Report 120 / Asia 10 October 2006 Resolving Timor-Leste’s Crisis The worst crisis in Timor-Leste’s short history is far from over. The country is in political limbo, waiting for the report of the UN-appointed Independent Special Commission of Inquiry that is expected to name names and recommend prosecutions for perpetrators of the April-May violence in Dili that killed more than 30 people. Share Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Whatsapp Save Print Download PDF Full Report Also available in Bahasa Indonesia Bahasa Indonesia English Executive Summary The worst crisis in Timor-Leste’s short history is far from over. The country is in political limbo, waiting for the report of the UN-appointed Independent Special Commission of Inquiry that is expected to name names and recommend prosecutions for perpetrators of the April-May violence in Dili that killed more than 30 people. Scheduled for release in mid-October, it is critical to moving forward but potentially explosive. Elections scheduled for May 2007 could be another flashpoint. With some creativity, focus, and political will, Timor-Leste can get back on track but the wounds are deep, and it will require enormous political magnanimity on the part of a few key actors. There is, however, a growing consensus on what is needed for resolution, including security sector reform. A new, expanded UN mission is in place with the mandate of “consolidating stability, enhancing a culture of democratic governance, and facilitating dialogue among Timorese stakeholders”. The crisis is widely portrayed as stemming from the sacking of a third of the country’s defence forces in March 2006, after which the disgruntled soldiers became part of a power struggle between President Xanana Gusmao and the now deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri. However, the problem is far more complex. The roots lie partly in the battles and betrayals that occurred within the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of East Timor (FRETILIN), just before and during the Indonesian occupation. Ideological and political disputes in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly between FRETILIN central committee members and Xanana Gusmao, then commander of the guerrilla army FALINTIL, carried over into the post-conflict government. They are also to be found in the poorly implemented demobilisation of FALINTIL fighters in 2000 and the creation of a defence force for the new country in 2001 that absorbed some of the veterans but left others unemployed and resentful while donors and the UN devoted most of their attention to creation of a new police force. That many of the police, vetted and retrained, had worked for the Indonesian administration, was more salt in the wounds of the ex-fighters. The old ideological splits and the frustrations of the ex-FALINTIL were manipulated in particular by Rogerio Lobato, a FRETILIN central committee member who had lived in Angola and Mozambique for the duration of the conflict. As interior minister, he controlled the police, encouraged rivalry with the defence force, most of whom were personally loyal to Xanana Gusmao, and created specialised police units that effectively became a private security force. The police under him were in charge of law and order, border patrol, riot control and immigration. It was never clear what the role of the defence force was. All these problems had been festering for years. When 159 soldiers in January 2006 petitioned the president as supreme commander, alleging discrimination in the defence force by officers from the eastern part of the country (lorosae) against people from the west (loromonu), many interested parties saw political opportunity. More soldiers from the west joined the petitioners, while personal and institutional tensions between a president commited to pluralism and a ruling party with distinctly authoritarian tendencies, politicisation of the police, lack of any regulatory framework for the security forces more generally and the in-bred nature of a tiny political elite with 30 years’ shared history allowed matters to spiral out of control. Jakarta/Brussels, 10 October 2006 Related Tags Timor-Leste More for you Report / Asia Timor-Leste: Stability at What Cost? Also available in Also available in 简体中文 Commentary / Asia “Trickery” and the rule of law in Timor-Leste Up Next Commentary / Asia Has Timor-Leste left behind its violent past?