Attacks in Timor-Leste: Is the Young Democracy in Danger?
Six years after gaining independence, the small Southeast Asian state of Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) suffered a major setback in its political development: On 11 February 2008 President Jos? Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao were assaulted by rebel forces. Both survived, although Ramos-Horta suffered major injuries and rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed during the shooting. Gusmao characterized the attacks as an attempted coup. The events of 11 February are a clear reminder that the pressing problems of Timor’s post-conflict society have not been resolved. Decades of violent conflict have left a difficult legacy, with a traumatized society and a deeply divided political elite. Polity and society have not yet learned to deal with conflicts through non-violent means. Notably necessary is the reform of the security sector through raising of professional standards and the eradicating of clientelism in the police and military. Here, initial steps have been taken, but further efforts are needed. In order to build a sustainable democracy, strengthening the judiciary system – which is still suffering from lack of resources, expertise and political support – is key. In Asia’s poorest country, with has a rapidly growing population, poverty, unemployment and a lack of economic progress have led to widespread frustration and anger. Only with social and economic improvements in the near future will democracy have a chance. The events of 11 February were a wake-up call to Timorese decision-makers and international stakeholders. They should take the chance and put the country back on track by pushing for urgently needed reforms.
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Volume (Year): 27 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
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