11 May 2013

Report of racist anti-Chinese comments by Prime Minister Gusmao

ETLJB 11 May 3013 - A report in Jornal Nacional Diario on 7 May 2013 records some recent public statements by the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao that are overtly racist. According to the report, the Prime Minister said that  the country's "capable people...contribute to the thinking of the people, so that the Chinese cannot dominate Timorese in the capital, Dili."

“Organize yourselves, meet together, speak with one another, otherwise the "Shing-Zhang" will rise above you, otherwise we talk about commerce to do what, industry to do what, because the biggest danger to us is that we have money, but if we did not have money then we will feel ashamed when our kids go asking for money, our kids go asking for US$20 but they only give US$10, we thank them and we are happy, but we have money so we don’t worry anymore,” Xanana explained.

At the same time, however, the Government has done nothing to limit the number of Chinese migrant workers in East Timor. When I was living in East Timor (2000-2004), I observed significant numbers of Chinese workers working on building projects doing jobs that were apparently unskilled and that could have been done by local workers. Of course, migrant workers are cheap and easily exploited by those who employ them so the project grantees can make more profit while local youth remain idle.

The position of the Chinese in East Timor is similar to that in other colonised Asian societies. In Indonesia, for example, commercial concessions and land were granted by the Dutch to Chinese migrants who played a large part in the operation of the colonial economy. In post-independence Indonesia, formal and informal discrimination against Indonesians of Chinese descent was part and parcel of their daily lives. Chinese descent Indonesians were never employed in the public service, Chinese language and characters were outlawed and Chinese-descent Indonesians were forced to adopt Indonesian-style names. During the 1998 crisis, many Chinese-descent Indonesians were attacked, beaten and killed, their businesses destroyed and many Chinese-descent women were raped by mobs.

In East Timor too, Chinese migrants were granted land and business concessions by the Portuguese colonial government and the evidence of that can be seen on the streets of Dili. The Chinese-descent East Timorese were targetted by the Indonesians when the invasion began and most fled. Some returned after East Timor broke away from Indonesia and reclaimed their land that they had been forced to abandon.

As one commentator notes*, the reported comments by the Prime Minister "provide a glimpse into the xenophobic undercurrent simmering beneath the facade of democratic and tolerant Timorese elites." But they also carry the danger of incitement to racial hatred and violence against East Timor's Chinese-descent citizens.

The Chinese government has been a significant donor to East Timor which makes the Prime Minister's observations even more bewildering.

 *http://www.diakkalae.com/2013/05/timors-yellow-peril.html Accessed 11/05/2013
TETUM Original

Jornal Nacional Diario Tersa, 07 Maiu 2013 Sosializasaun CM Iha Dili Adia Ba 25 Maiu “PM Xanana: Intelektuais Dili Labele Hanoin De’it Osan” - Xanana mos husu matenek nain sira atu kontribui ba povu nia hanoin hodi nune’e Xina sira labele dumina fali Timroan sira iha kapital Dili.

“Organiza an ba, hasoru malu ba, koalia ba malu, se la’e Shing-Zhang mak sa’e hela ba leten de’it, se lae ita temi komersiu ne’e atu halo saida, industria ne’e atu halo saida, tanba ita nia risku boot mak ita iha osan, osan laiha karik ita moe ita oan ita bah usu, dala ruma U$20 dolar sira fo U$10 dolar, ita agradese no kontenti ona, maibe ita iha osan ita la preokupa ona,” Xanana fundamenta. Source: Diario Nacional; Diak ka lae Edited by Warren L. Wright

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