The assassination attempt against the President of Timor Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, highlights how far the tiny nation has to go before it finds the political and social stability that is so desperately needs to develop a fragile nation and an even more fragile economy. There is no doubt that Timor Leste has the potential to be a very wealthy country as it has a relatively small population of about 1 million people and huge oil and gas reserves that have not been even minimally exploited at this stage.
Yet, the disfunction of the political elite in Timor Leste is not a new phenomenon or an issue that has not flared in the past. It was not even two years ago that major civil unrest flared when the Government of Mari Alkatiri was forced out. However, many observers had looked at the relatively peaceful Presidential and Parliamentary elections that followed and thought the worst was behind the young country. In contrast, long-term observers recognized that the answers were not that simple and that long-standing tensions simmered beneath the surface.
The arrest and subsequent escape of rogue army man Alfredo Reinado should have been seen as a 'matter of time', perhaps even fait accompli, that more violence was going to flare in the future. Reinado was a cult hero and it is not surprising he sort to enhance this reputation by participating directly in the assassination attempts. However, this exhibition in ego has led directly to his death, as he was allegedly killed in the gun battle that was the assassination attempt. He had always claimed he would fight to the death and his prediction in this regard has come true.
There will need to be plenty of political soul searching in the aftermath and a re-commitment to the ideal of just nation building. Many of the political problems afflicting Timor Leste are exacerbated by the social inequlaity throughout the community and the resentment that this large-scale disenfranchisement breeds. Timor Leste needs to address these issues of social inequality soon and address them comprehensively if it ever intends to overcome and heal the fractures that rack the community.
Those that have returned from exile to a free and democratic Timor Leste must not forget the suffering of their brothers and sisters who were never afforded that chance to get into exile and suffered mercilessly at the hands of a brutal Indonesian military regime.
To Ramos-Horta. The President remains in an induced coma and is expected to undergo further surgery in Darwin later today. On a bright note, the doctors expect him to make a full recovery. This should not though diminish the seriousness of his wounds and the fact that he remains in critical condition.
The most serious of the wounds is apparently a gun shot wound to the back that has clipped a lung and exited through his chest. I guess his more than 25 years of fighting for recognition for Timor has hardened him and he is not going to fold and leave now. Any body that gets 16 units of blood transfused into them (some 8 litres) and lives to tell the tale has gotta be a tough old bastard!
Viva Democracy, Viva Timor!