Tuesday, June 27, 2006

World: East Timor teeters a little closer to stability

East Timor's PM Mari Alkatiri finally resigned today, giving the beleaguered country a chance to settle down - somewhat.

Alkateri has been identified a major culprit in recent violence, having armed and motivated a fair amount of the militia-fuelled killing and arson this year.

It's sad to see this further tragedy befall a country so freshly reeling from Indonesia’s hate-filled rampage of death and destruction as Timor struggled to emerge from Indonesia’s yoke.

Why did Alkateri take so long to resign? Once his situation became untenable, he wanted to wait for a key Fretelin meeting to re-affirm him, so that he could pretend to be doing the honorable thing. I doubt he did it for president Gusmao; he hasn't been acting outside self-interest for a while now.

If Jose Ramos Horta (resigned from Fretelin a while back) is not made PM despite being outside the party, he will be there one day. He seems to be one of the few with sufficient stature and nous.

The echoes of a nation’s trauma take a long time to subside. Violence remains within the culture, which gives some explanation for, but in no way excuses, Alkateri’s crimes.

When violence and destruction has been so widespread, it’s hard to bring everyone to account. That’s why South Africa had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which worked as successfully as any other mechanism could, under the circumstances. That process seems to have been less successful in East Timor. Where there has not been substantive reconciliation, recovery from entrenched violence will take so much longer, as with Iraq.

2-Jul: A further note: Indonesia's rampage in East Timor in its dying days of rule was a classic example of a scorched earth policy. But as I'm often reminded, Indonesia per se is not the culprit: it's a sub-strata - the Javanese elite.

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