The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Troops in East Timor, again

It’s starting to be broadly reported that the government of Timor-Leste (or East Timor to our Anglicising media) has requested military and police assistance from Australia and New Zealand, the old colonial power Portugal, and interestingly, Malaysia.

About six years ago, as the original INTERFET military force started to wind up, I remember thinking with some optimism that there’d be a new beginning in Timor-Leste, one founded on peace and a real commitment to deal with the country’s insane level of poverty. The Timorese leadership certainly seemed willing to do what was needed for a sustainable future.

Fast-forward to today, and the current civil unrest strikes me as a sign of a horribly fractured and unstable government, not one that is working with the people to build a nation. Listening to Jose Ramos-Horta on the 7.30 Report, there are promising signs that the rebels involved are willing to seek a peaceful political settlement, so things mightn’t be as bad as they seem to be. But if that’s the case, why call for so many police (and troops!) from four countries?

I fear that Timor-Leste will suffer the same fate as so many of the countries to our immediate north — government that is too weak and mired in its own petty issues to deal with the real social problems faced by the country. I hope very much that I’m wrong in this assessment …

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