Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 5)

After Timor-Leste’s Election, a Young Democracy Looks Forward

In Timor-Leste, election campaign in final week

“East Timor is Australia’s biggest foreign aid donor”

Global Peace Index recognizes Timor-Leste as having a High State of Peace

Global Peace Index recognizes Timor-Leste as having a High State of Peace 

The Global Peace Index 2017, published on the 1st of June by the Institute for Economics and Peace, has recognized Timor-Leste as having a “High State of Peace”. Timor-Leste is grouped in this category along with countries such as Singapore, Norway and the UK and was ranked 53 out of 163 countries measured.The Index reports that in 2008 Timor-Leste was in the Top 10 “At Risk” countries according to their Positive Peace deficit model. Of those ten countries five have since seen deteriorations in peacefulness and two have fallen into conflict. Timor-Leste, in contrast has built and maintained peace, showing sustained progress in the index including a two-place rise in the ranking over the last 12 months.

Minister of State Agio Pereira noted “we should never underestimate the remarkable achievement of Timor- Leste in consolidating peace over these past ten years. We are one of only a few conflict-affected countries who have managed such a transition from fragility towards resilience.”

The Institute for Economics and Peace said “High levels of Positive Peace occur where attitudes make violence less tolerated, institutions are more responsive to society’s needs and structures underpin the nonviolent resolution of grievances.”

In the recent High Level meeting of the Global Conference on the 2030 Agenda held in Dili, interventions were made by the representatives of several G7+ countries that are currently in conflict. These highlighted the devastation experienced by countries in crisis and the critical need to achieve peace in order to alleviate the suffering of their people.

Minister Pereira said “we welcome this Index as yet another confirmation of our transition over the past ten years. The work of peacebuilding and statebuilding is not easy. It takes time and patience. But we are clearly moving along the right path and have made remarkable progress. This is a credit to the people of Timor-Leste and all who continue to contribute to creating and sustaining our peaceful society.”

New president: hope for a better future

‘Much to be done’: new president brings Timor-Leste hope for a better future

Francisco ‘Lú-Olo’ Guterres says he will pursue the long-running matter of maritime and land borders with Australia and Indonesia

National pride is a serious business for Timor-Leste, a young country with a violent history. So on the eve of a presidential inauguration and the 15th anniversary of the nation’s independence, the capital Dili is covered in flags. They adorn houses, fences, bikes and cars. They are draped over balconies and the arms of the half-dozen flag sellers on each block.

As the sun sets on Dili, the seaside road fills with cars, bikes and bemos taking thousands to the historic Tasi Tolu, a park on the outskirts of the city that is deeply embedded in the story of Timor-Leste’s path to freedom. It is where Pope John Paul II once led a mass in the local language, Tetum. It is also where thousands first rallied against the Indonesian occupation, where thousands more sheltered during political upheaval, and where in 2002 the government formally proclaimed its independence.
Francisco “‘Lú-Olo’ ” Guterres, a former guerrilla fighter, won the March presidential election in a single round of voting. He is the country’s fourth president but its first to come from the nationalist leftwing party, Fretilin, born from the decades-long resistance movement.

The 12-hour inauguration ceremony – the first since UN peacekeepers left in 2012 – began at 6pm. During inexplicably long pauses, the crowd remained quiet and solemnly respectful of the event, which represents a sovereign freedom won at a great cost.

The military parade across the wide concrete grounds separated the dignitaries and world leaders under awnings draped in the national colours from the thousands of citizens standing in the dusty park or on the back of utes.

Lú-Olo and his predecessor, Taur Matan Ruak, arrived about midnight by motorcade. Speeches and formalities, the bestowing of the Great Necklace of the Order of Timor-Leste, a 21-gun salute, the raising of the flag, a lap of honour in a military jeep, and more than one rendition of the anthem, followed.

Fireworks marked the end of formalities at 3am, before a public concert entertained those who were still awake at dawn.
Nona and Angelina Fernandez
Lú-Olo formally took over the presidency and claimed a mandate to “preside over the destiny of the nation”.

“We should be proud of so much that has been done during the last 15 years, but we should be aware that there is still much to be done,” he told the crowd.

He indicated that his administration would push Timor-Leste on to the world stage, fostering relationships and defending its hard-won sovereignty.

“I will follow with particular attention and interest the process to establish demarcation of our permanent maritime and land borders with our neighbouring countries, Australia and Indonesia,” he said, referencing the long-running and frequently bitter dispute with Australia – now before the Hague – over rights to an estimated $40bn oil and gas reserve in the Timor Sea.

Domestically, he pledged sustainable development, political stability, national unity, and action on violence against women and children, and poverty.

Nona and Angelina Fernandez, 19-year-old twins who grew up learning of the troubles that began before they were born and continued until they were young children, stayed most of the night.

“I remember this independence, and now I am going to see our new president so we can welcome him,” said Nona. “And so he can see how we are going to support our leaders … For me, the president is very important in my life.”
Another woman, 22-year-old Melania, said she hoped the new leader would make education a priority.

“I believe he can build a good nation and be a better president for our country,” she said.

The presidency is largely ceremonial but is influential and seen as a figure of unity. Lú-Olo’s election – after two previous unsuccessful attempts – was assisted by the backing of the CNRT leader, Xanana Gusmao, a beloved former president and political kingmaker.

The 62-year-old is a veteran guerrilla commander and was president of the national parliament following independence.

Jose Ramos Horta, the independence leader and former president and prime minister, has previously told the Guardian the country is not so tied to its revolutionary heroes as observers suggest, but at least for those who attended the inauguration, freedom fighters are the obvious choice to now take the country through its adolescence.

Andre Rangel Gomes said they had a “moral responsibility to make a contribution to the nation”.

“It’s important because their contribution for all these years show these people really are here to contribute to the nation building.”

Gomes, who told the Guardian he was a survivor of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre – when Indonesian forces shot and killed at least 250 Timorese pro-independence demonstrators – said Lú-Olo’s most important task was to maintain stability for Timor-Leste.

Josera de Costa, a public servant, also noted Lú-Olo’s guerrilla past, and said he was very happy to be at the inauguration.

“As leaders of the country they have a lot of experience. The younger generation need more preparation for the future,” he said.

“Lú-Olo has to do everything to make people’s lives better in this nation. Access to education, electricity, sanitation, water, housing for people.”

Nona said: “I want my president to see all these people who are poor people. To make the roads go to the village, and see how poor all the people still are far from the city.”

Poverty in Timor-Leste is decreasing, but remains a way of life for about one-third of the population. In 15 years, the country has come far but as Lú-Olo notes, it still has far to go.

Parliamentary elections will be held in coming months and Ruak is expected to run with his newly formed Peoples Liberation party.

Should the PLP win, Ruak will follow in the footsteps of several predecessors who have held the presidency and prime ministership, including Gusmao and Horta.

He will hold more power as prime minister, steering the country through economically dangerous times. The country’s leaders acknowledge its precarious over-dependence on oil and gas revenues – these contribute between 90% and 95% of the annual US$1.3bn-1.5bn ($1.75bn-$2bn) budget but current reserves are due to run out in the next few years. There is a lot of hope and investment riding on a favourable outcome in the dispute with Australia.
The vice-finance minister, Helder Lopes, told the Guardian before the inauguration that warnings the country could become a failed state were “partially correct” but the government was well aware of what it needed to do.

More than US$16bn has been funnelled into a sovereign wealth fund, which is partially invested but also heavily utilised in public spending. East Timorese ministers and diplomats are unapologetic about the government’s front loaded expenditure on infrastructure, arguing that without good roads, reliable electricity, and fast internet, investors will stay away.

Lopes noted the low 10% corporate tax rate and generous investor incentives as he described his government’s hope that Timor-Leste would become a manufacturing and finance hub in the region. He said Timor-Leste was geographically well placed and politically stable, making it an attractive option for foreign investors if the infrastructure was up to scratch.

“The next election is key. If we don’t have any problems, I believe we will give a positive signal to private sector investors.”

The Guardian travelled as a guest of the Timor-Leste embassy.


Settling the maritime borders with Timor-Leste

Hamish McDonald
is The Saturday Paper’s world editor.


Settling the maritime borders with Timor-Leste

Tolstoy once wrote a short story about a greedy peasant offered as much land as he could get around in a day. The man ran off into the steppe, returning to complete his vast circuit at dusk, only to drop dead from exhaustion.

Tolstoy’s parable “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” comes to mind as one of the sorriest chapters in Australia’s diplomatic history draws close to resolution: the story of how one of the richest countries in the world with a maritime zone already encompassing a vast stretch of the globe’s surface, pressured a much smaller and poorer neighbour into giving it more.

The game seems to be up. While most of us were on holiday in early January, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop slipped out a brief notice that Australia had agreed to begin negotiations with Timor-Leste on a permanent maritime boundary. About the same time, Timor-Leste gave notice it was terminating an existing temporary border and petroleum revenue agreement, known as the treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, or CMATS.

CMATS was signed with great reluctance by Timorese leaders in 2006 as the best deal in the circumstances. Two months before the newly independent nation came into being in May 2002, the Howard government announced Australia’s withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the international courts on maritime boundary issues. So there was no referee.

Meanwhile, Australia had plenty of oil and gas resources and insisted on maintaining a joint development zone worked out with Timor-Leste’s Indonesian occupiers in 1989. Time was on its side. Timor desperately needed the Woodside Petroleum consortium’s Greater Sunrise gas field in the disputed zone. It caved in, accepting a split of 50:50 in the eventual Greater Sunrise revenues instead of its 18 per cent share under a previous treaty, with fishery rights thrown in. A permanent boundary was put off for 50 years.

But even that deal started foundering within four years, as Woodside baulked at the Timorese demand for the gas to be piped across the 3000-metre-deep Timor Trench to a liquefied natural gas plant on its coast. It preferred a floating LNG plant above the gas field, or failing that, a pipeline to Darwin, longer but in relatively shallow water and hence less risky.

It then came out that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) had bugged the cabinet room in Dili in 2004 as negotiations on CMATS proceeded. Last year Timor-Leste took Australia to The Hague over this bad faith, and won, against Canberra’s opposition, an order for compulsory conciliation. In January, Timor-Leste invoked a clause requiring a start of Greater Sunrise development within 10 years as the basis for its withdrawal from CMATS.

Conciliation is less than adjudication or arbitration, but still an independent monitor. A five-member panel of maritime law experts, chaired by Denmark’s Peter Taksøe-Jensen, is supervising the bilateral negotiations under way in Singapore. The panel aims to draw recommendations “appropriate for an amicable settlement” by September 19.

Both sides are bound by confidentiality, but a high degree of optimism emanates from Timor-Leste that the commission will accept its case for the boundary to be fixed along the median line between the two coasts. Australia’s argument for decades has been that the Timor Trench, much closer to the coast of Timor, is the natural boundary between two continental shelves. It’s getting harder to argue, as geologists now say Australia’s tectonic plate collides with the Indonesian plate north of Timor and the trench is but a ripple.

But this would be a largely symbolic victory for Timor-Leste. And for Australia, it would open up a potentially lasting embarrassment with the neighbour it regards as the most critical element in its national security, Indonesia. This is an issue our leaders need to address in a fashion that puts long-term national interest ahead of immediate mercenary gains.

Many of Timor-Leste’s supporters would have it that a median line boundary would deliver it Greater Sunrise, enabling Dili to order Woodside to develop the field its way, or hand over to someone such as the Chinese. But getting more or all of Greater Sunrise requires the commission to agree on swinging the eastern lateral boundary of the disputed zone outward.

For 12 years, Dili has been nursing opinions from British and Australian sea-law experts that by taking into account a small island off the eastern end of Timor, discounting lightly populated small Indonesian islands, and fixing on certain bits of Australia’s coast, the side boundary could be swung outwards to take in the parts of Greater Sunrise currently in Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

It’s a perhaps heroic case. But it’s also a “huge gamble”, as the Australian Catholic University’s Frank Brennan, a supporter of Timor-Leste’s quest, has pointed out. The Timorese have gone back to their 18 per cent entitlement, and lost their fishing rights, with no guarantee they will get a border adjustment awarding them more than 50 per cent of Greater Sunrise. Then, of course, they would need to get Woodside to proceed with a development plan it regards as uneconomic and technically risky.

Nor is it entirely up to Australia. The eastward expansion of Timor’s jurisdiction would require Indonesia’s agreement to its small islands being discounted in the geometry, and sections of Australia’s seabed rights being transferred to Timor-Leste, rather than Indonesia. It is understood that Jakarta has formally notified the conciliation commission of its interest.

Even setting this complexity aside, a permanent median-line boundary would stick out like a dog’s hind leg on the map, reminding Indonesians of how they were “taken to the cleaners” – the phrase of Jakarta’s chief negotiator and later foreign minister Mochtar Kusumaatmadja when Australia fixed its maritime boundary with Indonesia in 1970-72 on either side of then Portuguese Timor.

As early as November 1965, Canberra knew the Timor Trench argument was a political risk. As noted in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on relations with Timor-Leste in 2013, by former secretary to the committee on foreign affairs and defence Robert King, then national development minister David Fairbairn argued for the median line, but the Menzies cabinet took the advice of attorney-general Billy Snedden to stake out the bolder claim, which Indonesia had not challenged. “Jurisdiction asserted without challenge constitutes a powerful claim in international law,” Snedden said.

Indonesia was then of course in the middle of horrendous political violence, and unlikely to be thinking much about the seabed. By the time foreign minister William McMahon launched boundary negotiations, its experts such as Mochtar were very aware of the tectonic plate science, but were overruled by General Suharto, who wanted a quick agreement to show Indonesia was turning away from Konfrontasi with its neighbours and grateful for Australia’s support for his new regime.

After the annexation of Portuguese Timor, Canberra also played the diplomatic card as hard as it could with a much cannier Mochtar and his successor as foreign minister, Ali Alatas, parlaying recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over Timor for the joint development zone between the median line and the Timor Trench.

As with the Timor-Leste negotiations, there was some dirty play. Throughout, according to authors Brian Toohey and William Pinwill in their book Oyster: The Story of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ASIS kept Canberra supplied with purloined information on the Indonesian case.

The heritage of the two Billys, Snedden and McMahon, lives on in Australian foreign policy, in the form of the Timor Trench as natural boundary. Whether our leaders sincerely believe in it, there seems to be a feeling it can’t be let go. As then foreign minister Alexander Downer said in April 2005: “What Australia doesn’t want is to unravel all of our maritime boundaries which have been laboriously negotiated over many years with all our neighbours.” The big worry, Downer said on other occasions, was Indonesia.

To its credit, Indonesia has never sought to reopen the border issue with Australia. But it has been mentioned as a grievance by the current armed forces chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, and the negotiations with Timor-Leste must lead to Jakarta being brought into discussions. “In resolving one maritime boundary dispute with Timor-Leste, Australia will therefore want to ensure that it doesn’t create a fresh dispute with its biggest maritime neighbour, Indonesia,” Australian National University professor of international law Don Rothwell has pointed out.

What should Australia do? The simplest and most honest solution would be to explore with Indonesia, at the highest levels, a unilateral offer to redraw the boundary in the Timor and Arafura seas along the median line, transferring the rights under whatever existing exploration and development leases granted by Australia in affected areas.

As Robert King concluded in his inquiry submission: “The Australian government is bound to act in the best long-term interests of Australia, and that is best served by policies that are in accord with international law and equity. A fair border in the Timor Sea is in the best long-term interests of Australia. The current, essentially belligerent, stance taken by the Australian government (which has been taken consistently by all Australian governments since 1965) is contrary to the national interest (though it might be favourable to some particular interests).”

To offset any Indonesian claims for revenues extracted from these leases since 1972, Indonesia would gain the residual Australian share of Greater Sunrise. Most of the partners in the Woodside consortium already have or have had operations in Indonesia and don’t seem to be complaining about its petroleum regime.

A maritime boundary fixed according to the best geological and legal principles would be an investment in Australia’s relationships with its region. In the short term, it would be a huge boost for the increasingly embattled secular-nationalist government of President Joko Widodo, who has made control and development of the archipelago state’s maritime zones a hallmark policy.

When the border was negotiated 45 years ago, Australia seemed abundant in every resource except petroleum and felt it needed every offshore prospect it could grab, while the world’s oil companies were rushing into Indonesia’s petroleum-rich Java Sea. Now Indonesia is an oil-importing country, and Australia is about to become the world’s biggest exporter of LNG. How much gas does a country need?

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 20, 2017 as “Closing the Timor Gap”.

East Timorese heroes of Australian wars

Susan Connelly |  23 April 2017

In the great traditions of Australian war remembrance we remember all those Australian youngsters who died in the World Wars and since. What is often forgotten, however, is the toll on the Timorese people in World War II on behalf of Australians.

Fearful of the southward thrust of the Japanese, the Australian government entered East Timor against the wishes of its Portuguese colonisers ­ not to protect the Timorese, but to thwart possible attacks on Australia.

A band of intrepid Australian soldiers, never numbering more than 700, successfully held off thousands of Japanese in Timor, but only because they had the support of the local people.

The East Timorese could have handed the Australians over to the enemy, but they didn’t. Between 40,000 and 60,000 Timorese died as a result of Japanese reprisals for their friendship to Australians, and because of Allied bombing on Japanese positions.

Fearful, self-protective and oblivious Australia contributed to the demise of those tens of thousands of civilians. Leaflets were dropped all over Timor declaring ‘Your friends do not forget you.’ Yet this extraordinary historical episode receives little attention in Australia.

Thirty years later, Australian security was again served by the Timorese people. Massacres, starvation, torture, rape and killings were all part of the 24 years of Indonesian annexation, yet the demise of a huge proportion of the Timorese population found little protest from Australia over the quarter century.

Intelligence reports were concealed and statements of witnesses were ignored or belittled as Australian governments doggedly pursued appeasement of Indonesia, until 1999 when political realities and a disgusted Australian population caused the reversal of the policy.

Even now, it is officially stated that the Australian position right through the Indonesian occupation was for Timorese self-determination. It is unknown whether this claim is made with a straight face.

“The Timorese are not asking for handouts, special treatment, nor even remembrance of the history. They are simply asking for a fair deal in accordance with current international law.”

Australians in all walks of life, including academics and politicians, would do well to bone up on this history, especially when it comes to the fraught questions over the settlement of a fair and permanent border in the Timor Sea between Timor-Leste and Australia, and Timor’s desire to secure management of oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

The Timorese are not asking for handouts, special treatment, nor even remembrance of the history. They are simply asking for a fair deal in accordance with current international law.

The NSW Timor Sea Justice Forum has made available a petition asking that the border be finalised as soon as possible. It will be available as an online petition on the parliamentary website in June, but this version is useful in the meantime for those who wish to print it and invite family, friends, neighbours and strangers to sign.

Ordinary Australians rose to the occasion for the Timorese in 1999. It is time to rise again.


Susan Connelly is a Sister of St Joseph, the Catholic Religious Congregation founded by St Mary MacKillop. After years teaching scripture in Catholic schools and in state schools, she spent 17 years with the Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies.

Presidential elections: Lú-Olo wins

Statement by the Spokesperson on the Presidential election in Timor-Leste

On 20 March, the people of Timor-Leste turned out in large numbers to vote in the presidential elections. On 22 March, the technical secretariat for electoral administration announced Mr. Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo the winner based on the preliminary municipal level results. The final results will be declared on 2 April.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) headed by Chief Observer Mme Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Member of the European Parliament in its preliminary statement today, concluded that the election was well-run and peaceful, commending the electoral authorities for delivering a well-administered and inclusive process.

The European Union has a long history of accompanying electoral processes in Timor-Leste and the ongoing Election Observation Mission is a confirmation of the EU’s commitment to supporting democracy, peace and stability in the country. The observers will also follow the campaign and the voting of the upcoming legislative elections.

As a close and long-standing partner, the European Union looks forward to a continued fruitful cooperation with the next President and remains committed to the country’s democratic, economic and social development

Timor-Leste’s 2017 elections: the presidential race commences

Timor-Leste’s 2017 elections: the presidential race commences


3 MARCH 2017

Fretilin is in the box seat for the presidency vote this month, with parliamentary elections to follow in July

José Maria Vasconcelos (better known as Taur Matan Ruak) will not recontest the presidency but is likely to run for parliament.

Election year arrives again in Dili, with the presidential campaign starting today and culminating in a national vote on 20 March. While the president has a formal role in the formation of government, and holds a partial veto over legislation, executive power lies overwhelmingly with the prime minister and cabinet, making the 8 July parliamentary elections the more important of the two votes. The president’s position is nonetheless highly esteemed, and is backed by a direct popular mandate that brings much symbolic power to the incumbent to use as a “bully pulpit.”

This round of elections will test the new government formed in extraordinary circumstances in early 2015, when the former independence movement leader Xanana Gusmão handed over the prime ministership to an opposition Fretilin figure, Rui Araujo. Though best seen as a power-sharing executive rather than a formal government of national unity, this “grand coalition” between Timor-Leste’s two largest parties – the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, and Fretilin – was a remarkable development, given the bitter tensions between the parties as recently as 2012. Gusmão’s CNRT retained powerful coordinating portfolios and Fretilin took other key ministries, including foreign affairs. For his part, Gusmão moved to the Ministry of Planning and Strategic Investment, keeping control of the major infrastructure spending that underpins the government’s often-controversial development strategy.

Described by a senior CNRT minister as a transition from “belligerent democracy to consensus democracy,” this powerful combination sidelined CNRT’s former allies, Partido Democratico, the third-largest party. PD nonetheless retained its ministries beyond 2015, reducing its ability to act as an effective opposition. This left president José Maria Vasconcelos (better known by his nom de guerre, Taur Matan Ruak) as the closest thing to an effective opposition. Ruak didn’t shrink from this role, attacking the new government over accountability issues in early 2016, and vetoing the initial version of its budget. Gusmão and Ruak’s relationship appears not to have recovered from this episode.

In general, grand coalitions are good at promoting stability and reducing political conflict, but weaker on providing adequate parliamentary oversight and effective opposition. To fill this vacuum, former anti-corruption commissioner Adérito Soares formed a new political party, the People’s Liberation Party, or PLP, in late 2015. Ruak will not recontest the presidency this year, and is widely expected to enter the parliamentary race with the PLP once he is no longer president.

The parliamentary elections in July will feature around twenty-five parties and coalitions, but the presidential field looks surprisingly uncompetitive, despite the nomination of eight candidates. The main contender is Fretilin’s candidate, the former guerrilla commander and twenty-four-year veteran of the Falintil military resistance, Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, who is running for the third time after twice being runner-up (to Jose Ramos Horta in 2007 and Ruak in 2012). Lu Olo’s chance of success received a massive boost in January with a previously unthinkable endorsement by Xanana Gusmão. While expressed as a personal opinion rather than a formal CNRT position, Gusmão’s authority is such that the party will not formally support another candidate. Both previous presidents received Gusmão’s support.

Given the bitter rivalry between the two parties up to 2012, Gusmão’s endorsement of Lu Olo also suggests that they intend their power-sharing arrangement to continue. Meanwhile, despite considerable expectations that he might enter the fray again this year with the support of PLP, former president José Ramos-Horta withdrew from contention shortly after Gusmão’s announcement, citing the need for the next generation to take on the responsibility.

The lack of a high-profile independent alternative to Lu Olo means this may be the first presidential election since 2002 not to go to a runoff election in April. If Lu Olo is successful, it will be a first in another respect: the East Timorese people have previously chosen political independents as president.

While all signs point to a Lu Olo presidency, nothing is certain in politics, and among the remaining candidates, the next most competitive candidate appears to be the PD’s recently elected secretary-general, and education minister António da Conceição. While da Conceição will enjoy endorsement from PD and a smaller party, KHUNTO, his potential support may be somewhat diluted by a former deputy commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Jose Neves. Once a leader of the clandestine resistance movement RENETIL, he will draw on a similar pool of support to da Conceição and may divide the PD vote.

Importantly, the PLP decided this week to recommend a conscience vote by its supporters in the presidential election, and to focus its energies on the parliamentary poll. Privately, though, PLP figures expect their supporters will fall behind da Conceição or Neves. Other candidates likely to poll more than a few percent include former diplomatic resistance figure and one-time foreign minister, Frente-Mudanca’s Luis “Lugu” Guterres, who leads the fourth party in parliament; and the Socialist Party of Timor’s Antonio Maher Lopes. In the relatively improbable – but not impossible – event that the remaining candidates are able to deny Lu Olo an outright majority in the first round, PLP endorsement may prove an important factor in the runoff.

Despite being in the box seat for the presidency in 2017, the implications for Fretilin are not all positive. In a country where military resistance credentials retain great political legitimacy, Lu Olo is a powerful campaign asset for Fretilin. Assuming the presidency on 20 May will severely restrict his ability to campaign in the all-important parliamentary elections.

For CNRT, the negatives are perhaps more obvious. The party’s failure to produce an alternative prime ministerial or presidential candidate, given that Gusmão himself presently desires neither, highlights its overwhelming dependence on his charismatic leadership. Though Gusmão commands great loyalty among CNRT members, the lack of a candidate is potentially demoralising to the rank and file. The key question of whether Fretilin’s candidate will receive the support of those voters is far from resolved. PLP itself has missed an opportunity to test its support in the field, though it remains confident it can make an impact in July.

The key issues in Timor-Leste’s last election campaign, in 2012, were political stability, veterans’ issues and development policies. These are likely to be revisited this year, with the notable addition of the maritime boundary dispute with Australia, which unites CNRT and Fretilin. With clear implications for Timor-Leste’s future revenue and its development prospects, that dispute invokes issues of sovereignty, stirring strong popular nationalist sentiments that resonate with the long struggle for self-determination. For its part, PLP has already developed a strong critique of the government’s focus on “megaprojects,” and has also raised allegations of patrimonialism. Both of these issues have the potential to resonate in the electorate.

Nonetheless, the present government’s success in maintaining political stability and reducing political conflict within Timor-Leste’s small elite will undoubtedly see CNRT and Fretilin remain highly competitive. Xanana Gusmão’s popularity remains a key factor, and Fretilin’s traditional support base in the eastern districts has remained a stronghold for the historical party. The PLP will likely attempt to distinguish itself from the government by focusing on living standards for the majority rather than megaproject-led development, and also on issues of financial transparency and sustainability. The clash of these two visions of post-independence government will make the 2017 parliamentary election worth following closely, regardless of who becomes president.

Michael Leach is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Swinburne University of Technology.


What holds us together : results of survey, interactive map

What holds us together: A population-based study about resilience for peace in Timor-Leste
from Harvard University, Interpeace
Published on 31 May 2016 ­ View Original



In Timor-Leste, conflicts, divides and mistrust among citizens and authorities continue to undermine the building of a lasting peace. While attention has been given to the sources of fragility and obstacles to peace, there is a need to better understand, asses and ultimately leverage the positive assets and attributes of individuals, communities, and institutions in the country.

This report presents the findings from a nationwide survey on resilience for peace that the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), in collaboration with the Centre for Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), have undertaken in the context of Interpeace’s Framework for Assessing Resilience Programme. It seeks to contribute to a better understanding of what makes Timorese able to anticipate risk, resolve conflicts collaboratively, and respond creatively to crisis – what we call resilience for peace.

The report has been authored by Phuong N. Pham and Patrick T. Vinck of HHI.

The results of the survey can also be viewed through an interactive map



1.1. Introduction

In Timor-Leste, conflicts, divides and mistrust among citizens and authorities continue to undermine the building of a lasting peace. While attention has been given to the sources of fragility and obstacles to peace, there is a need to better understand, assess and ultimately leverage the positive assets and attributes of individuals, communities, and institutions in the country. This report contributes to this understanding of what makes Timorese able to anticipate risk, resolve conflicts collaboratively, and respond creatively to crisis – what we call resilience for peace.

The report presents the results of a nationwide survey conducted in July 2015 as the quantitative component of a mixed method participatory action research designed to understand the complex linkages between resilience and peacebuilding. The research, implemented in partnership with Interpeace and the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), is part of a broader program, the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR) which seeks to develop a framework to assess resilience in relation to conflict and peacebuilding.

The survey was designed to provide detailed information about the factors and capacities for resilience that exist among the Timorese population with a focus on key elements of resilience identified during the consultation phase of the project: culture, religion, leadership, law and security.2 The survey further explored general factors of resilience including key domains of social cohesion. Structured interviews were conducted with a random sample of 2,975 adult residents in all 13 districts of Timor-Leste. The sample was designed to provide results that are representative of the view of the adult population at the district level.


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