Unrest in East Timor

AMIDST growing unrest in East Timor, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has visited the country to appeal for political reconciliation between rival factions. He urged the factions to lay down their arms and join negotiations, apart from calling for a bigger role for the United Nations, in the shape of a UN-controlled police force. The UN had scaled back operations in East Timor after the territory became an independent nation in 2002, following a 1999 referendum. Now, Australia supplies most of the 2,500 peace-keepers trying to quell unrest, sparked off by the sacking of 600 soldiers in March who had gone on strike.

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Published: Sun 4 Jun 2006, 11:06 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:12 PM

East Timor remains Asia’s poorest country despite international efforts in reconstruction. There have been suspicions raised at Indonesia’s involvement in the unrest, though Downer has ruled that out, saying “there is no evidence at all.” East Timor, with a Christian majority, was earlier part of Muslim-majority Indonesia. It is suspected that ex-members of pro-Indonesian militias are behind the current unrest, as they had reacted violently to East Timor’s independence vote in 1999. So, are there efforts to project the new nation as a failed state?

Whatever it is, the independence of East Timor is a fact that must be accepted, as the people there wanted to be independent of Indonesian rule. No country or its backed militias can force any people to stay with them. The state has to accept the will of the people. Even though East Timor has few natural resources and fewer countries backing them, they chose to stay independent. There are lessons in this for the sub-continent nations. Though it is difficult to fulfil the dreams of all people, a state has to graciously accept what its people want if they choose to chart an independent course. And the people of East Timor must be allowed to live in peace.

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