Two stories are in circulation over the second Australian intervention in Timor Leste (East Timor). The first has it that the small, newly independent country, beset with leadership and ethnic divisions, and led by an arrogant and even despotic Prime Minister, out of touch with the people, called once again on Australian assistance to avoid collapse into a ‘failed state’. The second maintains that the losing leadership faction, in a struggle for control of the senior ranks of the army, initiated a coup, then drew on the support an Australian oligarchy that had distanced itself from Timor Leste’s ruling party and the then Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri.
How these competing stories are understood has important implications for the future Australian relationship with Timor Leste, and for the possibilities of independent development in the new nation. In the reading of these stories there are important lessons for Australians over their capacity to act as internationalists, developing friendly and supportive neighbouring relations, or as neo-colonialists, attempting to dominate the development of a client state.
Journal of Australian Political Economy, 58