocide [53] and the stricter UN definition may threaten the core meaning of the term and thereby undermine its future utility.

Since the Genocide Convention was adopted, a large body of international instruments have been established that aim to proscribe human rights abuses. Machinery has been created to prosecute offenders, such as the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, thereby providing mechanisms other than the Genocide Convention for indicting those suspected of actions subsumed under the broader category of "crimes against humanity." Thus, proof that genocide has occurred in East Timor may not be essential to pursuing charges of human rights abuses against suspected offenders. Most importantly, ongoing debate about genocide should not obscure the reality that the East Timorese have been subjected to appalling levels of suffering, and that the international community has an urgent responsibility to rectify the wrongs of the past.

DERRICK SILOVE discusses the history of the case of violence in East Timor in relation to various conceptions of genocide in the law and in social science. During 1999, East Timor underwent a massive convulsion with much of the infrastructure being destroyed by militia groups and large segments of the population being displaced from their homes. Evidence is mounting of mass murder and other human fights abuses. The recent crisis brings into focus repeated claims of genocidal actions during twenty-five years of Indonesian rule. The author evaluates the basis of that claim in relation to definitions of genocide and the possible political and territorial motivations behind the extensive human rights violations that have been perpetrated in the territory. It is possible that Indonesia was not intent on ideological genocide in the sense most clearly represented by the Nazi Holocaust, but instead was motivated to consolidate the hegemony of the new nation over its far-flung and culturally diverse territories. Never theless, whether or not a claim of genocide can be sustained, there appears to be no doubt that widespread crimes against humanity have been committed against the East Timorese population. Questions of responsibility undoubtedly will focus on the Indonesian military and political leaders of the time, but issues of complicity by the international powers also warrant attention.


(1.) Noam Chomsky, "Introduction," in East Timor: Genocide in Paradise, ed. Mathew Jardine (Tucson: Odonian Press, 1995), 7.

(2.) Jim Aubrey," Complicity in Genocide: The case against Australia in East Timor's genocide," in Free East Timor, ed. Jim Aubrey (Sydney: Random House Australia, 1998), 279-294.

(3.) Derrick Silove, "Health and Human Rights of the East Timorese," The Lancet (London, 353: June 12, 1999): 2067.

(4.) Amnesty International Annual Report, Indonesia and East Timor, 1999 (www.amnesty.org).

(5.) Noam Chomsky, "East Timor," in The Chomsky Reader, ed. J. Peck (New York: Serpents Tail! Pantheon Books, 1992), 303-311.

(6.) Chomsky, East Timor, 306.

(7.) Michelle Turner, Telling East Timor: Personal Testimonies 2942-1992 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1992).

(8.) John Pilger and David Munro, Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy, Central Television, London, February 1994.

(9.) George Aditjondro, "The Silent Suffering of Our Timorese Sisters," in Free East Timor, ed. Jim Aubrey (Sydney: Random House Australia, 1998), 243-266.

(10.) Jose Ramos Horta, "National Press Club Speech, Canberra, 1984" in Free East Timor, ed. Jim Aubrey (Sydney: Random House, 1998), 103-122.

(11.) Ken Fry," Lest We Forget East Timor," in Free East Timor, ed. Jim Aubrey (Sydney: Random House, 1998), 31-73.

(12.) Jardine, East Timor.

(13.) Amnesty International, Indonesia and East Timor, www.amnesty.org.

(14.) Mark Dodd, "Indonesian Militia cuts off 60,000 from outside help," Sydney Morning_Herald, July 10, 1999: 1.

(15.) Aubrey, "Complicity," 279-294.

(16.) Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment, 1944), 92.

(17.) Alan Berger," The Holocaust: The Ultimate and Archetypal Genocide," in Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, ed. Israel Charny (New York: Facts on File, 1988), 59-88.

(18.) Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 44-49.

(19.) Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 11.

(20.) Vahakn N. Dadrian, "A Typology of Genocide," International Review of Modern Sociology 5 (Fall 1975), 201-212.

(21.) Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 23, 26.

(22.) Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 26.

(23.) Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 15.

(24.) Irving Louis Horowitz, Taking Lives: Genocide and State Power (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1980), 17.

(25.) Israel W. Charny, "The Study of Genocide," in Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, ed. Israel Charny (New York: Facts on File, 1988), 4.

(26.) Ben Whitaker, Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission of Human Rights, 1985.

(27.) Leo Kuper, "Theories of Genocide" in Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century (New York: Penguin, 1981), 45.

(28.) Helen Fein, "Scenarios of Genocide: Models of Genocide and Critical Responses," in Toward the Understanding and Prevention of Genocide, ed. Israel Charny (Boulder, CO and London: Westview Press, 1984), 4.

(29.) Jardine, East Timor, 35.

(30.) Jardine, East Timor, 31-32.

(31.) Jardine, East Timor, 34.

(32.) Catholic Institute for International Relations, East Timor: The Continuing Betrayal (Nottingham: Russel Press, 1996), 9.

(33.) Jardine, East Timor, 53.

(34.) Jardine, East Timor, 35.

(35.) Catholic Institute for International Relations, East Timor, 10.

(36.) Charny, The Study of Genocide, 3.

(37.) Jardine, East Timor, 16.

(38.) Jardine, East Timor, 16.

(39.) Jardine, East Timor, 57.

(40.) Jardine, East Timor, 62.

(41.) Robert Domm, "East Timor: To Resist Is to Win," in Free East Timor, ed. Jim Aubrey (Sydney: Random House Australia, 1998), 139.

(42.) Al Report, Indonesia and East Timor, www.amnesty.org.

(43.) Turner, Telling East Timor.

(44.) Victoria Foundation for Torture Survivors," The East Timorese: Clinical And Social Assessments of Applicants for Asylum" in The Mental Health and Well-Being of On-Shore Asylum Seekers in Australia, ed. Derrick Silove and Zachary Steel (Sydney: Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, 1998), 24-26.

(45.) Miranda B. Sissons, From One Day to Another Violations of Women's Reproductive and Sexual Rights in East Timor (Melbourne: East Timor Human Rights Centre, 1997).

(46.) Aditjondro, Silent Suffering, 243-266.

(47.) Silove, Health and Human Rights, 2067.

(48.) Chomsky, "Introduction," 7-15.

(49.) Ramos Horta, "National Press Club," 279-294.

(50.) Aubrey, "Complicity," 279.

(51.) Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 42.

(52.) Colin Tatz, Research discussion paper: Genocide in Australia (Fyshwick: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies, 1999), 6.

(53.) Charny, The Study of Genocide, 4.

Publication: Human Rights Review Publication Date: 01-APR-00 Author: Silove, Derrick

Images added by ETLJB: The murder of Joaquim Bernardino Guterres by Indonesian police. Go here to see the whole series of images of this brutal cold-blooded murder.

East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin

East Timor defends 'jobs for mates' allegations

ABC News E Timor defends 'jobs for mates' allegations By Steve Holland and Stephanie March
- Corruption allegations continue to be directed at East Timor's finance ministry, with the latest claims centring on Finance Minister Emilia Pires's hiring of foreign advisers, including Australians.

East Timor's opposition says the advisers are overpaid and are not qualified for the jobs and the country's deputy Prime Minister says corruption exists throughout government.

The opposition alleges Ms Pires hired unqualified friends as advisers.

The adviser positions are funded by the World Bank, and Fretilin vice-president MP Arsenio Bano says some of those hired do not have the educational qualifications outlined in the job advertisement's selection criteria, while others with higher qualifications were overlooked.

"It is becoming clear that the money that has been sent by the donor has not been used transparently enough," he said.

"One of the examples that we now continue to insist that the Government should be accountable for [is that] since 2008, we have be calling for accountability, responsibility of the Government, and Government has not provided any information at all to the Parliament of Timor-Leste."

The Opposition says a recently-appointed adviser is a long-time friend of Ms Pires and does not have a degree, but is being paid $US216,000 ($277,000) from the World Bank's multi-million-dollar Public Finance Management Capacity Building Project.

World Bank documents show that foreign advisors earn much more than the Prime Minister of East Timor, and nearly as much as the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

East Timor is the poorest country in Asia, where the medium income is $US1 a day, or around $400 a year.

Paper trail

According to some documents obtained by Radio Australia, the Opposition's claim that some of those hired by the Finance Ministry do not have university degrees is true.

But Ms Pires insists that the best people have been chosen for the positions, and educational qualifications only accounted for one part of the selection process.

"There were many other criterias: work experience in the field, understanding of the environment here, there were quite a few criterias, and all these people had to go through it," she said.

"Then you bring all that together and then you do a grading and then these people passed the test according to technical team that did the interviews and the screening."

Ms Pires says she has been fighting corruption since she came into office and believes the country's economy is improving, as figures suggest.

East Timor is now one of the five fastest growing economies in the world.

The country last year recorded non-oil GDP growth between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the World Bank.

"When we came in we inherited a country on the brink of becoming a failed state," Ms Pires said.

"We needed the best people to turn the country around. I think the results over a year and half have proven that. We would have been able to do that if we had incompetent people."

Whether or not the recent corruption allegations aimed at the finance ministry are simply the result of political bickering, the World Bank told Radio Australia in a statement that it is looking at the matter closely.

"The World Bank is reviewing contracts between the Government of Timor-Leste and consultants under the Planning and Financial Management Capacity Building Program (PFMCBP) in Timor-Leste as part of its supervision of the project. The World Bank's policy is not to finance consultant contracts that fail to meet appropriate standards of competition and expertise," it said.

"While good results have been achieved through the PFMCBP, the technical assistance has been costly.

"The World Bank has raised its concerns with Government about the need to reduce the number of consultants and ensure that international technical assistance delivers quality expertise and value for money for the citizens of Timor-Leste. The government shares these concerns and supports the review underway."

Corruption in government has been a much-discussed problem for East Timor since the country gained independence in 1999.

And the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Mario Carrascalao, says it is still very much an issue for East Timor.

He believes as much as 20 per cent of the country's Budget is squandered or lost to corruption.

"For instance, I went outside of Dili, about 20 kilometres, I found that there's 26 houses that have been built and then abandoned, nobody uses those houses you know," he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister says his government is making strong efforts to stamp out corruption in office. The Finance Ministry has recorded strong gains for the country and the Department's Minister also says eradicating corruption is a top priority. But a history of corruption in East Timor's Government and a relatively strong opposition means allegations will continue to surface amid the country's economic headway.

Editor's note (May 29, 2009): This story was amended to remove a reference to an audit into the finance department.