As an emerging democracy, East Timor has been included in CD’s programs. Following the 2002 Seoul Ministerial Conference, countries of the Community of Democracies agreed to send a CD mission to East Timor in 2004. The intent of this CD mission was for democracy practitioners from various CD countries to share the experiences of states that previously underwent similar transitions to democracy. (For more information, please visit: http://www.ccd21.org/Initiatives/caucus/chileprogressreport.htm)
Tensions, however, remain between pro-Indonesian and pro-independence supporters as well as between ethnic groups. The two broad factions - the east and the west - have emerged in East Timor's recent turmoil. Those from the country's east are supporters, mainly elder guerrillas, of the independence fight. Those from the west belong to the separatist movement. The ethnic and politically motivated conflicts may continue until the national elections, which are planned for 2007.
Summary & Updates:
On June 26, 2006, the East Timorese Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, resigned after weeks of political conflict and deadly violence. Alkatiri's decision to fire 600 military soldiers in March 2006 most likely led to the street battles and gang warfare that killed at least 30 people and caused about 150,000 internally displaced persons.
East Timor's president, Xanana Gusmao, threatened to resign June 22 after PM Alkatiri refused to leave office, which provoked protests in the city’s capital of Dili. PM Alkatiri told the Portuguese news agency Lusa in a telephone interview that “the situation is so complicated that a hasty decision could further complicate things.” President Gusmao, who helped East Timor achieve independence from Indonesia, had demanded that PM Alkatiri resign or be fired.
President Gusmao accused PM Alkatiri’s Fretilin party of creating instability and ordered it to replace Alkatiri as its leader claiming that “Fretilin's leaders want to kill democracy in East Timor.” Since independence in 2002, East Timor's government has refused to tolerate dissent. Those who disagreed with the Fretilin government have been accused, especially by Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, of being traitors. Furthermore, Alkatiri is alleged to have formed and armed a hit squad to ward off opponents, which he strongly denied. The arrest of former Interior Minister Lobato on charges of providing weapons to the leader of a hit squad allegedly commissioned by Alkatiri, however, added credibility to the claim. Furthermore, other political parties, such as the Opposition Democratic Party, have not been acknowledged by the government.
International peacekeepers remained in East Timor after its independence in 2002 and through the following uprising, but in 2005 Australia advocated for their withdrawal. As a result, the United Nations dismantled the UN Mission of Support in East Timor in February 2005 and replaced it with a one-year political mission called the UN Office in Timor-Leste. The UN cited the Timorese government’s achievement of peace and stability as the primary reason for their withdrawal. Peter Galbraith, the former director for political, constitutional, and electoral affairs for the UN transitional administration in East Timor, however, believes this decision was “…the wrong one and is in part to blame for the flare-up of violence in the country.”
Australian and other foreign troops, however, find themselves once more in East Timor restoring order, following another violent outbreak in March 2006. Although the Australian government has promised to keep its forces in East Timor for some time, it is unwilling to commit for a year or more. Ramos Horta, the former Timorese foreign minister, urged the international community against leaving East Timor too soon. On ABC Radio, he recalled, “We are learning from the lessons of the recent past ... that we are in a very fragile democracy, fragile state of nation building, of building a democracy with a lot of inefficiencies, inexperience and we cannot again do the mistakes of 2002, when after only two years, when the United Nations hand over power and the UN began downsizing its presence here.”
Moreover, the European Union signed an €18 million aid deal with the East Timorese government in order to support democracy and economic development. Over the next two years, the money will be used for rural development projects and to strengthen the country’s weak state institutions.