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Trindade 2008: Reconciling Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State

Trindade 2008: Reconciling Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State

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Published by Josh Trindade
This paper will argue that, in order to make the state work for the people it is not too late to develop and introduce new concepts and ideas that facilitate the population achieving shared values, common identity and understandings based on existing culture, traditions, history and social structure. The paper will discuss how the formation of the nation-state in 2002 ignored some of the vital elements of East Timorese social structure, culture and traditions that still influence the daily life of East Timorese citizens today. The paper also puts forward the argument that the manner in which East Timor is building a state is like that of a house being built on sand. The country has no spirit or soul and is like a walking corpse; inanimate, yet alive (Trindade 2006). As a state, East Timor remains fragile and what is needed is a strong foundation that is rooted deeply in its people’s common beliefs and the shared cultural values that will enable the population to remain cohesive and live together under one nation. Therefore, in the context of East Timor, we may need to reassess our understanding of nationalism and the widespread assumption that the capacity of the nation-state as envisaged at the time of independence was strong enough to resist internal and external challenges.
This paper will argue that, in order to make the state work for the people it is not too late to develop and introduce new concepts and ideas that facilitate the population achieving shared values, common identity and understandings based on existing culture, traditions, history and social structure. The paper will discuss how the formation of the nation-state in 2002 ignored some of the vital elements of East Timorese social structure, culture and traditions that still influence the daily life of East Timorese citizens today. The paper also puts forward the argument that the manner in which East Timor is building a state is like that of a house being built on sand. The country has no spirit or soul and is like a walking corpse; inanimate, yet alive (Trindade 2006). As a state, East Timor remains fragile and what is needed is a strong foundation that is rooted deeply in its people’s common beliefs and the shared cultural values that will enable the population to remain cohesive and live together under one nation. Therefore, in the context of East Timor, we may need to reassess our understanding of nationalism and the widespread assumption that the capacity of the nation-state as envisaged at the time of independence was strong enough to resist internal and external challenges.

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Published by: Josh Trindade on Sep 21, 2010
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DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN TIMOR-LESTE:
Reconciling the Local and the National
Edited by David MearnsAssistant editor: Steven Farram
CONTENTS
FOREWORDDeputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Dr. José Luis Guterres
Opening Address At The Conference, Darwin, Australia, 7 February 2008
INTRODUCTIONDavid Mearns,
Imagining East Timor Again: The Ideas Of A ‘National Identity’ And ‘DemocraticGovernance’ In Timor-Leste
PART ONE: RECONCILING THE PAST AND THE PRESENT TO THE FUTUREFernanda Borges,
CAVR Implementation: The Key To Transforming The Country And EastTimorese Society
Jill Jolliffe,
Psychosocial Healing As A Prerequisite To Good Governance In East Timor
Andrew Marriot,
Justice In The Community, Justice In The Courts: Bridging East Timor’s LegalDivide
PART TWO: THE STATE, POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE EMERGING ROLE OF PARLIAMENTDamien Kingsbury,
East Timor’s Political Crisis: Origins And Resolution
Akihisa Matsuno,
The UN Transitional Administration And Democracy Building In Timor-Leste
Dennis Shoesmith,
Legislative-Executive Relations In Timor-Leste: The Case For Building AStronger Parliament
Damian Grenfell,
Governance, Violence And Crises In Timor-Leste:
Estadu Seidauk Mai 
 
Bu V.E. Wilson,
Smoke And Mirrors: Institutionalising Fragility In The Polícia Nacional Timor-Leste
PART THREE: CULTURAL TRADITIONS AND CONTEMPORARY CITIZENSHIP
 
James J. Fox,
Repaying The Debt To
Mau Kiak 
: Reflections On Timor’s Cultural Traditions AndThe Obligations Of Citizenship In An Independent East Timor
Andrew McWilliam,
Customary Governance In Timor-Leste
Pyone Myat Thu,
Land Forgotten: Effects Of Indonesian Re-Settlement On Rural Livelihoods InEast Timor
José ‘Josh’ Trindade,
Reconciling Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision Of TheIdeal State
Annette Field. Edited by Mark Green,
Acknowledging The Past, Shaping The Future: HowThe Churches And Other Religious Communities Are Contributing To Timor-Leste’sDevelopment (Extracts From The Report)
PART FOUR: INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES: OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS FOR FUTUREDEVELOPMENTFiona Crockford,
Building Demand For Better Governance: Enabling Citizen-StateEngagement In Timor-Leste
Yukako Sakabe,
International Assistance To The Nation-Building Efforts Of Timor-Leste
Sara Niner
, Women’s Handcrafts Production In East Timor: Change For The Better?
 
Trindade, Jose 'Josh'. 2008. Reconciling the Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State. In
 Democratic Governancein Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National
, edited by D. Mearns. Darwin: Charles Darwin University.
 
[Begin page 160]
RECONCILING CONFLICTING PARADIGMS: AN EAST TIMORESE VISIONOF THE IDEAL STATE
Jose ‘Josh’ Trindade
Introduction
Before 1999 East Timor was a ‘nation without a state’ (Borgerhoff cited in Scanteam 2007:12). Prior toindependence, a national identity was built and based on resistance to occupation (Scanteam 2007) andcolonialism. Twenty-four years of resistance to the Indonesian occupation unified the country’s diversepopulation. This sense of unity through struggle and being historically distinct from Indonesia contributedto achieving independence in 2002. But evidence shows that this constructed identity has since dividedEast Timorese society and it triggered the 2006 crisis. Today, East Timor looks very much like a ‘statewithout a nation’. Since 2006 the sense of nation and state appears to have fragmented, being replaced bycompeting and divisive narratives about the past, and a strong sense of exclusion and frustration. In theprocess of nation-building, key groups in society have come to feel excluded and are looking for a senseof belonging elsewhere than in the state.This paper will argue that, in order to make the state work for the people it is not too late to develop andintroduce new concepts and ideas that facilitate the population achieving shared values, common identityand understandings based on existing culture,
1
 traditions, history and social structure. The paper willdiscuss how the formation of the nation-state in 2002 ignored some of the vital elements of East Timoresesocial structure, culture and traditions that still influence the daily life of East Timorese citizens today.The paper also puts forward the argument that the manner in which East Timor is building a state is likethat of a house being built on sand. The country has no spirit or soul and is like a walking corpse;inanimate, yet alive (Trindade 2006). As a state, East Timor remains fragile and what is needed is a strongfoundation that is rooted deeply in its people’s common beliefs and the shared cultural values that willenable the population to remain cohesive and live together under one nation. Therefore, in the context of East Timor, we may need to reassess our understanding of nationalism and the widespread assumptionthat the capacity of the nation-state as envisaged at the time of independence was strong enough to resistinternal and external challenges.
The ‘Imagined Community’ of East Timor – Does it Exist?
If Benedict Anderson’s
 Imagined Communities
(1991) is used to analyse nationalism in East Timor, thenthere is still an inability amongst the East Timorese to imagine themselves as one nation. The majority of East Timorese perceive the state as being equivalent to their village, their region, their language group ortheir local institutions. They cannot imagine themselves as citizens of one country.
[End of p.160] [startp.161]
They cannot imagine the idea of a nation-state
2
 beyond the immediate groups or entities theybelong to and that are available around them. On other occasions they imagine that the state is no morethan (or even less than) the political party they support. This, of course, undermines the national interestand national unity.The United Nations (UN) report investigating the crisis of 2006 notes that it was caused by the frailty of state institutions (UN 2006:16). The clash between state institutions, such as the conflict between F-FDTL(East Timor Defence Force) and the PNTL (East Timor National Police) in 2006 was the result of the
 
Trindade, Jose 'Josh'. 2008. Reconciling the Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State. In
 Democratic Governancein Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National
, edited by D. Mearns. Darwin: Charles Darwin University
1inability of F-FDTL and PNTL members to imagine themselves as different state institutions belonging toone East Timor. On the surface or on a theoretical level, all state institutions in East Timor seem to have aclear agenda, which is to work for the betterment of the country and its people. However, on a practicallevel, regarding day to day activities, each institution seems to work separately, each for itself, with anunclear agenda and goal. The lack of cooperation between institutions, and competition among them isvery apparent. In addition, the presence of the international community, with different agendas, has addedto the already chaotic situation within local institutions. As a result, the East Timorese are misguided,confused, disempowered, disillusioned, and disoriented.The idea of state and state bodies is not inherent in East Timorese society, where a modern social contractdid not previously exist (Hohe and Ospina 2001:82). Therefore it is difficult for the East Timorese toimagine themselves as citizens under one state. The CAVR
3
 report (2005) notes that during the 1970s,people from Turiscai (Manufahi district) considered themselves as members of the Mambai ethno-linguistic group, rather than as East Timorese. They viewed outsiders, even people from Dili, asforeigners (
malae
) (CAVR 2005, part 5:96). Da Silva (2006) also describes how contemporary EastTimorese identify themselves locally as opposed to nationally. Anderson in ‘Imagining East Timor’(1993) states that in 1974-1975 true East Timorese nationalism was still quite thin on the ground; perhapsonly a small percentage of the population could then really imagine the future nation-state of East Timor.East Timorese unity during twenty-four years of struggle against Indonesia was more of an ‘instinct’ or anexpression of resistance against the oppression of colonial rule. Sudden independence in 2002 has left noopportunity for the East Timorese to discuss the idea of an ideal state for the nation.Since independence there has been little evidence of efforts to engage the East Timorese in nation-statebuilding processes to strengthen national unity. The conflict between eastern (
lorosa’e
) and western(
loromonu
) regions in Dili during the 2006 crisis is clear evidence of two regions perceiving themselvesas distinct and separate social groups. This distinction is a new phenomenon in East Timor’s historybecause during the Portuguese occupation, the 1974-1975 civil-war and the Indonesian occupation, thedistinction between the two regions never became apparent.After more than five years of independence East Timor seems to be devolving towards social division andthe destruction of its people, its development and its future. To understand the current situation in EastTimor we need to assess how East Timor was constructed as a nation-state. Additionally, it is crucial wetry to understand East Timorese society, its social dynamics, values, beliefs, culture and
 
[End of p.161][start p.162]
traditions, so as to provide a complete picture, set an appropriate context for the futuredevelopment and progress of the nation, and find a model that will heal the divisions that have appeared.
Shared Cultural Values And Commonalities: The Missing Part Of Anderson’s ‘ImaginedCommunities’
Anderson (1993:1) in his ‘Imagining East Timor’ asks the question:
My theoretical writings on nationalism have focused on the importance of the spread of print and itsrelationship to capitalism, yet in East Timor there has been very little capitalism, and illiteracy waswidespread. Moreover, East Timor is ethnically very complicated, with many different language groups.What was it then that made it possible to ‘think East Timor’?
Looking back at East Timor in 1993 during the Indonesian occupation, when capitalism was very limitedand illiteracy was widespread, it was almost impossible to imagine East Timor as a community. After

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