East Timor Braces for Potential Crisis Following Assassination Attempt on President Jose Ramos-Horta
Timorese U.S. envoy Constancio Pinto and veteran journalist Allan Nairn join us to talk about the latest crisis in
The situation in
The man who claims to have taken command of rebel soldiers after Reinado’s death, former army lieutenant Gastao Salsinha, told Reuters his supporters would fight if attacked by international forces.
AMY GOODMAN: Constancio Pinto is the charge d’affaires at the Timorese embassy in the
Constancio Pinto, first, our condolences just on the tragedy in your country, just the shooting, although, of course, Jose Ramos-Horta is alive. What is his condition in the Australian hospital?
CONSTANCIO PINTO: Well, based on the latest information, he is recovering. He had the fourth operation yesterday, I think. But the doctors are satisfied with the progress, so it’s good news. And the doctor is saying that he will need a couple of weeks, six weeks or so, for him to get out from the induced coma and also six months or so to be recovered. But this is just a speculation, but I think it’s good, in good condition, and it’s a good news for us, for East Timorese people.
AMY GOODMAN: Constancio Pinto, can you explain what you understand happened on Monday morning in
CONSTANCIO PINTO: Well, I was out of home when I got the phone call from my colleague here in
JUAN GONZALEZ: Is there any indication that the conspiracy around the attacks was more widespread than a few people or any sense that it was a part of a larger plot?
CONSTANCIO PINTO: Well, there is some speculation that some—there’s strong political motives behind it, but I don’t think so, because I think Reinado was frustrated because he has been criticizing the government, blaming everyone of being responsible for what happened in 2006, which I think you know, the violence that erupted between the soldiers and the police force. But in the end, the situation was dragged on, and I think Reinado was just probably disappointed.
AMY GOODMAN: What was that division over? What was the violence caused by in 2006?
CONSTANCIO PINTO: Well, 2006, it was a violence between the soldiers and the police. It started from allegations of the soldiers from the west of
AMY GOODMAN: Constancio Pinto, before we go to Allan Nairn, I wanted to turn to an interview that I did with Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili, the capital of
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Great, great, although also apprehensive, you know, because the task is enormous. The challenges are enormous. We have to handle so many issues at the same time, setting up the government, consolidating institutions, negotiate with
AMY GOODMAN: All the groups that helped in different places around the world, what do you see as the role of solidarity with
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Well, first, let me say that from the very beginning, in my discussions planning for the independence celebrations, I have stated that—and I have raised it in the council ministers, and everybody unanimously agreed, that we should have a brainstorming discussion with the solidarity movement. Obviously, solidarity movement will not be—how you say—working for the government, as in the past it was, you know, very intimately working with the resistance.
Now we are going to be in different role, but the solidarity movement will have an important, important role in helping this country continue to mobilize resources, working with everybody, with NGOs, with the government whenever necessary, and trying to help us be a debt-free nation, so that at least there is one country in the world that is not saddled by debt. And that’s our determination. Whether we succeed or not will depend on our national policies and the international support.
AMY GOODMAN: So how will countries be dissuaded from doing the kinds of things that were done to the East Timorese, like the
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Well, they just have to look at themselves in the mirror, ask themselves whether what they are doing is wrong or right. I try often to look myself in the mirror and ask whether what I’m doing is wrong or right.
AMY GOODMAN: Jose Ramos-Horta in May 2002. He later was elected prime minister of East Timor and then president of
We’re with Constancio Pinto, charge d’affaires. He’s in
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the attempt on Ramos-Horta was a terrible thing, and some of the things that are being said about it by foreign countries, I think, distort the situation in a way. Some are saying Timor is a failed state, that here the international community has been pouring all this money into
First of all, the idea of the failed state—it’s true that
On the first count, the Timorese government has not been killing civilians, like occurred during—as occurred during the Indonesian occupation, where a third of the population was slaughtered. On the second count, the Timorese government has been falling short, because there still is hunger in the countryside. They have oil revenue now that should be used to immediately feed everyone, and that hasn’t happened, in part because of bickering, petty bickering within the Timorese government. And I think the old generation of independence leaders that is leading
But if you’re going to judge other states by that standard, you would have to say that, say, Australia or Indonesia or the US are much more of a failed state than Timor is, because those are countries that have been killing civilians overseas. Essentially—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Allan, I’d like to ask you about the whole issue of continued presence of outside forces, obviously United Nations troops and Australian soldiers in the country. Are they playing a positive role in all of this, or is this still another burden that the Timorese people face of these outside military forces?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I mean, that’s a complicated question, and opinions differ on that. I would, you know, defer to Timorese to give—to hear their opinions on that. It’s nothing like, though—nothing like the nefarious role that the
In fact, after the ’91 massacre in Dili of the procession that Constancio helped organize, the procession that came to the cemetery and where the Indonesian troops opened fire using American M-16s, after that, activists organized in the United States, put pressure on Congress, and the US Congress actually cut off the sale of weaponry like M-16s to Indonesia. But then
And overall, I’d say the international community, particularly the
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Allan Nairn, journalist who’s covered East Timor for many years, and Constancio Pinto in Washington, D.C., the charge d’affaires at the East Timorese embassy in Washington.
Constancio Pinto, Charge d’Affaires at the Timorese embassy to the
Allan Nairn, journalist and activist who has covered