Trauma research on TV journalists covering killings revealed in Pacific Journalism Review

Part of the cover of the latest Pacific Journalism Review. Image: © Fernando G Sepe Jr/ABS-CBN

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The statistics globally are chilling. And the Asia-Pacific region bears the brunt of the killing of journalists with impunity disproportionately.

Revelations in research published in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review on the trauma experienced by television journalists in the Philippines covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ are deeply disturbing.

More than 12,000 people have reportedly been killed – according to Amnesty International, although estimates are unverified – in the presidential-inspired purge.

READ MORE: Killing the messenger

The latest Pacific Journalism Review.

According to UNESCO, about 1,010 journalists globally have been “killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public” in the 12 years until 2017 – or on average, one death every four days.

Many argue that the Philippines, with one of the worst death tolls of journalists in the past decade, is a prime example of the crisis.

-Partners-

Journalists covering the “graveyard shift” were the first recorders of violence and brutality under Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

The first phase in 2016, called Oplan Tokhang, was executed ruthlessly and relentlessly.

Chilling study
This chilling post-traumatic stress study in the latest PJR by ABS-CBN news executive Mariquit Almario-Gonzalez examines how graveyard-shift TV journalists experienced covering Oplan Tokhang.

The Tagalog phase in English means “to knock and plead” and was supposed to be bloodless – a far cry from the reality.

Almario-Gonzalez’s colleague, award-winning photographer Fernando G Sepe Jr, has also contributed an associated photoessay drawn from his groundbreaking ‘Healing The Wounds From the Drug War’ gallery.

He reflects on the impact of Duterte’s onslaught on the poor in his country.

Compared to the Philippines and other Asian countries – such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar – media freedom issues in the Pacific micro states and neighbouring Australia and New Zealand may appear relatively benign – and certainly not life threatening.

Nevertheless, the Pacific faces growing media freedom challenges.

The phosphate Micronesian state of Nauru banned the Australian public broadcaster ABC and “arrested” Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver while she covered the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in September 2018.

Media freedom crises
In this context, Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre marked its tenth anniversary in November 2017 with a wide-ranging public seminar discussing critical media freedom crises.

The “Journalism Under Duress in Asia-Pacific” seminar examined media freedom and human rights in the Philippines and in Indonesia’s Papua region – known as West Papua.

Keynote speakers included Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) executive director Malou Mangahas and RNZ Pacific senior journalist Johnny Blades.

Papers from this seminar and 14 other contributing researchers from seven countries on topics ranging from the threats to the internet, post-conflict identity, Pacific media freedom and journalist safety are featured in this edition of PJR.

Unthemed paper topics include representations of Muslims in New Zealand, ASEAN development journalism, US militarism in Micronesia and the reporting of illegal rhino poaching for the Vietnamese market.

The issue has been edited by Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, Khairiah A. Rahman of AUT, and Dr Philip Cass of Unitec. The designer was Del Abcede.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste state media group sacks editor over role on Press Council

GMN news editor Francisco Simões Belo … elected to represent Timor-Leste journalists in the TL Press Council. Image: RTTL

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The news editor for National Media Group (GMN) in Timor-Leste has been dismissed due to his role as the TL Press Union (TLPU) representative on the country’s Press Council.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the TLPU has condemned the dismissal of the editor as “outrageous” and called for his immediate reinstatement.

Francisco Simões Belo, news editor of GMN received a letter from GMN information director Francedes Sun on September 27 stating that he was dismissed from his position because his role with the Press Council did not benefit GMN, according to a report by the IFJ Asia-Pacific website.

READ MORE: Bid to unite Asia-Pacific press councils takes off in Timor-Leste

The letter also said that Belo “could not concentrate” on the GMN newsroom while he was representing journalists at the Press Council.

Belo was elected by TLPU members to represent TLPU on the Press Council. He has registered his case and mediation is due to begin on October 29.

-Partners-

The IFJ said: “The sacking of a journalist for simply fighting for the rights of fellow journalists is outrageous.

“Francisco has worked hard for journalists across Timor-Leste, and should not be punished for this work. We demand GMN immediately reinstate his employment.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC Seminar series: Folk wisdom: Superstition and ‘old wives’ tales’ across the Pacific

Event date and time: 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 – 16:30 18:00

PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE SEMINAR: Why is folk wisdom important?  In this presentation, Jourdene Aguon will explore and discuss the intersection between Pacific island communities (Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Guam and the Marianas) and their oral traditions, focusing on folk wisdom and its two variants: superstition and “old wives’ tales”. Interpreting a collection of historic and modern reports of these islands’ folk wisdom, we determine the commonality among them: what was important to these colonised places and what it means to have certain folk wisdom survive today.

Who: Jourdene Rosella Cruz Aguon 

When: Friday, August 29, 2018, 4.30pm-6pm

Where: Sir Paul Reeves Building,
Auckland University of Technology,
City Campus 
Room, WG903A

Contact: Dr Sylvia Frain

Report by Pacific Media Centre

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bid to unite Asia-Pacific press councils takes off in Timor-Leste

Former Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta (second from left) in the front row during the Dili Dialogue. Image: Bob Howarth/PMW

By Bob Howarth in Dili, Timor-Leste

The Dili Dialogue Forum, sponsored by UNESCO and organised by the Timor-Leste Press Council, will be held again next year after the inaugural successful one last week.

It is a forum of Asia/Pacific press councils and it hopes to become an alliance of all press councils in the region by next May. May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

This year Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South East Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA) and Thailand were represented. It was held in an US$8 million auditorium (capacity 400) in the high-rise new Ministry of Finance building.

Topics included country reports of press freedom, ethics, training, social media issues and cybersecurity for journalists.

The TL Press Council impressed delegates.

Timor-Leste at 95 has the highest Asian ranking in Reporters Sans Frontiers World Press Freedom Index.

-Partners-

The TL Press Council was established two years ago with seven directors (two appointed by the government but possibly for the last time), mostly veteran newsmen.

Solid funding
It has solid funding sourced from the Timor-Leste government, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New Zealand, Japan and the Netherlands (but not Australia).

The council has 38 full time staff including media monitors, trainers, IT and a transport team with nine cars and 21 motorbikes in well-equipped premises (50 PCs) opposite Dili University.

The government has no influence over its operations and has enshrined freedom of speech in its national constitution.

The council runs regular monthly training and certification of graduates, backed by UNDP, for young reporters and students in all formats of print, TV and the most popular medium radio.

One objective is to become an avenue for resolution of media complaints instead of costly legal action, similar to Australia’s Press Council and New Zealand’s Media Council.

Current campaigns include lobbying Google to include Tetum, one official language alongside Portuguese, and seeking assistance from Facebook to include Tetum-speaking content monitors to quickly react to reported offensive posts, a major issue in the country’s recent elections.

Next year it is hoped countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon islands and Vanuatu will attend the Dili Dialogue.

The next forum will be held on May 9-10 next year.

Bob Howarth, a media consultant and correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, was a delegate at the Dili Dialogue Forum and is a regular contributor to Pacific Media Watch.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste president to make first official visit to Indonesia

President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres …closer relations with Indonesia. Image: Presidential Power

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Timor-Leste President Francisco Guterres will make his first official overseas visit to Indonesia this week, reports Antara news agency.

President Guterres will be welcomed by President Joko Widodo at Bogor Presidential Palace, West Java, on Thursday, where the two of them will hold talks on strengthening bilateral relations.

“We see Timor-Leste as one of the closest neighbouring countries, so we have a close relation in the aspects of history, economic cooperation, as well as people to people contact,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told journalists during a press briefing in Jakarta.

Francisco Guterres is chairman of the Fretilin Party, who won the presidential election in March 2017 with 57 percent of the votes from eight competing candidates. He succeeded the previous president, Taur Matan Ruak.

He had previously, and unsuccessfully, run for the presidency twice. Last year, with the backing of Timor-Leste’s founding father, Xanana Gusmao, he won decisively.

At his swearing in on 19 May 2017, Guterres pledged to assert Timor-Leste and its “principles and values” on the world stage, promoting peace, prosperity, environmental protection and the elimination of poverty, reports Antara.

-Partners-

Further, the country would pursue bilateral relationships of mutual respect, regardless of the size of each nation, he told The Guardian.

Potential cooperation
Indonesia sees Guterres’ visit as an opportunity to discuss potential cooperation that can be developed between the two countries, especially in infrastructure, energy, finance, banking, pharmaceuticals and tourism.

Some issues that Indonesia seeks to accomplish include cooperation related to taxes, investment protection and connectivity, reports Antara.

“We want to improve flight connectivity from Indonesia to Timor-Leste,” Nasir noted.

Sharing the island of Timor, the economy of Indonesia and Timo- Leste are very connected to each other.

Currently, nine Indonesian state-owned enterprises and hundreds of Indonesian companies are operating in Timor-Leste, investing about US$600 million in 18 projects there.

Also, both countries share a border market which sells a wide range of necessities, with a considerable turnover value.

“Indonesia is currently exploring cooperation to build a toll road in Timor-Leste, but I do not have the details yet,” Nasir added.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Savu border unsolved, but Timor-Leste leader praises ‘amazing’ Indonesia link

Fretilin’s former Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri … “we look forward to guaranteed stability, ongoing development and to bring people out of poverty” in Timor-Leste. Image: Agora Timor

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata in Dili

East Timor’s outgoing Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri says that after almost two decades of separation from Indonesia, the country’s relations with its neighbour continue to strengthen despite some unresolved issues.

Indonesia “is our biggest supporter,” he said.

Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, celebrated the 16th anniversary of its hard-fought restoration to independence last week on May 20.

The day marked Timor-Leste regaining its independence after 24 years of Indonesia’s occupation, which invaded the country shortly following its independence from Portugal in November 1975 that political party Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin) unilaterally declared.

In an exclusive interview at a hotel near Fretilin party’s headquarters, Dr Alkatiri, Fretilin’s secretary-general, described East Timor’s relationship with its former invader as “amazing, very good.”

“We still have some pending issues, such as maritime and land borders in Oecussi,” he said, referring to an East Timor coastal exclave surrounded by Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province, which lies on the western part of Timor Island. East Timor is located on the island’s eastern half.

-Partners-

Oecussi is a special administrative zone and has been designated as special economic zone with Dr Alkatiri as its president.

Maritime border dispute
Dr Alkatiri, who also served as East Timor’s first prime minister from 2002 to 2006, said both countries need to solve the border issue soon because it would be difficult to define a maritime border on the Savu Sea without a clearly marked land border.

“But the goodwill from both governments is there,” he said, adding that successive governments of East Timor would continue to strengthen the relations between the two countries.

Dr Alkatiri described Indonesia as East Timor’s “biggest supporter” in its bid to become the 11th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Outgoing Timor-Leste Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri with his wife Marina Ribeiro Alkatiri, daughter Nurima Ribeiro Alkatiri and son-in-law Machel Silveira, pose for a photograph after an interview with Arab News at a hotel near the Fretilin party headquarters earlier this month. Image: AN

Dr Alkatiri, who has been serving his second term as prime minister since September last year, is a Muslim leader in a predominantly Catholic country. His family on his paternal grandfather’s side came from Hadramaut in Yemen.

“They came as traders at that time and decided to stay,” he said.

Dr Alkatiri’s maternal grandparents were Timorese who came from Baucau and Liquica districts. He is married to Marina Ribeiro and has three children.

De facto leader
Indonesia was one of the regional bloc’s founding countries when it was established in 1967, and is regarded as its de facto leader.

Indonesia endorsed East Timor’s ASEAN bid when it formally submitted its application in 2011 during Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship.

Singapore, the current chair, has been reluctant to welcome East Timor into the bloc, but has said it looked forward to East Timor meeting the requirements to allow it to become a member.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said after hosting an ASEAN leaders’ summit in April that the topic was discussed during the forum, but “there was no extended discussion of the matter in this meeting”.

Dr Alkatiri said that ASEAN membership is “a very long dream”.

So far, Timor-Leste has met two of the requirements to be an ASEAN member: The country is located in Southeast Asia and has embassies in all 10 member states.

“This is one of the few things that is a consensus between the leadership of Timor Leste, despite the differences,” he said.

Coalition rule
Dr Alkatiri’s apparent successor Xanana Gusmao, who is poised to serve as prime minister for the third time, said East Timor is doing its best to become an ASEAN member.

“We understand some (member) countries think we are not ready, but sooner or later, we will be a member,” Gusmao said in an interview at his party National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) headquarters.

CNRT led a three-party coalition that beat the shortlived, Fretilin-led minority government in the May 12 parliamentary election.

Dr Alkatiri said the most pressing need for East Timor, with almost half its 1.2 million population still living in poverty, was government investment in public infrastructure, such as education and health, and spending on basic living needs, such as community housing and clean water.

“This is a 16-year-old country. We still need to build the nation; we really need to strengthen the foundation of the nation, institutional, political foundation, everyone needs to join efforts to do it,” he said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Time for Xanana Gusmao to step up and fix Timor-Leste’s problems

By Jose Belo in Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste’s parliamentary elections on May 12 have returned Xanana Gusmao to the Government Palace in Dili in an alliance that gives him enough votes to govern in his own right.

While Gusmao has won an election held only 10 months after the July 2017 poll, his CNRT (Party for Timorese Reconstruction Party) lost to FRETILIN (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) in the earlier election, albeit by a small margin. This forced him into an alliance with sometime rivals to secure the latest poll.

This suggests the people of Timor-Leste trust him, but they are not so happy with his previous government.

Timor-Leste voters sent a wake-up call to their leaders in the recent election. They are asking that the leaders, and most importantly, Gusmao, to continue governing but change their ways.

This all comes after a decade of high level government spending fueled by oil and gas riches. But questions remain. Has Timor-Leste gotten value for their money? Has the government’s spending priorities reflected the wishes and needs of ordinary Timorese voters?

Gusmao is seen as a leader with historical legitimacy, a man who has brought many good things to Timor-Leste since independence.

-Partners-

He resolved the 2006 political crisis, albeit despite being complicit in precipitating it, compensated petitioners, gave pensions to the veterans, initiated the beginnings of a social safety net for the poor, brought rural businesses into the private sector, brought electricity to the villages, and made many other positive changes.

Maritime victory
Most recently he won a victory for Timor-Leste’s maritime sovereignty with a boundary agreement with Australia although some see the deal as rushed for political expediency ahead of the recent poll.

But, there are complaints that the new government needs to address, and do so quickly in the first year of the new AMP (Alliance of Change and Progress) government.

Firstly, trust must be restored in the country’s leadership and to do that the lifetime pension for politicians needs to end. Office holders must likewise be held accountable through an annual declaration of assets.

Any forms of corruption must be stamped out among the country’s politicians and civil servants.

The people think, rightly, that leaders seek positions in order to make big salaries and look after themselves. Salaries and benefits need to be cut to reasonable levels. If the leaders give up benefits and stop corrupt activities then only then can the leaders ask people to work hard, sweat, and build a better country.

Secondly, the government must strengthen anti-corruption laws and pursue corruptors at all levels in Timorese society, from the remotest mountain village to Government Palace.

Looking ahead, Timor-Leste needs to move beyond its reliance on oil and gas and the government needs to prioritize the needs of the people who also need to become a community that can create wealth rather than just consume it.

Fund getting smaller
The Petroleum Fund was large but it is getting smaller and it will not last forever. Revenues from it could cease as early as 2026.

After ten years the country has built many things, but not enough for the land, human resources and environment. It is no small feat required of the people. We need to change focus.

Timorese are an agricultural people and it is a strength that needs to be prioritised and improved. More resources must be driven into building up the agricultural productivity and diversification. Funds need to be allocated to improving our farmers’ skills and their output so they can move from subsistence agriculture to agri-business.

Ordinary Timorese are not educated enough. Millions and millions have been spent on government scholarships to build the skills of technical experts, but the chiLdren have been left behind. The primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions are underfunded and under prioritised.

The country would rather pay high tuition fees for international universities than improve the education of the 10-year-olds. This needs to stop or there will be a generation of Timorese who cannot contribute to the nation.

The country must change ways in the education sector to protect the future. School feeding programmes need improvement: a hungry child is not a child that can learn well.

The health of the people is poor, they are eating too much sugar and drinking too much beer. Timor-Leste need to dramatically improve public and preventative healthcare. The voters are asking for it.

Better health care
Rural clinics are an embarrassment. The country would rather send the rich and leaders to hospitals in Indonesia and Singapore than improve the standards of the children’s healthcare. It is not right nor is it wise. There can be no prosperity without good healthcare.

Timor-Leste needs to focus on its people in the rural areas. They need improved electricity access, improved rural roads, water and sanitation facilities. Improving these important assets will improve the ability of farmers and rural people to do business, the healthcare standards of people in the mountains and for schools to be where they should.

For sure, highways airports and bridges are important, but there needs to be a refocus on rural communities and their basic infrastructure needs such as water and sanitation.

About 65 percent of Timorese live next to or within sight of the sea. Timor-Leste has been negotiating maritime boundaries with Indonesia and managing new boundaries with Australia. With these boundaries come opportunities and challenges.

Future oil and gas resources need to be protected and developed very carefully. The fisheries can and should be an important source of sustainable income for Timorese for generations to come. The sea can also attract tourists to the coastal regions.

If Timor-Leste can protect and enhance its coastlines, tourists will be enticed to the villages creating jobs and income in a sustainable manner. But the sea can also bring problems. Rising sea levels, disasters, and smuggling. A coordinating ministry of maritime affairs is needed, just as Indonesia has done.

Again, there is much the Timorese need to do and they need to begin work today. The country just needs a trustworthy government to lead the way.

Jose Belo is an investigative journalist, publisher of Tempo Semanal and a commentator based in Dili, Timor-Leste. This article was first published by UCA News.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste finally has a government. But what happens now?

By Guteriano Neves in Dili

After nearly a year of political deadlock resulting from a minority government, and a divisive political campaign, Timor-Leste is set to have a stable government after an early election, held last Saturday.

The forthcoming government will face an uneasy task in delivering on the promises made during the campaign.

The result of the election brought four parties to be represented in the Parliament. The Aliança de Mudança para o Progresso (AMP), led by resistance leader Xanana Gusmão, won an absolute majority in the latest polls, securing 34 seats out of 65 seats in the Parliament.

This will be sufficient to pass the programme and budget in the Parliament, both of which the previous minority government failed to do. Frente Revolucionáriu de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin) came in second, maintaining its 23 seats despite a significant increase in the number of votes.

The Democratic Party and Frenti Dezenvolvimentu Demokrátiku (FDD) – a new political force – secured five and three seats, respectively.

The result sets Timor-Leste up to end nearly a year of political impasse resulting from the previous minority government. The country can now expect have a stable government for five years to come.

-Partners-

Having a stable government is one thing, but delivering on political promises is another. The latter is not easy, given the context in Timor-Leste.

Strong opposition
At the macro political level, the government is expected to face strong opposition from the opposition bench in the National Parliament.

Outside of parliament, the government will face enormous pressure from the public to deliver the promises made during the campaign. This includes delivering good quality infrastructure, high quality public services — mainly education and health — and building an economy that can employ a significant number of the young population.

The last point is critical for Timor-Leste’s long-term peace and stability.

The biggest task is economic: striking a balance between current domestic consumption and long-term investment, in a context where the current government reserve is depleting.

In general, public and private consumption in Timor-Leste have been growing during the last 10 years, becoming the engine for non-oil economic growth. One could view the growing domestic consumption level as an increase in purchasing power and wellbeing.

However, this growth is primarily fueled by public spending, using petroleum revenue.

Increased consumption also incentivises the emergence of small private sector activities, primarily the wholesale and retailer industry in Dili. This sector provides a large proportion of jobs in the private sector, particularly in Dili, according to the Business Activities Survey.

Poverty line
Growing domestic consumption has also contributed to the reduction of the poverty level. Nonetheless, 41 percent of Timorese still live below the national poverty line, and many households still depend on the government’s cash transfer programmes.

Therefore, maintaining the current consumption level is important for short-term growth and maintaining the well-being of individual households.

Meanwhile, the public sector is the biggest contributor of investment in Timor-Leste.

Currently private sector investment is still less than 10 percent of the total non-oil GDP. Therefore, the government’s investment has been critical for economic growth during the last 10 years, and job creation in the construction sector.

In the last decade, the government focused its attention on physical infrastructure, primarily electricity and roads. There are political as well as economic reasons for this.

The public demand for infrastructure resonates throughout the country, and the existing infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly due to poor maintenance. The economic rationale is that public investment in infrastructure is necessary to enable an environment for the private sector to grow.

But Timor-Leste needs to give more attention to long-term investment in its people. Education and health services, particularly, serve this purpose.

Health, education challenges
In the last decade, as the government prioritised physical infrastructure, public investment in health and education has been relatively low by regional standards.

While there have been significant improvements in many indicators, the issues of malnutrition and education quality are still big challenges.

In education in particular, there is an immediate need to improve the basic supporting infrastructure. Teacher training is widely regarded as a critical issue, but it requires long-term approach.

The country will pay a high economic and social cost in the future if there is no significant improvement in these sectors.

Finally, the country also needs to work on its institutional framework to support long-term development. Various organisations, laws and regulations, and policy frameworks, both formally and informally guide the way actors behave by creating economic incentives.

The roles of different institutions are critical, including the parliament, judiciary, ombudsman office, and anti-corruption commission. The government also needs to strengthen internal control mechanisms to strengthen accountability and efficient use of existing resources.

Extra-parliamentary oversight mechanisms, such as investigative journalism, critical voices from NGOs and academics, and space for public participation, will contribute here.

Striking a balance
In order to strike this balance between short-term and long-term goals, the government needs to be realistic, pragmatic, and strategic in choosing instruments and setting targets. A significant proportion of domestic consumption is public consumption.

The government’s intervention could focus on unnecessary public consumption, where spending cuts can be made in order to improve efficiency in public spending.

As for physical infrastructure, it is necessary for the government to focus much of its attention on basic infrastructure, such as roads, water and sanitation, and the infrastructure to support public service delivery.

There is a need to revisit all investment projects, particularly big projects that do not have clear investment returns, which could become “white elephant” projects for the country in the future if the economy does not have sufficient capacity to operate and to maintain such assets in the long run.

In the last 10 years, thanks to petroleum revenues, the government was able to adopt a “frontloading fiscal policy” to boost domestic consumption and finance largescale public investment. Nonetheless, having disproportionate public spending creates loopholes for misappropriation of public resources, particularly when coupled with less efficient public administration.

Consequently, certain groups of people profit disproportionately from the contracts. Unnecessary spending discourages productive activities and inflates the prices of goods and services, thus affecting resource distribution within the economy. This adversely impacts the government’s intention to develop Timor-Leste’s non-oil economy.

Since petroleum revenues have declined steeply, there is a need to impose certain fiscal disciplinary measures to constrain the temptation posed by available cash in the Petroleum Fund.

Not appropriate
Budget cuts do not sound appropriate in a context where poverty is still significantly high, and public spending is the engine to keep the economy moving.

But without fiscal discipline, Timor-Leste would be more likely to repeat the same policy that has been ineffective in responding to the country’s needs.

The new government needs to be more pragmatic and realistic in deciding how much to spend, setting the sectoral priorities, and acknowledging the tradeoffs involved.

These tasks are not easy, but they are not impossible. It requires decision makers to be realistic in spending and setting targets, strategic in choosing their policy instruments, and courageous enough to bear the tradeoffs resulted from policy options.

Guteriano Neves is a Dili-based policy analyst. This article was first published by The Diplomat and is republished with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste’s opposition alliance set for win after fractious election

Xanana Gusmao of the AMP (Allianca Mudanca ba Progresu) coalition delivering his speech during a last day campaign in Dili before the weekend’s election. Image: Valentino Dariell de Sousa/SBS-AFP

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

With more than 99 percent of votes counted in the poll, Timor-Leste’s opposition Alliance of Change for Progress (AMP) was leading at the weekend with 49.59 percent of the total votes and is set to break the country’s political deadlock.

The coalition squeaked across the line with an absolute majority, preliminary election results showed yesterday, after a fractious campaign marred by violence and mud-slinging, reports SBS-AFP News.

It was the second general election in less than a year for the half-island nation of 1.2 million that is struggling to boost its oil-dependent economy, after a months-long political impasse saw Parliament dissolved in January.

READ MORE: Timorese election resolves political stalemate

Provisional Timor-Leste general election results.

With 97 percent of votes from Saturday’s election counted, the three-party Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) – led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao – had about 48 percent of the votes.

The result means the alliance – which includes the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) led by Gusmao, the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) and the youth-based Khunto – has secured an overall majority of 34 seats in the 65-member legislature.

The provisional line-up in Timor-Leste’s Parliament with the AMP Coalition (blue) and Fretilin (black) commanding most of the seats in the new Parliament.

-Partners-

The former Portuguese colony won independence in 2002 after a brutal, 24-year occupation by neighbouring Indonesia followed by 2 1/2 years of UN stewardship.

Fretilin, which narrowly won last July’s poll, had about 36 percent, leaving it with 23 seats.

No reports of unrest
Despite a fractious campaign and fears of violence on election day, there were no reports of unrest.

Clashes broke out the previous weekend between Fretilin and opposition supporters, with more than a dozen people injured.

Parliament was dissolved and new elections called in January amid tensions between former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s minority government and the opposition centred around Gusmao’s CNRT.

Dr Alkatiri’s Fretilin party-led government collapsed after its bid to introduce a policy programme and new budget were thwarted by a hostile opposition.

“This outcome should produce a return to political stability in Timor-Leste and may allow Xanana Gusmao time to again consider looking to a replacement leader from the next generation after a suitable amount of time has elapsed,” said Professor Damien Kingsbury, coordinator of the Australia Timor-Leste Election Observer Mission.

“In terms of economic policy, it will be business as usual, which raises questions about the longer term viability for Timor-Leste,” Dr Kingsbury added.

Big challenges ahead
The incoming government will face big challenges, especially as the clock is ticking fast on its disappearing oil and gas reserves.

Oil and gas pay for the bulk of government spending but oil revenues are in steep decline and the country has few other productive economic sectors.

About 60 percent of Timor Leste’s population is under 25, according to the World Bank, while some 40 percent of its people live in poverty.

Providing jobs for young people and reining in public spending – especially on large infrastructure projects – will be key tasks for the new government, commentators say.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timorese vote in fresh general election after tense campaign

By Michael Leach in Dili

After a tense month-long campaign and two rest days, East Timorese cast their votes today in the Timor-Leste’s latest parliamentary elections. With the campaign characterised by considerable bitterness between the major parties, much is at stake.

Despite narrowly prevailing at the election just nine months ago, the Fretilin-led minority government failed to gain parliamentary support for its programme and budget during 2017.

The president — also from Fretilin — dissolved parliament and called today’s poll.

READ MORE: Choices sharpen in Timor-Leste

The East Timorese electoral agencies, short of funds after last year’s election and the parliamentary impasse, have risen to the occasion extremely well.

And, in a remarkable testimony to Timor-Leste’s young population, the electoral roll has grown by 3.1 percent to 784,000 voters, with around 24,000 voters turning 17 in just over nine months since last July.

-Partners-

Last year’s campaign came in the wake of a national unity government involving informal power-sharing between Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT and Fretilin. But relations quickly soured after an election that Fretilin won narrowly with 23 seats to CNRT’s 22.

In the end, Fretilin was only able to attract the Democratic Party, with its seven seats, to its minority coalition government, giving prime minister Dr Mari Alkatiri 30 seats in the 65-seat Parliament.

Rejected programme
Within weeks, the remaining parties had formed the Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) a coalition controlling 35 seats, and had voted down the government’s programme and budget.

Fretilin feels aggrieved that it did not receive parliamentary support after narrowly finishing ahead last year, despite an alternative coalition having been ruled out publicly by Xanana Gusmão in the immediate wake of the July election.

For its part, the AMP feels bitter about Fretilin’s parliamentary tactics last year, which delayed the second presentation of the government programme and prevented it from falling before the six-month mark, when the president could dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.

AMP figures feel that their alliance should have been installed in government during the life of the Parliament. How these issues have influenced the voting public will be known tomorrow.

This year’s campaign has been marked by the resurgence of the “history wars,” the clash between the two wings of the East Timorese resistance during the Indonesian occupation.

The AMP has reunited Xanana Gusmão and his CNRT with former president Taur Matan Ruak’s Popular Liberation Party (PLP), which were at loggerheads during the 2017 election. Both were leaders of the armed resistance, Falintil.

The campaign has been frequently depicted as a contest between the armed front and members of the diplomatic front, who were outside the country during the occupation, including prime minister Alkatiri and key diplomatic figure Jose Ramos-Horta, who has thrown his weight behind the Fretilin campaign.

Hurt by attacks
Though he has not responded to them, Ramos-Horta has evidently been hurt by the attacks on his legacy, some of which have sought to diminish the contribution of those who struggled for independence in the international arena.

This division over resistance history has lent an unpleasant air to a campaign that has also been marked by exchanges of personal slurs between the major party leaders, including some outbursts of anti-Muslim sentiment directed at the Fretilin leader Dr Mari Alkatiri, and fractious personal debates on Facebook.

From the east of the country have come reports of rock attacks on AMP caravans in Viqueque, bringing back memories of the divisive 2007 election, which occurred in the wake of the 2006 political–military crisis.

The AMP parties have also complained of low-level attacks in Laga region of Baucau, were temperatures still run hot over the death of dissident veteran Mauk Moruk in 2014.

Yet the campaign has been remarkably peaceful on the whole, with colourful mass rallies of party supporters generally well behaved throughout most of the country.

The campaign has also been marred by a handful of accusations of favouritism and irregularities against the electoral agencies, prompting the head of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to publicly defend the organisation in press conferences.

Several complaints originated on AMP’s Facebook page, including concerns over printing errors in the ballots, which were quickly identified and cancelled, and suspicions about meetings between CNE and political parties that turned out to be part of routine investigation of previous complaints.

Closely watched
The CNE has responded quickly and satisfactorily. With domestic and international observers closely watching the process and extremely professional electoral agencies, there is very little scope for manipulation.

The CNE and the Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration have done an excellent job under trying circumstances with limited budgets.

While the parties have discussed differing visions for the future, especially during the series of TV debates, considerable energy has been diverted into personal and historical debates within the small political elite. The new AMP alliance brings together two parties that ran last year on fundamentally different development agendas, and it remains to be seen how the CNRT’s focus on major infrastructure spending can be reconciled with the PLP’s more grassroots focus on basic development spending on health education and agriculture.

How voters have received this new combination will be known tomorrow.

For their part, supporters of Fretilin and the Democratic Party (PD) have been on friendly terms throughout the campaign, suggesting the alliance seems to be holding, though this relationship could be easily revisited in the interparty negotiations that follow the election.

The AMP is a formidable coalition of parties that received 29.5 percent, 10.5 percent and 6.5 percent last year: a total of 46.5 per cent. It could also receive the support of the Democratic Development Front, or FDD, the coalition of the smaller parties most likely to exceed the 4 per cent threshold required to get seats. This is not certain, though, and there are at least some rumblings of dissent from one of the parties inside FDD. On the other side, Fretilin received 29.7 percent in 2017, and its PD partner in the minority government received 9.8 percent.

No polls have been taken to indicate the likely result tomorrow. As a baseline indication, if last year’s vote is notionally combined into the new party coalitions that have formed, the AMP would start with a nominal allocation of 33 seats — the minimum majority required.

Favourite on paper
In turn, Fretilin, PD and the FDD would receive 21, six and five seats respectively. If FDD cannot clear the 4 percent hurdle, these notional numbers rise to 36 for the AMP, 22 for Fretilin, and seven for PD.

The AMP therefore starts as favourite on paper, but the outcome tomorrow can easily change from the 2017 results., As a rough guide, Fretilin requires a swing of just under 4 per cent (if FDD does not take seats) rising to more like 6 per cent if the FDD gains seats and backs the AMP.

These are clearly challenging targets for Fretilin, though not impossible, especially in the former case. It may be that the smaller coalition becomes instrumental in the final result if things run close.

Some longer-term trends are striking. At a forum on the elections I conducted in Dili on Thursday, younger Timorese commented that though they are often reluctant to openly criticise their resistance-era leaders, young people are more interested in the development policies of the government and how they will help to create future jobs.

There was also a sense in last year’s election result that while resistance-era legitimacy remains important to political fortunes, it is starting to offer diminishing returns for East Timorese leaders as the median age of the voting public falls, and voters look for solutions to entrenched development problems.

The young people at the forum also felt that the direst warnings of potential trouble if one side or the other loses tomorrow have come from political insiders themselves, with most ordinary people confident that the national police can manage any post-election troubles.

Young voters also said Dili’s noisy and active social media has played a mixed role — allowing more opportunities for debate, on the one hand, and especially for women’s and young people’s voice to come through, but also distributing fake news and rumours, and not fully representing rural voices.

Potential sleeper trend
Another potential sleeper trend is the changing attitude of the Catholic Church to the major parties. The Church responded positively to the concordat with the Vatican orchestrated by the PM of the previous national unity government, Fretilin’s Rui Araujo.

Despite occasional slurs against Mari Alkatiri, most of the older political leadership from the 1970s does not identify strongly with the church, though younger Timorese broadly do.

As tomorrow’s poll approaches, both sides are supremely confident of victory in their public statements. Either way, it is likely that Timor-Leste will be in good hands, and the real issue as always will be how the unsuccessful parties accept the results.

After last year’s uncertain result, East Timorese will be hoping for a clear and decisive outcome.

Dr Michael Leach is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was first published by Inside Story.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media