30 August 2009

History Repeats Itself: East Timorese Contemporary Politics

By Cesar Dias Quintas (Lere-Malae) The First Fulbright Scholar from East Timor 2007-2009, studying at Ohio University with a Major in Southeast Asian Studies and a Minor in Political Science.

I am writing from the perspective of an East Timorese to reflect the historical process by analyzing political development during the ten years of independence of Timor-Leste. By the end of August 2009, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste will take a moment to reflect on the historical process by visualizing the future of the country. I assume that some of my fellow countryman will criticize the content of this article but as an East Timorese, I believe that critical thinking and argument will develop and strengthen our civil society towards a democratic one. Some may consider the terminology of the democratic society old-fashioned but I would say that with the long history of civil conflict and colonial occupation, democracy may be the only concept that could carry East Timorese towards peace and prosperity.

As a country born in the era of globalization, Timor-Leste cannot to use historical errors to judge the process of its national development; in contrast, national development itself cannot be viewed only from the historical perspectives, either because of strong historical preferences, the current political environment is dominated by a romanticism of independence, which might lead people into a crisis of nationalism in the sense of losing state-ownership. This means that people might view independence merely as the era of claiming the rights which they had lost during 24 years of colonial occupation and expect independence to compensate their meritorious struggle. Apart from the crisis of nationalism, the lack of political will and commitment by the national leadership becomes another factor creating apathy in the East Timorese about the future of their country. Therefore, it will be incumbent upon the East Timorese to view their history and their independence in the context of a sovereign state by involving all national entities in the development process without a preferential treatment within contemporary East Timorese politics.

The shadows of the historical phenomenon remain in the contemporary politics of Timor-Leste. The majority of the national leaders and political parties along with the general population still embrace the historical resistance background. Moreover, the current political constellation of Timor-Leste is still dominated by the 1975 generation who had played major roles during the struggle for independence. Their presence contemporary politics indeed remains a crucial factor; the current political situation would be especially unavoidable. National and international political spotlights focus on these veteran resistance leaders. Nonetheless, among these political leaders there are huge political differences which frequently create a sharp political tension in the country. Some politicians tend to look to an East Timorese future beyond their historical experience; on the other hand, others attempt to use the historical resistance as basis of political ideologies to maintain their political existence.

If the East Timorese could reflect their history precisely, they would realize that history has repeated itself with a different timeframe and roughly with the same political actors. These circumstances can be seen in the unsuccessful Portuguese decolonization process in 1975 and the popular consultation under UN-auspices in 1999 along with the two years of UN transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Within the era of independence, the political leaders of this new independent country in Asia seem unable to abandon a bitter historical heritage. However, just take a moment to reflect on the historical process to identify these same political errors from the decolonization process in 1975, and public consultation in 1999, leading up to political conflict in 2006.

The First Opportunity was Wasted

During the decolonization process in 1975, the Portuguese government through the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento Forcas Armadas or AFM) did not prepare East Timorese political leaders for transition to successful self-determination. The Portuguese were not strong by motivated to conduct a peaceful political transition. This could be seen in the decolonization process in which the Portuguese government did not involve the United Nations and internationalize the issues of East Timor. According to Jose Ramos Horta, “The problem with the Portuguese position was that it never considered internationalizing the problem, even when it was clear at the London meeting that Indonesia would stop at nothing to bring about the integration of East Timor.” Conversely, the Indonesian military regime used this opportunity to play its political card by inserting political tension into the bloody civil war. This became a political argument to justify and accelerate the Indonesian invasion after Fretilin unilaterally declared its independence on November 28, 1975.

The Indonesian military regime under President Suharto had already planned its illegal annexation before the Carnation Revolution in Portugal. Indonesian territorial ambition became one of the main causes shaping a conflict among East Timorese political parties. It would be argued that since the Indonesian military had successfully taken over West Papua and had an unsuccessful confrontation with Malaysia in the 1960s, the military regime might assume that Timor-Portuguese could just be absorbed into the Indonesian territorial archipelago. From this perspective, high Indonesian military officials convinced President Suharto to insert systematic military involvement into the process of decolonization. Consequently, Indonesian military intelligence successfully convinced all the political parties, except Fretilin of the value of the integration concept. This political maneuver allowed the Indonesian illegal invasion, supported by the United States and its allies. This caused about 200,000 deaths due to military brutality, starvation and disease and the killing of five Australian journalists by Indonesian soldiers.

The East Timorese political parties became a potential issue for the Indonesian military of interfering in the decolonization process of justifying the annexation. Conversely, East Timorese political elites did not exactly perceive the objectives of their political parties as parallel with the common interest of liberation from colonialism. Their political ideologies drove them into political disintegration and ignored the people’s spirit of realizing an independent sovereign state. The leaders were alienated in the dichotomy of the political parties (independence and integration) without considering that the principle of independence was to be an independent state. They seemed politically might unaware that the Portuguese and Indonesians had their own political agenda concerning decolonization. If the Portuguese had the political will to decolonize East Timor, independence should have become the first option, followed by the formation of political parties rather than alienating the East Timorese into political fragments with an uncertain political future.

However, the Indonesian territorial ambition and inability of the Portuguese government to oversee decolonization are not the major focus of this article. The civil war in 1975 was a process which East Timorese politicians should internalize because there was also an inability of East Timorese political leaders to use the political opportunity offered by the Portuguese government. This was in the same timeframe as the political reformation in Indonesia and its economic deterioration. The Indonesian political reformation along with the economic crisis in 1998, which hit most Asian countries, was very similar to the Carnation Revolution in Portugal and the international oil crisis which affected most European countries, including Portugal, at the time. This was the same political climate that East Timor faced and which finally brought about independence in 1999. The failure of the East Timorese to gain their independence in 1975 was due, on one hand, because East Timorese politicians at the time did not critically respond to the concept of decolonization itself. If their principle was to liberate East Timorese from colonialism and foreign occupation, they should have rejected all political affiliation with Portugal or Indonesia. On the other hand, they were politically naive when the Portuguese government offered the decolonization concept. Therefore, they should have negotiated with the Portuguese government over a possible offer of independence transition, instead getting mired in unclear decolonization concepts of ambitious political parties. This was the same present when Indonesian President B. J. Habibi initially offered the concept of autonomy during the political reformation in which Jakarta finally came up with two the options of autonomy and independence after the East Timorese rejected the first offering.

The ambition to stabilize political parties became the dominant sentiment among Timorese political leaders without consideration of the common interest of gaining independence. They may have thought that the only route to claim independence was by political parties competing with one another to obtain power. They were carried away by ideas of decolonization without analyzing their limited human resources in dealing with the political option. The majority of young independence activists had never experienced a significant role within a political party. They had never been directly involved in political organization movements against the Portuguese government. East Timorese political elites might not have realized that they actually had been toppled into the Portuguese political decolonization. It could be argued that if they had rejected the concept of decolonization, the Portuguese government might have offered another option for the future of the country as Indonesian government did in 1999.

East Timor was intended to gain its independence along with several African countries at the end of Portuguese decolonization. East Timorese politicians did not use this political opportunity intelligently by not prioritizing political commitment to attain independence. Most parties did not reflect the national interest as a fundamental principle to proclaim an independent state which the Portuguese had offered as a final option for self-determination. Perhaps they did not have comprehensive political knowledge of global politics, especially the political blocs within the Southeast Asian region. They might have assumed that the end of Portuguese colonization was a politically uncomplicated way to gain independence without being concerned with regional blocks, especially the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. From the geographical standpoint, East Timor might have had a successful transition to an independent state if it had been supported by neighboring countries in the region. Compared to African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome Principle and Guinea Bissau, East Timor was very different in terms of political resistance as well as geographical location.

Timorese political elites might have considered the decolonization process as a sort of competition for political ideology to achieve party objectives. It seemed that political ideology undermined national unity seeking an independence state because the principle of nationalism had been fragmented into different political ideologies. It argues that the issue of nationalism during decolonization became an important element to engage young Timorese politicians in the process of self-determination. Indeed, the political option of self-determination offered by the Portuguese government was not a principle goal for the majority of East Timorese. The Portuguese government offered three options: Federation under Portuguese power, independence or integration with Indonesia. According to Dunn, “Although Portuguese policy on the future of the Timor colony was relatively unformed at the time, it was the Portuguese who spelt out the three options for the future in June 1974 – a continued association with metropolitan power, independence, or integration with Indonesia….” East Timorese independence activists were unable to calmly discuss the options offered by the Portuguese government. It seemed that decolonization with the good of self-determination had turned to political fraction-determined “group interest” with no concern for political consensus on independence from the colonial system. The Portuguese had failed to unite the political fractions by offering the three options without providing a proper condition of transition toward self-determination. Instead of offering self-determination, Portuguese should have given independence as it did in colonies in Africa.

Most political elites assumed that East Timor would get its independence like other Portuguese colonies through peaceful negotiation with the Portuguese government. Nonetheless, Timorese political elites did not exploit the political option by shelving political differences to form a consensus for a peaceful transition. Jose Ramos Horta, an independence activist and Journalist states, “Unity of all nationalist forces was vital for our success.” Unfortunately, there was no national resistance movement to unify the political differences and lead them to independence. Furthermore, young Timorese politicians did not have enough knowledge and experience concerning the role of political parties in the context of a decolonization process. Although there was a coalition between Fretilin, Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente and UDT, Associação Social-Democrata Timorense concerning the principle of an independent state, the leaders of these parties could not able to establish a political commitment because they had been alienated by sharp political ideologies.

Political leaders seemed to be focused on how to get support from the people and completely overlooked the right of the people to self-determination. It was rather difficult for politicians with different political principles to view the independent nation merely within the context of a political party. They should have had a notion of national unity to articulate the political concept of a sovereign state by avoiding ideological conflicts which directed them into a civil war. This was one factor preventing Timorese politician from getting political consensus for the independence. Moreover, the Timorese politicians were lack of political confidence to decisively claim independence from the Portuguese government before forming the political parties. Therefore, without political preparation and experience, political ideology became a major obstacle to a successful process of self-determination. The three political options themselves became a way for Indonesia to play its interest and occupy East Timor for 24 years.

The Failure of Reconciliation towards Political Consensus

In May, 1999, the UN requested an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal to conduct popular consultation to determine the political future of whether East Timor would become autonomous or independent. Security Council Resolution 1246 (1999) authorized the establishment of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). On October 30, 1999, UNAMET conducted a referendum in which 78.5% of the East Timorese voted for independence. The Indonesian armed forces supported by local militias launched massive violations of human rights, killings, massacres, torture, and rapes. Approximately 2,000 civilians were killed in the nine-month period from January to October of 1999. Furthermore, the violence destroyed almost 75% of the country’s infrastructure and forced more than 250,000 people to flee to West Timor. This violence drew international condemnation of the brutality of the actions. Indonesian military forces which were obsessively responsible for peace and security violated the agreement signed in New York on May 5, 1999 by the UN, Portugal and Indonesia. Because of international pressure concerning the deteriorating situation in East Timor, the Indonesian government finally allowed the International Forces for East Timor (INTERFET) to restore peace and security in the territory.

In general, people used to blame external intervention as the main causes of the conflict in East Timor. Many international scholars and practitioners normally viewed the issue from an external viewpoint without looking at the major issues of how the East Timorese had actually dealt with their own problems. I argue that the East Timorese have probably repeated those same political errors from the beginning of Portuguese decolonization through to the era of independence. People ask what were the main causes of the conflict among East Timorese people? This question would be appropriate if East Timorese from the villages and rural areas addressed it to their political elites. From the perspective of East Timorese contemporary politics, political elites are the most likely become the key elements shaping the political history and having power of determining the destiny of this nation. Therefore, it is not first the UN, Portuguese and Indonesians but the East Timorese themselves who should take a moment to internalize their history and not repeat it again because they are ones who become the victims of political interests.

The East Timorese political elites ignored the important lesson of 1975 when they dealt with the referendum in 1999. In this context, East Timor political elites, whether pro-independence or pro-autonomy, had not yet formed into a consensus of avoiding political violence, meaning that the pro-independence leaders as the initiators of reconciliation were not strong enough to convince the autonomy leaders to public consultation peacefully. The Indonesian military generals who became the architects of the autonomy concept were actually behind the pro-autonomy leaders. Therefore, the first step should see that the East Timorese pro-Indonesian was at least isolated from the Indonesian military influence. This means that the pro-independence leaders should reject agreement with the Indonesian military responsible for security of the referendum. By the presence of the Indonesian military, on one hand, the pro-autonomy leaders were intimidated from using their political freedom. On the other hand, the situation built their confidence because the military directly armed and financed their activities. There should have been pro-autonomy leaders who did not already sympathize with the brutality of the Indonesian military.

However, pro-independence leaders made a significant move in maintaining the values of the reconciliation. It was not simple for them to convince the pro-autonomy leaders because most of them were puppets of the Indonesian military. East Timorese elites had again fallen into the politics of public consultation in which the people of East Timor were alienated into the ideology of independence and autonomy. The two groups had different concepts of interpreting their nationalism to achieve their political objectives. Public consultation itself constituted a format for proving and determining the rights of the East Timorese people. Unfortunately, neither side seriously looked at this process as a way of reconciling ideas to minimize political violence, especially from the pro-autonomy leaders. As result, the East Timorese had to suffer from the political ideologies over a period of nine months. Conversely, the UN mission could not prevent the lack of indiscipline and violence of campaign by the pro-Jakarta militia which lead up to the brutality, intimidation and killings.

History in the Context of Contemporary Politics

After the mission of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) ended in 2000, it created a new chapter for East Timorese political parties. In many ways, the CNRT was politically able to unify all political parties which had been fragmented after1975. There is no denying that Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao (Xanana) played a major role in the history of East Timorese politics during the 24 years of Indonesian occupation. In other words, he made a significant contribution to the process of leading East Timor to the gate of independence. His resignation from Fretilin in 1986 indicated that the East Timorese had come to a conclusion in which political parties could not represent their independence. However, that Xanana was the product of Fretilin and gained most of his political skills from this historical party also could not be denied. To some extents, Fretilin might assume that Xanana had betrayed his political commitment to this party and this sentiment seems to haunt the current political climate.

During the first period of independence, people’s attention turned back to Fretilin as the only party that had struggled for independence. People still did not yet have confidence in the emergence of the new political parties on the old parties from 1975. Some seemed to think that Fretilin was not much different from the CNRT, with a principle of fighting for the independence. In fact, in the first national parliamentary election of 2001 Fretilin gained 69.18 % of the votes, which made this party the first constitutional government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. However, there were still political differences inside the Fretelin, especially between two elites who were considered conservative leaders from Maputo, Mozambique, and others with new ideas of reformation. Fretilin had a similar experience when five students came from Portugal in 1975, bringing radical ideas into the party. Ramos Horta, at the time a party elite in charge of external affairs, stated that “the radical wing of FRETILIN had gained some influence and my own position was becoming more and more difficult.” However, Fretilin was indeed, the largest party supported by the people from the grassroots level from 1975 up till the era of independence. Fretilin was overconfident about the 2001 election results in which it gained 55 of 88 seats Parliament. This was a similar phenomenon of 1975 when Fretilin gained majority support from people across the country. However, this party too self-satisfied by its achievement to cooperate with other parties which led to political catastrophe.

Apart from the internal party issues of Fretilin, the failure of its first constitutional government to maintain law and order forced the CNRT to reemerge with the attributes of a political party in an era of independence. The Fretilin leadership should acknowledge that the civil unrest in April 2006 was their political error of mismanaging government policies. Several examples which came to public attention were the Fretilin government influencing the dismissal of 599 members of FDTL and the Minister of Interior, Regerio Lobato (Rogerio) armed as a civilian to eliminate functional opponents. It could be argued that the party’s influential leaders, Rogue Rorigues and Rogerio, directly deal with the most important state institutions, namely the national police (PNTL) and the army (FDTL). Indeed, these institutions became the main source of the national crisis. On the other hand, President Xanana statement concerning the regional issues (East and West) fueled the crisis into two regional blocks. His political intention was probably an attempt to prevent the political influence of Fretilin over FDTL, but it actually increased antagonism between the two blocks, each of which started inside the FDTL. The veteran resistance leaders seemed not yet to be able to use their experience of building strong commitments to develop their country by compromising with one another. In addition, the reappearance of strong political ideologies was likely undermining nationalism in the context of national development. Most political parties contextualize their visions, based in their political principles, often ignoring the people’s interest.

The Role of Political Leaders

Most political leaders continue to embrace their political ideologies rather than adopt principles of improving the democratic and economic systems. The last ten years of independence have shown that politicians have not seriously moved to develop a country based on a common interest. This can be noticed when the state institutions dealt with the initial crisis in 2006. It could be argued that this mentality is an inheritance from the 1975 political ideologies which were still fresh in the minds of the old political generation (generation 1975). When the crisis erupted in 2006 and led up to assassination attempts against President Jose Ramos Horta in February 2008, the political leaders seemed to not look at their country from the common perspective of building it. The state institutions became a source of political conflict because state leaders were showing any their political maturity in the sense of maintaining national integrity. This can be seen from the 2006 crisis which Xanana could actually have prevented the by using his presidential power and charisma to mediate the problem but it was ignored by the Mari Alkateri government. Xanana, himself, could have been able to prevent the conflict if he had used his constitutional power to maintain the sovereignty of the state institutions. The implication of these political attitudes has influence within the current East Timorese political system.

Political leaders have not exactly seen themselves as representatives of the people when elected to state administrations. The politicians too often act on behalf of their political parties and ignore the interest of the people. This is reflected in the political characters from the era of 1975. Many members of the parliament (MP) sometimes cannot distinguish between being MPs or party members; and, therefore, frequently voiced party interests rather than national interests. Many national political leaders still embraced the attitude of a resistance movement, which is already irrelevant in an era of independence. Furthermore, these party hacks are not seriously engage in the process of debate or approving legislation could have a positive impact on national development. It could be the parliament of a new country will not operate perfectly but each MP should think that his or her performance will have a significant impact on building a foundation for new generations.

In addition to the foregoing, the state leaders are not seriously strengthening democracy to establish a strong judicial system. This has preoccupied many people, especially young East Timorese intellectuals. The current political elites mostly come from a resistance background in which they used political decision to deal with all issues. Suddenly, when it comes to an era of independence, they seem to find difficulty in totally changing their political character to suit a country with the rule of law. Consequently, they often overlook the judicial system by using political decisions in dealing with many legal issues which were supposed to be outside political interferences. For example, Roserio Lobato, former Interior Minister was sentenced to approximately seven years in prison for illegal arms distribution but just a few months later, President Ramos Horta used his constitutional power to give Lobato amnesty. The president’s decision made many people doubt the independence of the judicial system in Timor-Leste. Interestingly, the people to whom Roserio gave arms remain in jail and they were responsible for his illegal weapon distribution by their actions against the national army. This exemplifies how leaders have not encouraged the country incorporate the values of justice into the state institutions, especially the discipline of developing a good governing system based on the rule of law and maintaining the independency of the state organs.

The role of the Catholic Church

During the 24 years of Indonesian military occupation, the Catholic Church in many ways stayed firmly with the people of East Timor to defend their right of self-determination. Whatever the political consequences, the East Timorese Church with its outspoken, leadership has extraordinarily contributed to the liberation of the East Timor people. With the anti-violence movement against the Indonesian regime, the Catholic Church generated a valuable prize of services for the people of East Timor to free their country from foreign aggression. Moreover, the basic principles of peace and justice constituted powerful elements of the Catholic Church to deal with the uncertainty of the political situation. That situation and the crises of human rights became major factors in engaging the Church in the liberation process. Although, the Church should try to stay neutral in any political situation, this actually would not work for the East Timorese Church in such a political environment. Culture differences, injustices and human rights violations were the main causes of Church involvement in the political issues against the Indonesian government.

The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for Bishop Belo exemplified that this prestigious international award acknowledged the resistance of the East Timorese Church in defending peace and justice. Another Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the East Timorese independence resistance leader, Jose Ramos Horta, indicating that nationalism and Catholicism had interacted closely in promoting a true peace solution in East Timor. Interestingly, the East Timorese only recognized three fronts of resistance movements: a military wing, clandestine operations and a diplomatic front; but I would argue that the Catholic Church actually constituted a fourth front. It would have been an even greater challenge to gain freedom without the Catholic Church’s efforts supporting the right of self-determination for the East Timorese.

The role of the Catholic Church remains crucial in the independence era of East Timor. The main issues for the Church should be poverty, human rights violations, corruption, illiteracy and so forth. However, the Church seems uncertain how precisely to play its role in the process of nation building, especially to bring about social change, instead of engaging solely in issues of spirituality. From the current general perspective, the Church is well-structured throughout the country in comparison to any other organizations. With adequate facilities and as the largest religion in the country, the Catholic Church becomes an important element, notably in the areas of education, morality, and justice and community services development. People might be unsure about the role of the Catholic Church in the current era of national development. During the last five years of the independence, the Church has not criticized the issues of injustice, especially the political failures of national leaders which had victimized many innocent people. The Church has been focused on moral and spiritual issues more than unjust practices by state institution policies. The Church certainly will not interfere in the political area as is clearly stated in the national constitution the separation of religion from political activities.

The UN Missions

Timor-Leste has hosted six United Nation (UN) missions: UNAMET, InterFET, UNTAET, UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), UN Office in East Timor (UNOTIL) and the UN Integrated in East Timor (UNMIT). The UN mission in East Timor did differ very much from previous missions in Cambodia and Kosovo. The only difference was that East Timor was taken by the UN as a territory without administrative power. The UN mission in East Timor was to build a new sovereign state, preparing the East Timorese to have an independent state. However, the transitional administration did not establish strong state institutions such as a judicial system, police institutions or a national army. The UN administration should have had a few more than just two years to fully engage in the peace-building process. Consequently, several national conflicts erupted after the UN’s administrative power ended. The UN did not fully integrate its state building mission into crucial sectors for a sovereign state. Although the UN trained East Timorese through an East Timor Public Administration (ETPA) in which East Timorese public civil servants directly interacted with their counterparts on the international staff, they were not provided with enough skills and confidence to take over their full responsibility.

Furthermore, during the UN transitional administration, people were in a desperate economic condition. The devastation of the country’s infrastructure profoundly affected local economic sectors, notably the agriculture system, which was the main livelihood for East Timorese. This started with the crisis of 1999 when a majority of the people abandoned their fields, though people depended on international assistance since the establishment of the UNTAET. This created new social issues, when the UN did not respond with immediate action to reactivate basic East Timorese economic activities. As a result, people were not encouraged to return to their villages and remained in the capital city relying on international aid, creating high unemployment. On the other hand, the UN should that considered the East Timorese had been under two colonial systems, Portuguese and Indonesian, in which economic and political systems were totally controlled. People were not allowed to independently manage their economy and this became a new obstacle for an independent state. Therefore, prior to its departure the UN administration should have provided an economic foundation on which the local agriculture production, at least, could have been self-sustaining.

In addition, in responding to the human rights violations in 1999, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights established an International Commission of Inquiry (ICI). This commission concluded that there had been extensive violence and grave human right violations after the referendum on August 30, 1999. The ICI testified that the violations of human rights in East Timor were crimes against humanity. However, the UN-sponsored tribunals in Jakarta and East Timor failed to bring to justice those suspected of committed atrocities, especially the top Indonesian generals who directly supervised the military forces. The international community and the victims are still questioning the process of the UN-sponsored tribunals and the outcomes which become important lessons for the future justices in both countries, Timor-Leste and Indonesia.
However, East Timorese political elites themselves did not take advantage of the two years of the United Nations mission. They should have been learned of the ineffectiveness of UN missions in other countries by pushing the UN to prepare public civil servants, a national police and military institutions. Moreover, they should also have been involved in the process of transitional administration of the UN to experience policy and decision making within a sovereign state. When the UN established a National Council during the peace-building process, the East Timorese elites were not effectively involved in the process. East Timorese national leaders could not properly utilize the opportunity with the UN and other international organizations. Timor-Leste would have had much better preparation if national leaders had learned more from the UN mission and other international organizations whether UN agencies or international non-governmental organizations. As a result, they, East Timorese were unable to maintain the integrity of state institutions, which led to the political crisis of 2006. Therefore, East Timorese could learn an important lesson from the historical period by avoiding the same political errors.


The East Timorese should internalize their political history with a common objective. With the current political situation, the veteran resistance leaders are regarded as a foundation for the new generation. If they are unable to create common ground in the sense of good will to build the country collectively, the new generation of East Timorese will imitate what has been done in the past. Historical leaders and political parties constitute an important asset of East Timorese national development and people should be proud of their extraordinary contribution during the resistance. However, the historical values will bring positive impact only if the veteran resistance leaders utilize them for the sake of people’s interest without preferential historical ideologies.

The political leaders should consider themselves to be agents of national development and create an environment in which people can live in peace and tranquility. This means that the political leaders have a major responsibility to maintain national stability by prioritizing the interests of the East Timorese people. If the leaders of political parties favor their party ideologies above national interests, it will erode nationalism, so people regard themselves as not part of the nation building project. People will be apathetic about the future of their country because the leaders themselves have no political commitment to the importance of independence to develop the country.

1. Dunn, J. (1983). Timor people betrayed. N.S.W.: The Jacaranda Press.

2. Horta, J. R. (1987). Funu: the unfinished saga of East Timor. Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, Inc.

No comments: