Support needed for Timor-Leste

The February shooting of President Jose Ramos-Horta was a reminder of the fragility of social and political achievements in Timor-Leste, and is evidence of the country’s need for further support in bedding down governance and economic reforms, according to a Flinders University law academic.

Professor Andrew Goldsmith [pictured] will join Mr Julio Tomas Pinto, Timor-Leste’s defence secretary, and Mr Hernani Coelho, the country’s Ambassador to Australia, as speakers at a two-day workshop, Timor-Leste: Security, Development and the Nation Building Agenda, on September 19 and 20 at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The establishment of security and public safety remains a key issue, Professor Goldsmith says.
“Both aspects are vital to the future prospects and progress of Asia’s newest and poorest nation,” Professor Goldsmith said.

Professor Goldsmith said many of the problems facing Timor-Leste stem from the high numbers of under-employed, under-trained and under-educated youth – approximately 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 15. The phenomenon of the ‘youth bulge,’ and the challenges presented by youth gangs, will be among the themes examined at a forthcoming workshop hosted by Flinders University.

“Security is fundamental – as long as a stallholder cannot make his livelihood at a local market for fear of violence and disruption, there is no hope for the wider economy,” Professor Goldsmith said.

“But achieving an adequate level of security is fraught with its own pitfalls.

Professor Goldsmith said that the ongoing political instability leading to the attacks on the President and the Prime Minister in February this year had led to the formation of a joint command between the army and police force, which had in turn created problems of its own.

“The conflation of army and police operations is a problem that many developing countries struggle with, and in Timor-Leste, in some respects, it seems like a reversion back to a less desirable state of affairs,” he said.

“As a consequence of the activities of this command, a number of serious human rights abuses were alleged, and are a concern both to those affected and to the international community.

The workshop program and further information can be found at: http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/conferences/law/timor-leste2008

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