The role of the marginalised elite – further tentative analysis

12 July, 2006

I have recently been able to review a fairly detailed chronology of events covering the last few months in Dili. The chronology, written in Indonesian, was prepared by a mixture of NGO and other activists in Dili.

The detail in this chronology highlights the role of marginal political elements in the process leading to the recent political crisis. In particular, it becomes clear that on several occasions demonstrations by “petitioner” soldiers continued after the soldiers left with other political elements keeping a certain portion of the demonstrations going. The chronology refers to one party – about which I have found little information – called the PDRT.

There is also the still unexplained report of Jose Ramos Horta, now as PM seeking to work with FRETILIN, issued a statement condemning the leader of the Democratic Party (P:D) and his wife of stirring things up.

The nature of all these dynamics is still unclear to me. But it appears to me that the new state building process is reinforncing the values that are rival values to the (remnant) values of the 1975 national liberation movement. These latter are represented by FRETILIN, even if only symbolically. The newer values – “ apolitical professionalism”, pluralism, i.e. there must be an effective opposition for effective opposition’s sake – are finding there basis in parts of the new bureaucracy, newly educated elements and even in left-overs from the Indonesian bureauacracy. Their problem is – as recently outlined in a comment piece by PST secretary general, Avelino Coelho da Silva – that FRETILIN’s support in the population, based on the historical symbolic authority of FRETILIN, is still massive. These elements have no way of winning in elections in normal times. They are therefore pressed to adventurism.

As Coelho da Silva’s comment piece suggests, the conflict, which has brought much suffering to the East Timorese people, boils own to a conflict between two sections of the elite, relying on different ideological outlooks to justify their leadership positions.