Lusosphere blogs report the latest political twists in East Timor

Kids in TimorSince the last report from the lusophone blogosphere, the crisis in East Timor has evolved with the country now divided between the President Xanana Gusmão and the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Once again, reading about the situation in the Anglophone media tells a quite different story from what appears in Portuguese language blogs. There is quite a gap between the two perspectives.

“Australian media news, which influences all the regional and international information on the issue, describes Timor crisis as an internal fight for power where an ‘unpopular’ prime minister is opposed by a popular movement. Although the words ‘oil’ and ‘gas’ are the cause of the Australian intervention, they are rarely mentioned in these news reports.”
East Timor: a new cold war
– Informação Alternativa

“The Australians use Ad Hominem arguments in the attacks on Timor's government. In this article published in Australian News — owned by Rupert Murdoch (see wikipedia) — the writer, a neoliberal (as only a neoliberal journalist would be tolerated by Murdoch), demonizes the Timor government using the strategy of using leftist labels. Marxist leaders have failed: it's the ‘label’ (homophobic, fascist, Marxist, etc.) The labeling marginalizes the opposition and avoids better reasoning. As we know, Marxism has not guided the Fretilin party of the Prime Minister for years. But the author resurrects the late 70's ideological language with obvious intentions.”
Timor: hearing the Australian version
Letras com Garfos

“The history of the struggle for independence of East Timor is also a narrative about the Australian political acrobatics in trying to put its hands in the vast amount of oil in the surrounding seas, currently evaluated as worth 30 billion dollars. Nevertheless, Australia always made its support of Timorese independence appear as a humanitarian mission of fostering and protecting ‘human rights’. Today, the media still echoes this storyline.”
East Timor: Australia – Peacekeeper or Petroleum Predator?
Expresso Online

The absence of cross-language reports in traditional media may be the reason for the gap in perspective and in understanding of what's going on. There is a great chasm between what is reported in English and what is appearing in Portuguese. It's the passion for blogging about the East Timor crisis in the Lusosphere that is amplifying and expanding awareness of the many sides of the conflict and bringing the gaps in interpretation within the different language spheres into high visibility.

Last week, President Xanana Gusmao's formal request to Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to resign was the expected movement in response to the unrest. But the fact that the decision was announced as being triggered by an Australian media piece came as a very interesting political spice in the debate in the blogosphere.

“Xanana decided that Alkatiri could not stay in power based on this documentary (via Pantalassa). ‘Alkatiri is a terrorist, a communist and a Muslim’. That's how the well informed Australian journalist describes the ousted prime minister. That's how she defines the credibility of his work. The President's use of this piece of political propaganda to bring down a prime minister defines his absolute political irresponsibility.”
A terrorist, a communist and a Muslim

“If more proof is needed for us to perceive the meaning of last week developments in Timor, the political pearl is the letter Xanana Gusmao sent to his Prime Minister, printed in the newspapers today. The East Timor President talks about an ABC TV program — North American, not the Australian network — which supports the thesis that Alkatiri was preparing a counter-revolution. While sending this video as an attached file, Xanana warns of the request for Alkatiri's resignation. It also says that if he fails to step down, he will be fired after the State Council meeting, which comes as a formality as the decision is already taken and delivered to all news outlets in the world. In a two paragraph letter, the political ridiculousness achieves astounding dimensions.”
A country at playDiárioDigital

The networked conversation is becoming wider and involving more influential actors. The Portuguese deputy Ana Gomes, who is well known for her activism in favor of East Timor's independence and who is President Xanana's close friend, has been posting about the unrest on the blog Causa Nossa. As we would expect, her blogging attracts heated conversations.

“‘Mr. President: do not resign. Fire him!’ This is what I'll send in a sms to President Xanana! Interference in internal affairs is what they will accuse me of. But I am not the government; I am a deputy, a Portuguese citizen and a friend East Timor. I worked a lot to see the Timorese people free and independent and I am not going to passively watch a bunch of totalitarian idiots leading the country to chaos again. I ‘interfered’ a lot in the past, and have no regrets. It's important that we understand in Portugal that Mari Alkatiri has not yet gathered the thousands of Fretilin protesters which he says he is controlling to avoid more unrest — because he doesn't have them.”
Mr. President: do not resign. Fire him!
Causa Nossa

“An example of how the ‘friends of the East Timor people’ can turn out to be their biggest enemies would be right here (Causa Nossa, 25.6.2006). To an already huge fire which is getting out of control, Ana Gomes adds even more gasoline. Instead of calling the parties to a more serene and calm mood, instead of controlling a situation which nobody knows how will end, Ana Gomes does quite the contrary. Ana Gomes — I'm sorry to have to say as I have personal esteem for her — seems to be more of Xanana Gusmão's friend than a friend of the East Timor people.”
Political PiromaniaBloguítica

As personal connections become more transparent through the flow of narratives, it's inevitable that intimate details of the political characters get picked up by the bloggers radar. This is especially true in this case where the already mentioned cultural gap is replicated in the composition of East Timor's first couple.

“A terrible caricature of the Timorese conflict was the interview that Kirsty Sword-Gusmão gave to the Australian radio ABC. Kirsty is Xanana Gusmão's Wife and, as it stands, she doesn't have any institutional legitimacy. Nevertheless, Kirsty feels comfortable playing the President's authorized voice, and she almost fired Mari Alkatiri through the Australian radio microphone.
Kirsty RulesDiário de Notícias

“The State relations in Timor had already gone down to the lowest level in terms of parochialism when it was broadly perceived that the situation was dependent on the President's domestic life. Now things have gone to the most worrying phase: the common terms with which the institutional relations have been discussed have come from the President's kitchen”.
The letterMafalda's World

“Yes, Kirsty Sword Gusmão is Australian, so what? Is it that being Australian a sign of being sold to Canberra's darkest interests? What would the Timorese be today without the support of so many dedicated Australian friends whose militancy against their own government's policy helped in East Timor's fight for independence? They helped more than most of the Portuguese, who only in 1999 opened their eyes to our obligations relative to East Timor. Who knows when this Malay discovered East Timor on the map? Will he continue to distill venom against President Xanana and his combative wife?”
Blue Malay, or the color of a venomous beast?
Causa Nossa

In this last post, the Portuguese deputy Ana Gomes fires an open attack on one of the most active bloggers since the start of the crisis, who signs as ‘Malai Azul’ (Blue Malay). It was interesting how the answer came as a comment in Malai's blog, “Timor-online”, and how dangerous is to engage in an open word battle in the blogosphere.

“We all recognize and are thankful for what Mrs Ana Gomes did for East Timor. I recognize and appreciate also her impulsiveness in defending the causes she thinks are fair. But the truth is that Mrs. Ana Gomes never lived and worked in East Timor — in the country's day-to-day institutional life which is still in development and amongst people who still feel the pain of past traumas. That's why I think she should have been more cautious and avoided rushed conclusions about the character of some Timorese people. It's not appropriate for her to insult Malai Azul the way she did. She has fallen in the same trap she was accusing him of. One more time, it would be much better if everybody would just calm down. This needs to be stressed. I thank the creators of this blog for making available a free space to all those who love and worry about East Timor”.From ReadersTimor Online

Following East Timor tags and linksleads us to some interesting historical perspectives brought forth by some highly motivated bloggers. The evaluation of the geo-political and economic importance of this tiny nation is rarely present in the broadcast coverage. Our blog search on the issue brought forth a much more diverse and informative experience.

“East Timor is just one of the countries in the region caught in the crossfire between two powerful strategic competitors: China and the US . Unfortunately for East Timor, it happens to neighbor some of the Pacific's most crucial waterways – most notably the Ombei Wetar Straits, a deep-water trough between the Indian and Pacific Oceans important for submarine passage, that would be a vital sea ‘choke point’ in any future conflict.”
East Timor: A New Cold WarAlternative Information

“Australia's collusion, wrote Professor Roger Clark, a world authority on the law of the sea, ‘is like acquiring stuff from a thief … the fact is that they have neither historical, nor legal, nor moral claim to East Timor and its resources.’ Beneath them lay a tiny nation then suffering one of the most brutal occupations of the 20th century. Enforced starvation and murder had extinguished a quarter of the population: 180,000 people. Proportionally, this was carnage greater than that in Cambodia under Pol Pot. The United Nations Truth Commission, which has examined more than 1,000 official documents, reported in January that Western governments shared responsibility for the genocide. For its part, Australia trained Indonesia's Gestapo, known as Kopassus, and its politicians and leading journalists frolicked before the dictator Suharto, described by the CIA as a mass murderer.”
East Timor: The Coup the World Missed

The East Timor crisis is going through a very delicate moment. It seems the country is really divided, and it is wise to suggest calm and the least interference from external actors. It's fair also to hope that the national hero Xanana Gusmão makes the best use of his well known charisma in order to unite the country around its infant institutions. The whole nation has its eyes turned to him right now.

Tomorrow Xanana Gusmão and his counterparts will ‘find out’, in their State Council, that Mari Alkatiri's resignation leads to the assumption that the government's party has no conditions to continue with an executive formed by the parliament. Tomorrow, Xanana Gusmão will please his customary followers. After the meeting of the State Council — a consultative and non deliberative board — he will dissolve the parliament and bring forth a government based on presidential decree until the next elections.
Tomorrow Xanana's supporters will have their prize…East Timor: Sovereign and Independent State

“The question is not about firing Mari Alkatiri, the person. It is about firing the elected leader of the party because of his responsibility in bringing the country to serious unrest after three years of government. What national alternatives will be created from this situation? Can they go beyond the representation and responsiveness of a political party? If someone is left out of the solution engineered for this moment, we will have a fertile ground for a civil war — something that is closer than some people imagine and than we in Portugal fictionalize. The arrogant and authoritarian ones are not only in the government. The East Timor problem is like the Brazilian soap-shows: the plot is feverish, agitated, made of traps and counter-traps, gluing our attention to the movement of the characters and creating the perfect disguise for what goes on in the background, in a way that we can't perceive well who is making things happen, who works, who creates business projects, who generates wealth.”
Ana Gomes – a shot on the foot
Walker's Exile

East Timor unrest should be closely followed by international observers right now. Thousands of supporters of ousted East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri gathered outside the capital this morning, cheering wildly, and chanting “Viva Fretilin” and “Viva Alkatiri.” Nobody should be predicting the possibility of a particular victory in this politically volatile situation.

“The headlines are madness: ‘Timoreses are with Xanana“. All of them? The majority? The right answer is ‘some’ and that might even be many, the ones who are carried by ‘trucks and cars to the Timorese capital and have joined the 700 people that have spent the night in front of the government's Palace’. More than that, this journalist can't say and probably can't know.”
Reading, watching, hearing, atoms and bits of June 23, 2006 (2ª series)Abrupto

“Thousands of supporters, more than 15,000 as reported by LUSA, gathered 10 minutes from Dili, in Hera. The protesters went back to Metinaro where they will stay for the night. Alkatiri and Luo'Olo escorted them to Metinaro in order to allow the anti-government protesters to leave the city. The protesters were carrying banners saying ‘Viva Alkatiri’, Viva a Fretilin’, ‘we are not a banana republic’. Among the people there were many Katuas, older men and many old combatants.”
Fretilin appeared
Timor Online

We will be following the news in Timor, hoping for peace.



  • […] Lusosphere blogs report the latest political twists in East Timor […]

  • Octavio Lima

    Excellent account. In “Australia – Peacekeeper or Petroleum Predator?”
    Kalinga Seneviratne presents a clear argument on Australian involvement, which deservers to be read.

  • Noted today, Wed June 28th:

    A Cuban Doctor Blog has gone missing. Dr’s name is Alexis. He blogs in Spanish language and has been working in Timor.

    Readers are concerned for his safety. Or, some suspect, Cuban authorities may be censoring him.

    The Eclectic Chapbook perma

  • East Timor

    I first heard of East Timor by watching “Manufacturing Consent”, a documentary on Noam Chomsky and his view on how public opinion is shaped by political and commercial processes. In this film Chomsky calls East Timor the great untold war…

  • Lou Gold

    I’m impressed that the excellent in-depth reports by Kalinga Seneviratne and Maryann Keady were quickly translated from English into Portuguese and spread through the Lusophone blogosphere. The reverse is not the case. Hopefully, and thanks to Global Voices, more Portuguese language content will soon be moving into the Anglophone blogosphere.

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