Three years ago, I wrote a piece talking about attempts to oust Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in East Timor, then a new struggling independent nation. I wrote that I believed the US and Australia were determined to oust the Timorese leader, due to his hardline stance on oil and gas, his determination not to take out international loans, and their desire to see Australia friendly President Xanana Gusmao take power.
Three years later, I am unhappy to say that the events I have predicted are currently taking shape. The patriotic Australia media, that has unquestionably fallen into line over every part of John Howard's Pacific agenda - including the Solomon's excursion - is now trumpeting the ousting of Alkatiri, a man who has gamely defied Australia's claims over it's oil and gas, many of the paper's foreign editors clearly more in tune with the exhortations of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade than the sentiments among Timorese.
Since his election, Alkatiri had sidelined the most important figure in Timorese politics - President Xanana Gusmao - and the tension between the two has been readily apparent. Alkatiri, has a different view to Gusmao about how the country's development should take place - slowly, without 'rich men feasting behind doors' was the way he described it to me, a steady structure of development the way to develop a truly independent nation. His ability to defend Timor's oil and gas interests against an aggressive Australia and powerful business interests, and his development of a Petroleum Fund to protect Timor's oil money from future corruption never accorded with the caricature created by his Australian and American detractors of a 'corrupt dictator.'
The campaign to oust Alkatiri began at least four years ago - I recorded the date after an American official started leaking me stories of Alkatiri's corruption while I was freelancing for ABC Radio. I investigated the claims - and came up with nought - but was more concerned with the tenor of criticism by American and Australian officials that clearly suggested that they were wanting to get rid of this 'troublesome' Prime Minister. Like Somare, he was not doing things their way. After interviewing the major political leaders - it was clear that many would stop at nothing to get rid of Timor's first Prime Minister. President Xanana Gusmao, three years ago, did not rule out dissolving parliament and forming a 'national unity government'. Read the whole article