Timor-Leste Makes Headway – Slowly

Timor-Leste Makes Headway – SlowlyBendita Ramos grimaced as she pointed over the rickety roadside fence in the Timorese hamlet of Kaitehu. On the other side was a field of bedraggled-looking maize plants, some stooped as if sheltering from the steady drizzle falling from the slate sky above. “The corn we plant is damaged because of the long dry season…

Timor-Leste: Lessons of a Failing State?

Timor-Leste: Lessons of a Failing State?The leader and founding father of Asia’s youngest nation, Xanana Gusmao, announced in November that he was resigning as prime minister and leaving politics. The announcement comes amidst growing state failure and rampant mismanagement. Since Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia in 2002, Gusmao has dominated the small nation’s politics. His intention to resign has led many…

East Timor Turns the Corner

It had been 10 years since my last visit to East Timor and when we wandered onto the dusty tarmac after the flight from Bali, it did not appear that much had changed. The road into town was a bit better and there were more businesses, most notably, I suppose, Timor Plaza, the country’s first…

Change or no change in Timor-Leste?

When incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lost the March first round of Timor-Leste's largely peaceful presidential election, some saw it as the end of an era for Timorese politics that began with the country’s independence from Indonesia in 2002. Ramos-Horta, along with Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, have dominated the politics of the…

East Timor’s President Unloads on his Rivals

East Timor’s parliament is “corrupt and ineffective,” Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has an alcohol problem, while former Premier Mari Alkatiri is “arrogant and abusive,” according to East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta. President Horta’s caustic private observations on East Timorese politics have been revealed in leaked United States Embassy cables that have been published by…

Justice For All?

Since the dawn of time justice in East Timor has been measured in water buffalo. Generally a goat theft costs one buffalo and a rape is worth two, although it varies from town to town. Though traditional justice was never institutionalized, it has remained an underpinning of village life here. Before Indonesia’s 1975 invasion Timor…

Keeping East Timor’s Catholics on Side

A few years ago, in an obscure East Timorese border town called Tunubibi, Domingos Pereira and his wife did something they later discovered was dangerous. They quit the Roman Catholic Church. It started in 2004 when a handful of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries showed up in their tiny village. Every week the missionaries held services in…

East Timor’s Unready Police

  Philippine UN-soldiers in East Timor Photo by J. Patrick Fischer The United Nations, called in two years ago in the wake of a breakdown of East Timor’s security forces that led to dozens of deaths, appears set to end its training of local police, many of whom are still unfit to be in uniform,…

Corruption charges threaten East Timor’s development

The United States government is promising East Timor hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money — if it can organize a plan to clean up its corruption within a year, a tall order for a country that was nearly crushed at independence by Indonesia and whose institutions are in early stages of development. Only…

East Timor in turmoil

  Photo by by Jeffrey Kingston The attempted assassination of East Timor (Timor Leste) President Jose Ramos-Horta may well signal further turmoil in the fledgling, fragile country, becoming merely the latest grim event in two years of continuing chaos that shows little sign of ending soon. It is driven by dissatisfaction with the country’s largely…