East Timor Update
I posted last week about the crisis caused in East Timor by the revolt of soldiers from the West of the country against the Fretelin-dominated government of Prime Minister Alkatari. Today (or rather yesterday!) Fretelin began a three-day congress where the leadership of Alkatari is expected to be challenged. Some observers warn of violence if Alkatari is able to cling to his job, and Dili is reported to be quiet and tense. Many of the roughly twenty thousand people who fled the city after last month's police riot are still unwilling to return.
Australia has repeatedly asked the East Timorese government if it requires additional military 'assistance' to deal with the situation, but has so far been turned down. (This may well reflect public attitudes toward the Australians and the UN in East Timor, because the Fretelin-dominated government has never been shy of accepting Aussie troops in the past.) Despite the cold shoulder from Dili, John Howard has dispatched four warships to waters near East Timor. New Zealand is ready and all too willing to send fresh forces, as well.
Last week's post was forwarded to the large Marxmail list, where it sparked some debate. You can read criticisms of my views here and here, and defences of my main argument here and here. This report, which purports to come from the hills outside Dili, was posted to the Marxmail list, but some people I have shown it to have doubted its veracity. They say that the hills lack internet access, and that it is unusual for an East Timorese leftist to begin a message with a greeting in Indonesian (although many younger East Timorese use Indonesian, the language is regarded as tainted by the twenty-four year occupation that ended in 1999).
Meanwhile, the long-simmering argument inside the Kiwi left about the wisdom of supporting imperialist military intervention in East Timor has broken out again at indymedia, in the comments boxes under this report on the intervention in the Solomons.