Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:39 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:39 | SYDNEY

Leaky plumbing in Timor-Leste

31 October 2008 12:31

Guest blogger: Jim Della-Giacoma is an Associate Director at the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum at the Social Science Research Council in New York City.

Reporting on Timor from Jakarta in the pre-internet mid-90s was a complex process involving many long-distance calls to excavate something close to the truth from what often began as a vague rumor on a foreign newswire. You might get some carefully chosen words from Timorese inside the country. And anything that went on the wire had to be crossed checked with  TNI-AD (army), POLRI (police), ICRC, the Vatican, and the Jakarta diplomatic community.

Not anymore. These days it feels like anything goes, with information overload for the non-resident foreign correspondent as well as curious locals, distant wonks, or governance voyeurs. You can easily read all about it, as the messy innards of Government of Timor-Leste and the UN Mission in Timor-Leste are laid out in the open for all to see on Wikileaks.

It is a somewhat odiferous tasting menu of some of the big issues facing the fledgling country, such as unresolved tensions between truth and reconciliation, security sector reform, the shooting of the head of state, policing, and managing the oil money as well as food security and stemming corruption. Recommendations from this smorgasbord would include:

  • The unreleased report of the Indonesia and Timor-Leste bilateral Commission for Truth and Friendship, Per Memoriam ad Spem, which puts to rest forever the claim that the TNI were not behind the pro-autonomy militia that rampaged throughout the country in 1999.
  • Force 2020 or the Strategic Blueprint for the Development of the Armed Forces of Timor-Leste 2005-2020, that shows the big ambitions of the small force.
  • Documents relating to the shooting of President Jose Ramos-Horta, including an intelligence network diagram of all the calls made from the mobile of dead renegade soldier Alfredo Reinaldo, and even his autopsy report.
  • The UNMIT Internal Review Panel on the UN Actions in Response to the Attacks on the President and Prime Minister on 11 February 2008, which shows the UN Police response to the attack on the President was professional and prompt, but much less so with the attack on the Prime Minister.
  • A note prepared by the World Bank and the IMF, Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund: A Case for Caution, that warns Timor-Leste should be careful about overdrawing its Petroleum Fund, particularly when it has a poor record of spending only 55-60% of current budget.

With the internal coalition politics in Dili as well as those between the government and opposition increasingly fractious, the Timor-Leste Wikileaks page is sure to grow. Regular visits will be worthwhile to see and smell the murky puddles gathering under Timor-Leste’s less than watertight plumbing.