Subject: TP: Defense Policy of East Timor
English translation (courtesy NDI) of op-ed article published in Bahasa Indonesia in the Timor Post (page 5) on 20 August 2002 — FALINTIL Day.
The same day’s paper’s front page headline quotes the military commander: “Taur: It is not true that FDTL-FALINTIL wants a dual function”.
However, recently the FDTL (East Timor Defense Force or ETDF) been arguing publicly for an internal security role. This is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Indonesian military’s (TNI) dual function doctrine, which is the ideological foundation for its territorial function or internal security role. The TNI with its parallel KODAM [Regional Military Command] coexists with civil institutions at all levels of Indonesian government and society.
— Charlie Scheiner
THE DEFENSE POLICY OF EAST TIMOR (Between Containing External Threats or Internal Threats)
Julio Tomas Pinto, MA
The formation of the armed forces of East Timor has been a quite difficult process. This difficulty is mirrored in the extended debate concerning the transformation of Falintil into the East Timor Defense Force then finally the constitution deciding upon the amalgamation of Falintil and the ETDF. Based upon the Force Development Plan for The East Timor Defense Force 2001-2002 and directions and recommendation from King’s College, that the ETDF consists of an organization of light Infantry which consists of approximately both 3000 regular troops and reserves, an organization of volunteers consisting of Falintil veterans and troops recruited from all corners of the State of East Timor, a political force which is responsible with regards to civil violations, a force which is not involved in internal security problems and which is funded from annual operational budgets. The formation of the ETDF apparently represents a demand from society in general so that it becomes an instrument for the Defense of the state of East Timor. So that the mission of the East Timor Defense Force is the task of safeguarding East Timor, its people and its territory with the task of overcoming attack, hindering aggressors along with arresting and harassing an invasion so that assistance can arrive from outside and assisting the Government’s during times of natural disaster and other emergency situations. With this noble mission the ETDF is apparently like a military patriot, which is very capable and anticipative along with being cooperative with all elements.
When we note the direction and the aspirations of the formation of the East Timor Defense Force in actuality it is open to various interpretations. The general interpretation is that the formation of the ETDF represents the results from the coercion that was carried out by UNTAET on the leadership of Falintil when the cantonisation occurred in Aileu in 1999. So it can be categorized that the formation of the ETDF and the transformation of Falintil into the ETDF more represents the will of the international community or in a narrower sense the interests of certain foreign countries. And as an extension of the interests of other countries in the security of East Timor, applicable at the present time. In order to clarify the formation of the ETDF let us look at the following points; UNTAET is one of the forces that were craftily involved in the formation of the East Timor Defense Force from the beginning. In fact in the formation of the aforementioned policy which was carried out by UNTAET, without consultation with the people, even though it was the people who gave birth to, formed and supported the Falintil movement during the period of struggle until freedom was grasped by the people of East Timor. As a consequence of the aforementioned UNTAET involvement it finally had the result of the break-up of the elements of the struggle so that this gave birth to Falintil Bazei de Apoiu and its supporters, which are commonly, known by the term Falintil FBA. Obviously they were concerned about the demobilization of Falintil which was regarded as being too quick and based upon what was planned by King’s College, London, 1999. Then the people of East Timor could also see that up until now the defense policy of East Timor was still controlled by international personnel or perhaps also certain countries so that there was a possibility military officers of East Timor had difficulty in determining its stance.
Let’s briefly look at the structure of the defense of this state. Under the Minister for Defense are found two organizations that is the East Timor Defense Force that consists of East Timorese like Taur Matan Ruak, Lere Anan Timor, Falur Rate Laek, Sabika, Pedro, and Meno Paixao, Mau Nana along with ODFD (Office of Defense Force Development) that consists of foreigners or perhaps internationals as working partners with the Timorese.
Within ODFD consists of more or less 59 international staff, which comprises the rank of Brigadier-General and colonels and suchlike. All of the aforementioned international staff carries out their tasks without consultation with society.
But it could also be that all of the policy concerning the defense of the state of East Timor represents co-operation between international staff and the leadership of the ETDF and Roque Rodrigues as part of the government. What is worrying is the policy, which was taken up without consultation with the political institutions of state of East Timor. In the Seminar “Civil and Military Relations” on the 14th of August which was organized by NDI-CNIC, an activist from the Human Rights Foundation (Yayasan Hak) was concerned about the phenomenon of coordination between the ETDF and the Parliament, he gave the example of the plans for the development of the barracks in Baucau. These concerns represented an indication that the process of decision-making is starting to go off the rails of democracy and the constitution. Although each decision made which takes in the interests of many people must go through a political process, which is open and involves public opinion. Although the disquiet of the public is also because within ODFD we find a Brigadier-General and the ETDF consists of people who have actually created a military, which is difficult for the State and the Government to control. Let’s have a look at the development of a base or barracks for the ETDF at Lospalos and Metinaro. In realizing the development of these military barracks it is apparent that the ETDF or the Department of Defense is not carrying out a consultation with the Parliament and the local people. Even though the existence of the military within specific areas must get a positive response so the existence of the military engenders a feeling of safety and calm for the people. Parliament as an institution, which controls matters of government policy, needs to possess a high absorptive power in order to control the government and also the ETDF. As an organ of state it’s certain that the ETDF can’t go it alone but needs to be in step with policy directions of the State of East Timor.
When we look at the enterprise of military development in Los Palos we are reminded of the existence of an Infantry Battalion in the former Indonesian period, Army Infantry Battalion 745 operating in the same area. So that if the ETDF has the same plan to rebuild a military barracks in Baucau this completes a development plan that does not differ markedly from the existence of the military at Fatumaka and the Sector A Military Command at the air base at Baucau during the Indonesian period. But we also hope that these developments should not resemble the hierarchical military system in Indonesia that resembling the existence of an Area Military Command. Whilst on the one hand we have a defense force regulation the (The Defence Act) as an implementation from the constitution which has the intention of regulating internal security has yet to be examined in detail even though Parliament as a representative of the people does not yet know about the draft of the aforementioned Defense Force Regulations.
Although East Timor is also faced with- two upcoming momentous events they are the commemoration of the birth of Falintil on the 20th August and the Defence Force Donors Conference which will be held on the 28th and 29th August 2002 in Dili. The aforementioned Conference will almost certainly examine assistance from the international community concerning the future of defiance in East Timor. And the possibility that will be actualized in the aforementioned Conference is the plan for the development of a military barracks in Baucau. If the aforementioned development is carried out, then examined from the perspective of the military’s function to defend from an outside aggressor, this shows we think it is less of a priority that attacks or such hypothetical threats will come from the border of the territory of East Timor and Indonesia. So if the plan for the development of a military barracks in Baucau is agreed to by the donors then it can be interpreted that by the development of that military barracks more emphasis is being placed on internal security than external security. So the temporary concern of the ETDF is that concerning internal security and commercial activities, isn’t it the ex-Falintil who will have exceeded their authority (at a local level) because this could destroy the democratic structure of East Timor. With the development of a barracks at Baucau this represents a preventative action and anticipation concerning attacks from within primarily ex-Falintil and political powers that militarily represent a threat and one that is based in the Eastern sector of East Timor.
The writer is a military commentator from the East Timor Institute for Strategies Studies (ETISS) and is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at Dili University (UNDIL).