The transition in East Timor

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The transition in East Timor

By Avelino da Silva

Before the August 30 referendum, the Socialist Party of Timor (PST) had called for the formation of a transitional Democratic Collective Government to represent all the existing political forces in East Timor under the slogan: "Victory is for all the oppressed people of East Timor!"

The function and goals of the transitional government were envisaged as follows. Firstly, to achieve reconciliation among all the people of East Timor as a logical consequence of the victory of the national liberation struggle. Secondly, to prepare a political environment for a just, peaceful, secure and democratic move to establishing effective government. Thirdly, to hold general elections to form such a government. Fourthly, to open up the political space for all components of the people to implement their political rights.

The concept later put forward by comrade Xanana Gusmao for a Government of National Reconciliation is somewhat similar in spirit to the PST's proposal. Comrade Xanana has moved to bring this concept closer to reality with the recent announcement of the formation of a seven-person Transitional or Consultative Council.

The Transitional Council is conceived as a partner to the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET). The council is meant to contribute to the effective functioning of the administration in areas within its competence. The council must represent all political forces and the people in general in order to be able to voice the interests and desires of the East Timorese people. The council must have the function of control, both providing input to UNTAET and also able to reject any UNTAET policies.

PictureThe question is what must be done to ensure that this works and does not remain just political rhetoric.

In the view of the PST, the crucial need is for the mass support of the organised people. Mass strength is the best bargaining power. To achieve this, mass political education is essential, and the organisation of the people cannot be further delayed.

Do all the existing political forces in East Timor agree with this? We must observe closely the development of conditions in East Timor and especially the activities of opportunist and capitalist elements who are now spreading their wings.

The whole world knows of the total destruction of the infrastructure that was carried out by the brutal militia commanded by the Indonesian army. This has caused an economic crisis and a humanitarian tragedy. This situation demands assistance from many institutions from around the world.

Many government and non-government organisations have already arrived and are carrying out their programs. Are all these institutions here to genuinely help or do they have other agendas? The answer can be either way. But the PST is sure that the agents of big business operating in East Timor will still be governed by their own logic: a never-ending search for profits.

The primary task therefore is to organise the people to confront the comprador capitalists who will be launching neo-colonialism in East Timor.

[Avelino da Silva is secretary general of the Socialist Party of Timor and a member of the East Timor Transitional Council.]