East Timor

Two thousand people rallied in the East Timorese capital of Dili on October 17 to demand food sovereignty for East Timor. The demonstration was the culmination of three days of activities to mark World Food Day.

Human rights activists from East Timor and Indonesia have slammed the latest round of the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF), which began hearings in Dili on September 24. The CTF was established with the support of the Indonesian and East Timorese governments in 2005, with the aim of establishing the truth of the events of 1999 in East Timor, when a reign of terror by Indonesian military-backed militias occurred before and after a vote in favour of independence in the UN-supervised referendum. To achieve this, amnesty is offered to perpetrators of human rights abuses in exchange for their testimonies.

On September 12, the new East Timorese government led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, tabled the Government Program for 2007-12. The coalition Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) believes the program will help alleviate poverty and resolve internal unrest and security issues. “Everything is urgent for this nation, [and] we are defining priorities for the short term”, Gusmao told parliament.

The Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance, is now calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Australian troops from East Timor. A meeting of the DSP National Committee resolved to investigate the prospects for building a public campaign around this demand. Peter Boyle, the DSP’s national secretary, explained the reasons for this decision to Green Left Weekly

The outcome of Timor Leste’s parliamentary election could be seen as a political victory for former president, and now prime minister, Xanana Gusmao.

Former East Timorese prime minister Mari Alkatiri has called for the withdrawal of Australian troops from his country. Speaking to Agence France-Presse on August 20, he said: “It would be better for Australian troops to just return home if they cannot be neutral. They came here to help us solve our problems, but they came to give their backing to one side and fight against the other.”

East Timor: Beyond Independence

Edited by Damien Kingsbury and Michael Leach

Monash University Press, 2007

302pages, $36.95

Shakedown: Australia’s grab for Timor oil

By Paul Cleary

Allen & Unwin, 2007

336 pages, $29.95

On August 6, East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta appointed his predecessor, Xanana Gusmao, prime minister and asked him to form a government without Fretilin, the largest party in the parliament elected on June 30. Despite the constitutional legitimacy of this being unclear, Gusmao’s government was sworn in on August 8. Since Ramos Horta’s decision there have been outbreaks of rioting and arson, as well as protests that were tear-gassed by UN police and the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF).

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.

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