East Timor

Shakedown: Australia’s grab for Timor oil
By Paul Cleary
Allen & Unwin, 2007
336 pages, $29.95
Max Lane spoke to the Socialist Party of Timor’s (PST) secretary-general, Avelino da Silva Coelho, in the wake of East Timor’s June 30 parliamentary elections, in which the PST received 0.96% of the vote.
The June 30 election has resulted in neither of the two main contenders — the ruling party Fretilin and the recently formed CNRT (National Congress for Timorese Reconctruction) — gaining an outright majority for a new parliament. Fretilin secured 29% of the vote, followed by CNRT with 24%. After the result was announced by the National Election Commission on July 9, a process of wrangling ensued within the East Timorese elite over how the government shall be composed and who shall lead it.
East Timor is holding parliamentary elections on June 30. Many commentators predict former president Xanana Gusmao’s new party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), will form government, ousting the current ruling Fretilin party. However, a new government is unlikely to bring an end to the severe social and economic crisis besetting the country, Tomas Freitas from Luta Hamutuk (“Struggle Together”), a Timorese activist group that monitors the state budget and the petroleum fund (now worth US$1.4 billion), told Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle. Freitas is also a member of the Consultative Council on the Petroleum Fund, which is comprised of government and civil society representatives.
The Socialist Party of Timor (PST) is fielding 65 candidates in the June 30 parliamentary elections, and also has 25 candidates on the supplementary list (which comes into operation if candidates withdraw or die, or vacate their position after the election). Fourteen parties are contesting the elections. Topping the PST’s list of candidates is party secretary-general Avelino Coelho da Silva. PST president Nelson Correia is second on the list; two well-known women activists, Angela Fraga and Maria de Carvalho, are the third and fourth candidates.
The start of the official campaign period for East Timor’s June 30 parliamentary elections has been marred by violence, including killings. The most serious incidents took place in Viqueque district, where two men were shot dead on June 3. An investigation by the Major Crime Investigation Unit and the National Investigation Unit is underway, focusing on a number of East Timorese police officers (PNTL).
Amidst allegations of intimidation and politically orchestrated violence in the wake of East Timor’s recent presidential election, political parties are preparing for the June 30 legislative election. The ruling party Fretilin, which won a majority of seats in the 2001 constituent assembly election, is facing the prospect of a significantly reduced representation in parliament.
The second round of East Timor’s presidential elections, held on May 9, resulted in the victory of Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta. Ramos Horta, running as an independent, had won 73% of the vote with 90% of ballots counted. He won a majority in 10 out of 13 districts. However, Fretilin, the party of defeated candidate Francisco Guterres Lu’Olo, has alleged Australian interference in the elections, including the intimidation of two campaign rallies in the final week of the campaign by Australian troops from the “International Stabilisation Force” (ISF).
Max Lane spoke to Avelino Coelho, general secretary of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST) about East Timor’s presidential election, the second round of which was held on May 9.
“The PST has increased its vote slightly on its results in 2000", Avelino Coelho da Silva, secretary-general of the Socialist Party of Timor, told Green Left Weekly by telephone from Dili. Coelho was the PST’s candidate in the country’s April 9 presidential election, the final results of which will be officially announced by the National Election Commission (CNE) on April 16.
East Timor’s presidential election campaign is now officially underway. Voting will be held on April 9. Max Lane spoke by phone with presidential candidate Avelino Coelho, secretary-general of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST).
On April 9, East Timor will hold its second presidential election, which will be followed by parliamentary elections. The East Timorese political system combines a president, who is commander-in-chief of the army and who has veto powers over legislation, with an executive cabinet headed by a prime minister who is elected by the parliament.
The situation remains tense in East Timor’s capital, Dili, in the wake of the Australian Defence Force-led operation on March 4 to capture renegade East Timorese army officer Major Alfredo Reinado.
Australian soldiers fired on three youths in Dili on February 23. One youth died at the scene — a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) near Dili Airport. The others were injured; one later died in hospital.
The United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry released its report on October 17 into the violent conflict in April and May in East Timor. The 79-page report found that the “frailty of state institutions and the weakness of the rule of law” were to blame for the conflict that erupted following the sacking of almost 600 soldiers from the Timorese Defence Force.
East Timorese foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta's defence of Washington's "aggressive strategy" towards Iraq is not a surprise. Horta's approach to diplomacy throughout the struggle for East Timor's independence was always based on offering assurances to the US government that an independent East Timor would be friendly towards US interests. This approach was bound to lead to major defects of memory (and analysis) once independence was achieved. These defects are most evident in his article "War for peace? It worked in my country", published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age on February 25.


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