June 5 Update on Unrest in East Timor

Violence from local gangs and the possibility of international pressures are complicating efforts to stabilize the situation in East Timor.

Violence from local gangs and the possibility of international pressures are complicating efforts to stabilize the situation in East Timor.

Violence continues in East Timor and suspicions abound about who all may be behind the unrest. The conflict was initially presented as a dispute between the eastern and western factions within the E.T. military. However, the fact that Mr. Alkatiri’s (the Prime Minister) office was broken into and the documentation of the atrocities committed by the Indonesian Army in 1999 suggests that the Indonesian Army could be involved or could be taking advantage of the situation. Australia has very quickly sent troops to help stabilize the situation and there is concern that they may be seeking a long term role in the country. The World Bank has been pressuring Mr. Alkatiri’s government to let them in to direct development in East Timor, but Mr. Alkatiri has been resisting the World Bank and developed nations’ pressures and was trying to guard the autonomy of East Timor. The questions that have arisen for our partners are:

  1. Should East Timor have a right to justice with regard to the murder of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese over the nearly 30 years of Indonesian rule?
  2. Now that Australia has agreed to share the oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea with East Timor, do they want to undermine the leadership of Mr. Alkatiri – the person who brought about the concessions from Australian oil development interests?
  3. Does East Timor have the right to develop its economy by a model different from the World Bank’s model – one which many claim often benefits multinational corporations at the expense of the poor?
  4. Is this unrest the result of international pressures that have to do with desires to profit from the expected revenue from harvesting oil and gas in the Timor Sea?

Our partners in the Protestant Church of East Timor need us to advocate for self determination and justice in East Timor. They welcome international assistance in this crisis only if it is supportive of the democratically elected leadership of the nation.