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Edited by David Mearns Assistant editor: Steven Farram
FOREWORD Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Dr. José Luis Guterres Opening Address At The Conference, Darwin, Australia, 7 February 2008 INTRODUCTION David Mearns, Imagining East Timor Again: The Ideas Of A ‘National Identity’ And ‘Democratic Governance’ In Timor-Leste PART ONE: RECONCILING THE PAST AND THE PRESENT TO THE FUTURE Fernanda Borges, CAVR Implementation: The Key To Transforming The Country And East Timorese 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 Legal Divide PART TWO: THE STATE, POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE EMERGING ROLE OF PARLIAMENT Damien 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 A Stronger 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 TimorLeste PART THREE: CULTURAL TRADITIONS AND CONTEMPORARY CITIZENSHIP James J. Fox, Repaying The Debt To Mau Kiak: Reflections On Timor’s Cultural Traditions And The 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 In East Timor José ‘Josh’ Trindade, Reconciling Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision Of The Ideal State Annette Field. Edited by Mark Green, Acknowledging The Past, Shaping The Future: How The Churches And Other Religious Communities Are Contributing To Timor-Leste’s Development (Extracts From The Report) PART FOUR: INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES: OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT Fiona Crockford, Building Demand For Better Governance: Enabling Citizen-State Engagement 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 Governance in 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 VISION OF THE IDEAL STATE
Jose ‘Josh’ Trindade Introduction Before 1999 East Timor was a ‘nation without a state’ (Borgerhoff cited in Scanteam 2007:12). Prior to independence, a national identity was built and based on resistance to occupation (Scanteam 2007) and colonialism. Twenty-four years of resistance to the Indonesian occupation unified the country’s diverse population. This sense of unity through struggle and being historically distinct from Indonesia contributed to achieving independence in 2002. But evidence shows that this constructed identity has since divided East Timorese society and it triggered the 2006 crisis. Today, East Timor looks very much like a ‘state without a nation’. Since 2006 the sense of nation and state appears to have fragmented, being replaced by competing and divisive narratives about the past, and a strong sense of exclusion and frustration. In the process of nation-building, key groups in society have come to feel excluded and are looking for a sense of 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 and introduce new concepts and ideas that facilitate the population achieving shared values, common identity and understandings based on existing culture,1 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. The ‘Imagined Community’ of East Timor – Does it Exist? If Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1991) is used to analyse nationalism in East Timor, then there 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 or their local institutions. They cannot imagine themselves as citizens of one country. [End of p.160] [start p.161] They cannot imagine the idea of a nation-state2 beyond the immediate groups or entities they belong to and that are available around them. On other occasions they imagine that the state is no more than (or even less than) the political party they support. This, of course, undermines the national interest and 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 Governance in Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National, edited by D. Mearns. Darwin: Charles Darwin University
inability of F-FDTL and PNTL members to imagine themselves as different state institutions belonging to one East Timor. On the surface or on a theoretical level, all state institutions in East Timor seem to have a clear agenda, which is to work for the betterment of the country and its people. However, on a practical level, regarding day to day activities, each institution seems to work separately, each for itself, with an unclear agenda and goal. The lack of cooperation between institutions, and competition among them is very apparent. In addition, the presence of the international community, with different agendas, has added to 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 contract did not previously exist (Hohe and Ospina 2001:82). Therefore it is difficult for the East Timorese to imagine themselves as citizens under one state. The CAVR3 report (2005) notes that during the 1970s, people from Turiscai (Manufahi district) considered themselves as members of the Mambai ethnolinguistic group, rather than as East Timorese. They viewed outsiders, even people from Dili, as foreigners (malae) (CAVR 2005, part 5:96). Da Silva (2006) also describes how contemporary East Timorese 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; perhaps only 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 an expression of resistance against the oppression of colonial rule. Sudden independence in 2002 has left no opportunity 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-state building 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 themselves as distinct and separate social groups. This distinction is a new phenomenon in East Timor’s history because during the Portuguese occupation, the 1974-1975 civil-war and the Indonesian occupation, the distinction between the two regions never became apparent. After more than five years of independence East Timor seems to be devolving towards social division and the destruction of its people, its development and its future. To understand the current situation in East Timor we need to assess how East Timor was constructed as a nation-state. Additionally, it is crucial we try 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 future development 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 ‘Imagined Communities’ 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 its relationship to capitalism, yet in East Timor there has been very little capitalism, and illiteracy was widespread. 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 limited and illiteracy was widespread, it was almost impossible to imagine East Timor as a community. After 1
Trindade, Jose 'Josh'. 2008. Reconciling the Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State. In Democratic Governance in Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National, edited by D. Mearns. Darwin: Charles Darwin University
almost fifteen years (as of 2008, after East Timor separated from Indonesia in 1999 and become an independent country in 2002), the capacity for imagining East Timor as a community is the same, or may have actually decreased. Here are some reasons why:
• No significant progress has been made in media development. All local media such as TV, news papers and radio are often provided poor quality of information for public education purposes. Most of the media information in the country are focusing their reports on political conflict and violence or information on Western driven development. Poor progress in East Timorese literature development - in the last fifteen years, almost all the literature on East Timor issues were written by foreigners in foreign languages which can only be accessed by few highly educated Timorese. Encouragements for East Timorese to create their own ideas, develop their own initiatives, or to write their own history and cultural issues was limited There is little interest in reading books in East Timorese society; and even if there were a culture of reading, there are few reading materials available focusing on real East Timorese related issues. Little improvement has been made in East Timor’s education system in the last fifteen years, as a result of the Indonesian withdrawal and the slow response to address education-gap issues between late 1997 and 2008 - leaving a huge number of youth who know how to read and write, and little more Telecommunication facilities in terms of internet access and telephone are too expensive for the locals to afford
What is it then that makes it possible to ‘think East Timor’? This paper supports Anderson’s argument (1991:6) that ‘the community is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion’. Anderson argues that, above all, it is ‘the spread of print and its relationship to capitalism’ that engenders this imagined community. During the Indonesian occupation, the relative absence of print capitalism was [End of p.162] [start p.163] replaced by the defined common enemy, Indonesia. However, the 2006 turmoil in East Timor proved that the ‘struggle against colonial rule’ has divided East Timorese society further rather than unifying it. I argue that Anderson’s position that ‘imagined communities’ rely heavily on ‘the importance of print and its relationship to capitalism’ does not apply in East Timor. Therefore, this paper will seek other alternatives to encourage the East Timorese to imagine their communities via ‘shared common values and other commonalities in the context of culture and traditions that existed in East Timor for generations and have survived until today’. I also argue against Anderson’s position that ‘East Timor is ethnically very complicated, with many different language groups’. Although it is true that the East Timorese belong to many different ethnolinguistic groups, if we analyse East Timorese culture more deeply there are more commonalities than differences. Contemporary East Timorese communities nationwide retain strong traditional beliefs. They have fetosan – uma mane (marriage exchange relationships), all have uma lulik (sacred houses), mamah bua malus (chewing of betel nut) by the elders, all have tais (traditional cloth), all have traditional dancing of tebe-tebe or kore-metan (commemoration after one year of someone’s death) and many more. Within these different ethno-linguistic groups, common shared values exist and survive. To facilitate the East Timorese to imagine their communities independently of ‘print capitalism and Timorese resistance history’ these shared common practices and their underlying values can be explored and examined. Paradigmatic Differences And Flaws Within East Timor’s Nation-State Formation 2
Trindade, Jose 'Josh'. 2008. Reconciling the Conflicting Paradigms: An East Timorese Vision of the Ideal State. In Democratic Governance in Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National, edited by D. Mearns. Darwin: Charles Darwin University
[In East Timor] the paradigmatic differences between traditional power concepts and modern ideas are so massive, and the low level of education amongst the rural population ensures that traditional power concepts are remaining very strong. Even voices that sound modern are often supportive of traditional ideas, though not deliberately (Hohe and Ospina 2001:73)
East Timor remains a fragile nation. The 2006 crisis shows that all the efforts invested during almost a decade were wiped out overnight. What went wrong? From 1999 to 2006 East Timor was like a successful ‘experiment’ that turned out to be unsuccessful for the UN and the international community. The country was like a ‘social laboratory’ and the lives of almost a million people were the objects of experiment. A possible contributing factor to this from 1999 to 2002 was that the UN had absolute sovereignty in East Timor and failed to carry out a ‘Timorisation’ program. Chopra (2000:30) argues that during this period UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor) was comparable to a pre-constitutional monarch in a kingdom in which ‘Timorese were turned into the servants of foreigners in their own land’. Chopra further argues that the defensive brand of bureaucratic ‘force protection’ employed by the UN was not an effective approach in preparing the East Timorese for full independence. Comparisons of the UN with colonial administrations were unavoidable (Chopra 2000:33). The East Timorese are often (involuntarily) forced to swallow different modern ideas and concepts without giving them appropriate time to digest them properly. These [End of p.163] [start p.164] conditions provided almost no opportunity for the East Timorese to incorporate their past, their cultural values and commonalities into the nation constructed under the UN. In an open letter to Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta in August 2006, the author of this paper put forward the view that:
Our nation is too fragile; its foundations are like that of a house being built on sand. We have denied ourselves […] by denying our roots and […] the traditional values that have existed in our society for generations […] The foundations for East Timor to form a solid, national, post-independence identity have not yet been laid. The country has no spirit or soul. The country is a stand alone thing with no values or principles attached to it. The country is like a walking corpse; alive, yet inanimate. So far, we have been building the country by imitating values and beliefs from other countries without taking into consideration to our local traditions and culture (Trindade 2006)
Contemporary processes have lacked consideration of East Timorese culture and traditions, and this has disconnected the people from their historical and cultural roots, which in turn has disempowered the national identity and the country’s unity. It has also disconnected the people from their own state, and the state is then often considered as an ‘alien’ institution by the population. Looking back at the period 1999 – 2002, there are flaws in the process of nation-state formation in East Timor. Some of the flaws can be identified as follows: A. Lack Of Local Legitimacy In The Nation-State Processes The newspaper Suara Timor Lorosa’e (STL 2007a) reported the following on 29 November 2007:
A group of students calling themselves the National Liberty Movement for Maubere People (MOLNAPOM) were carrying Fretilin flags in a demonstration to ‘rebel’ against the 28 November Independence Day celebrations. They proceeded to the Government Palace where the government and the public were celebrating [...] The objective of the [demonstration] was to protest against the AMP government because they don’t deserve to stand in front of the Government Palace to celebrate Independence Day [...] According to MOLNAPOM’s principal, they will organise demonstrations until the AMP government falls. They will give six months duration to the AMP government to fall because they 4 consider [the AMP Government] has no legal mandate to carry out its work
Post-election 2007 created confusion amongst the East Timorese about who should form the new government. Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor) won most votes in the election, but with only 31% support. After the results were announced, other smaller parties, including CNRT (National Council for East Timorese Reconstruction) formed a political alliance called the AMP (Parliamentary Majority Alliance) led by Xanana Gusmão. Collectively, the AMP had more than enough of the vote to form a government and many argued that it had won the right to do so. But many also argued that Fretilin, which won the biggest share of the primary vote, should have been given the opportunity to [End of p.164] [start p.165] set up the new government. The East Timorese national constitution, which was originally written in Portuguese, did not help to clarify the confusion. In August 2007, the president decreed that the AMP would form the new government. In East Timor the decision of the president is final. If it is to be contested, a supreme court judge must provide a ruling. From the grassroots to the national level Fretilin members did not accept this decision but refused to file a formal complaint against it. Even now they still view the decision as unconstitutional and the AMP government as illegal. The decision made by the president resulted in political violence across the country during which almost a thousand houses were burnt down as a protest by Fretilin members. This illustrates how legitimate democratic election results, without proper local legitimacy, created or revived long standing disagreements or controversy amongst political parties, state institutions and the population. The problem in this case lay within the conflicting paradigms for understanding power and legitimacy between local and modern systems that co-exist in East Timorese society. These may be characterised as hierarchy versus equality. There is a fundamental difference in understanding legitimacy between the international community and the East Timorese in relation to ‘political power’. Tanja Hohe (2002:83) states that:
In international eyes, elections give political leaders legitimacy to assume a mandate for governing the country and exerting power. To create a legitimate government for international purposes, elections are often conducted as single events and followed by the withdrawal of the international community, leaving behind an internationally-recognized new or old regime without local legitimacy.
Hohe argues that political legitimacy in traditional East Timorese societies derives from appointment through ritual authorities; leaders that are connected to the ancestors. These ritual leaders know the origins of all families and which family is ‘royal’ and who is therefore entitled to be a political leader. Only through this status is the new political leader ancestrally legitimised and capable of successful rule with the full acknowledgement of the population (Hohe 2002:81). Some East Timorese expressed the view that those who were involved in East Timor’s nation-state formation from 1999 to 2002 may have been experts and elite politicians, but they did not understand the East Timorese, their society, their culture and traditional values. Scanteam (2007:1) noted that 4
understanding of East Timorese society, its diversity and the historical basis for relations between different social or ethno-linguistic groups was limited. The process of nation-state formation led by an elite few from the East Timorese diaspora and the UN relied heavily on elements of foreign cultures and values and undermined the cultural identity of the East Timorese (see Evers 2001:25). Hohe and Ospina (2001:50) describe how in the past, the Portuguese, the Church, and the Indonesians incorporated elements of traditional structures in order to gain local legitimacy from the East Timorese for their own benefit. Hohe and Ospina further note that the Portuguese sought strategic advantage by utilising respect for traditional customs and acceptance of the local structures. To counter resistance from the East Timorese and their powerful liurais (local king) [End of p.165] [start p.166] the Portuguese used a local method to establish peace, entering into blood oaths (hemu ran, juramentu) with liurais to create agreements that they would no longer fight. Hohe and Ospina also describe how, since the Portuguese were connected with ‘political power’, they had the authority to fill local political positions. In the perception of local societies this was symbolically conducted through the handing over of the flag, or the rattan stick (rota, the symbol of political power in East Timorese tradition), as ultimate symbols for political rule. After the Portuguese had conferred them they became important insignia for local political houses and today they are still kept as treasures in some of the sacred houses (uma lulik), the very heart of East Timorese culture. Back then, the Portuguese were viewed as a legitimate body by the locals (arguably, until their departure in 1974), partly because of their skill in manipulating and incorporating local belief systems and structures into their administration. Another foreign institution that is accepted, has survived and is viewed as legitimate by locals, is the Catholic Church. According to Hohe and Ospina (2001:76-77) the Christian belief system is respected, as it seems to have to do with what is lulik (sacred, holy)5 but is integrated into the local belief system. Different Christian stories are listened to and interpreted in a way that confirms the local systems rather than contradicts them. Christianity is respected, but is seen as something ‘younger’; the ‘old’ and therefore more important aspect, is the local belief system. Ritual authorities pay the Church respect and go to the masses, but within their sacred houses and areas they know that the traditional system is the ‘true and old’ way of their ancestors. The population always says: ‘First the traditional system, then the Church, and then the government’. During twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation, some elements of cultural practices and traditional values were used when it was necessary for the Indonesians. For example, the Indonesians entered into blood oaths (hemu ran, juramentu) to stop the resistance against Indonesian rule (Hohe and Ospina 2001:59-60). As with the Portuguese administration, the Indonesians also recognised the importance of putting the right leaders in the right position. Some of the ‘royal’ descendants were included in their formal power structures, while others were recognised and held informal or symbolic power. In 1982, the first five-yearly election for village chiefs was held. What looked like democratic elections on the surface was a confirmation of traditional powers. After a decision was made by the elders people knew for whom they had to vote for on the local level and it was often a continuation of traditional power structures. The traditional elders still had a strong influence on the nomination of candidates. ‘The village chief nevertheless represented the core of the struggle between modernity and traditions whereas the hamlet chief’s traditional legitimacy was hardly ever challenged’ (Hohe and Ospina 2001:52-61). B. Constituent Assembly (CA)6 And The Creation Of The East Timor National Constitution
Promoting the Rule of Law involves […] changing culture as much as it does creating new institutions [...] Without a widely shared cultural commitment [End of p.166] [start p.167] to the idea of the Rule of
Law, courts are just buildings, judges just public employees, and constitutions just pieces of paper (Dobbins et al 2007:88)
Indeed, the East Timorese view the constitution as ‘just pieces of paper’. For the small elite and for the international community, the East Timorese constitution might be accepted and viewed as an important component in the new East Timor nation-state, but many others still view the constitution as illegitimate. Regarding the constitution’s legitimacy, a lia nain (traditional elder) from Viqueque stated that:
... our constitution is not strong here, it (the constitution) must be accepted by all and be blessed by elders – converted into a sacred object (sasan lulik) and be part of our culture (Trindade and Castro 2007:28)
There were flaws in the creation of the constitution in 2001. These can be summaraised as follows:
• The constitution was drafted without proper consultations process with the populations, and did not take into consideration Timorese social dynamics, internal conflicts that may emerge, traditional social structure, cultural values, and local identity. Therefore, many Timorese often seen the Constitution as a source of conflict and division within the society. Additionally, the lack of an official interpretation of the constitution during its creation in 2001 has left space for interpretation by individual or groups for their benefit. As an example: the interpretation of Article 106 post 2007 election which resulted countrywide political violence (Da Silva and Texeira 2007, Klegg 2007, OCHA Timor-Leste 2007) The constitution was decided and approved by the CA which was put in place by the 2001 elections. Many weaknesses can be found as a result of this process. For example, the majority of the ruling party elected as CA members incorporated their own short- and long-term political agenda into the constitution, which undermined national unity and the national interest7 The majority of the CA members were unqualified; therefore, instead of having a real discussion for each issue presented, they just ‘raised their hands’ to approve articles in the constitution often without knowing the definition of key concepts or implications for the future The definition of “Timorese People” in the constitution is unclear and open to debate in which emphasized divisions within the society rather than unity, because the preamble of the constitution started with ‘resistance history’ instead of a ‘unifying principal’. Many interpreted that, ‘Timorese people’ as described in the constitution only refers to ‘resistance struggle groups’ in a way. This definition did not take into consideration the ‘social and political divisions’ within East Timor recent history.8
C. Democracy, Human Rights And The Multiparty System
There are also some concepts of democracy and human rights that exist in traditional Timorese society. As far as democracy goes these include: listening to people and discussing before making decisions. As far as rights go: society respects the rights of the individual […] Human rights don’t really go against [End of p.167] [start p.168] our values, but you have to see how to adopt this western concept without creating another disorder (personal interview with a young intellectual, Dili, February 2007).
The concepts of democracy and human rights were accepted by the East Timorese. However, after the implementation process was undertaken, the result was not to demonstrate notions of democracy 6
anymore, but democracy was seen more as a tool for East Timorese people to fight each other, and human rights was used as an excuse for people to disrespect each other. Hohe and Ospina (2001:80) suggest that questions remain on how far a democratic system can be introduced to societies that are hierarchically ordered and that strongly reject the notion of opposition in their system. How problematic this is can be seen in the present establishment of a multi-party system. The local paradigm is now challenged to integrate the idea of an opposition. As this new notion is very strange to the local system, it is ordered into a category where it seems to fit best: the idea of an enemy and a violent relationship. Therefore violent actions against members of other parties can be explained by local systems. The violence between political parties in 1974-1975 was described as follows by Xanana Gusmão at a CAVR hearing:
Each party presented their views as in the national interest, but didn’t take into consideration that we are all people of Timor, nor what the nation as a whole was striving for. And because of this we noticed a lack of will on the part of the party leaders to reduce the level of violence, to address what was going on. Sometimes we noticed that the parties were quite happy when their supporters would come and say: ‘We beat up this person’ or ‘We killed that person’. It was regarded as a small victory […] If a party had the most number of people in a sub-district they didn’t let other parties campaign in that area. And so when other parties went to those places people would attack them, block their way, boycott them, throw rocks at each other and beat each other up. (CAVR 2005, part 3:29)
This situation continues as was witnessed in the pre- and post-election tensions of 2007. ‘Democracy’ has come to symbolise peace and freedom, but is not seen, so far, as challenging or displacing the local hierarchical system. Furthermore, a multi-party system is associated with animosity and is not perceived as being connected to the notion of democracy (Hohe and Ospina 2001:9). D. Independence Day The daily newspaper Suara Timor Lorosa’e (STL 2007b) reported the following on 29 November 2007:
The President of the Republic, Horta explains that, ‘on 28 November 1975, thirty-two years ago, the leadership of Fretilin through its Central Committee and the first President of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, unilaterally declared the independence of East Timor’. However, no country sent their representatives to approve [East Timor’s] independence.9 [End of p.168]
[start p.169] Regarding East Timor’s Independence Day, there is controversy. Those who felt connected and associated with the Fretilin independence declaration on 28 November 1975 accepted the CA decision to declare this day as Independence Day. However, non-Fretilin supporters associated independence more with 20 May 2002, the day the UN handed over power to the East Timorese. Many argue that the declaration of independence in 1975 did not represent the united will of the people as just before the declaration of independence civil conflict had erupted in which East Timorese were killing each other and society was divided based on political affiliation (see CAVR 2005). Meanwhile, the majority of contemporary East Timorese, especially young people, associate independence with 20 May 2002 as they witnessed the moment themselves. The processes that led to 20 May 2002 were participated in by most East Timorese, of whom more than 91% voted in the popular consultation in 1999. The high 7
rate of participation in this vote was more of an expression of ‘survival instinct’ against the oppression of colonial rule. Of the 91% who voted, 78.5% voted for the independence of the East Timorese people. This 78.5% of voters represented one East Timor regardless of political affiliation, region or ethno-linguistic background. They viewed themselves as one East Timor with one goal. They voted with one vision for the independence of the whole country. This was the true unity of the East Timorese at that time and for the first time. The fact is that many East Timorese still do not know what was declared on the 28 November 1975. E. Common Culture, National Goal And Civic Ideology According to Montserrat Guibernau (2004:132) ‘nation’ refers to a human group conscious of forming a community, sharing a common culture, attached to a clearly demarcated territory, having a common past and a common project for the future and claiming the right to rule itself. Arguably, what is missing from East Timor as a nation in its creation phase is ‘a shared common culture’ and ‘a common project for the future’. However, the development actors often presume that East Timorese cultural traditions are too different and distinct from each other and there that are no commonalities, an argument based solely on assumptions and a lack of knowledge. In terms of ‘a common project for the future’, the constitution of East Timor Section 6 states ten fundamental objectives, without clearly defining the national goal. Therefore, let alone the future generation, the current citizens of East Timor are unclear about their future, they are blur on understanding the idea of nation-state, and they uncertain about where to place themselves into nation-building processes. It is understandable because so far, the state did not provide space (or principals) for population to perceive a better future. Additionally, the current development projects in the country, whether initiated by the local government or the international community, have focused their aims merely on short-term goals. Smith (cited in Guibernau 2004:133) argues that ‘nations must have a measure of common culture and a civic ideology, a set of common understandings and aspirations, sentiments and ideas, which bind the population together in their homeland.’ Many East Timorese still question the ‘civic ideology’ that will facilitate them to perceive East Timor as a nation. Lacking a nation’s civic ideology has further disconnected the population from their state. In most big, diverse and [End of p.169] [start p.170] multicultural countries, where ‘common culture’ is too difficult to be found or developed, civic ideology will act as the unifying force. Within the development of civic ideology itself, a common culture for fellow nationals will be developed. This will facilitate citizens to imagine themselves as one nation. Solidarity and unity of the country is then fostered. An example of civic ideology in the United States of America is stated in the preamble of the US constitution (US 2008). It reads as follows:
We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The above statement is the national goal of the United States and may as well act as the measure of all the things including laws, regulations and actions by Americans as individuals or institutions. It creates strong bonds and a sense of national unity amongst the many ethnic groups in the US, and facilitates them to imagine themselves as US citizens. Where is the equivalent example of this dimension in East Timor? 8
In comparison, East Timor’s constitution, in the first few paragraphs in the preamble (see below), emphasises the idea of ‘resistance and struggle’, which divides society instead of forming a more perfect union. The preamble of East Timor’s constitution clearly favours the ‘resistance movement’ from which other common East Timorese (deliberately or not) are excluded.
East Timor Constitution (2002) (First few paragraphs of the Preamble) Following the liberation of the Timorese People from colonisation and illegal occupation of the Maubere Motherland by foreign powers, the independence of East Timor, proclaimed on the 28th of November 1975 by Frente Revolucionária do Timor-Leste Independente (FRETILIN), is recognised internationally on the 20th of May 2002. The preparation and adoption of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor is the culmination of the historical resistance of the Timorese People intensified following the invasion of the 7th of December 1975. The struggle waged against the enemy, initially under the leadership of FRETILIN, gave way to more comprehensive forms of political participation, particularly in the wake of the establishment of the National Council of the Maubere Resistance (CNRM) in 1987 and the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in 1998. The Resistance was divided into three fronts. The armed front was carried out by the glorious Forças Armadas de Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste (FALINTIL) whose historical undertaking is to be praised. [End of p.170]
[start p.171] The action of the clandestine front, astutely unleashed in hostile territory, involved the
sacrifice of thousands of lives of women and men, especially the youth, who fought with abnegation for freedom and independence. The diplomatic front, harmoniously carried out all over the world, enabled the paving of the way for definitive liberation. In its cultural and humane perspective, the Catholic Church in East Timor has always been able to take on the suffering of all the People with dignity, placing itself on their side in the defense of their most fundamental rights.
F. National Symbols (The National Flag And The National Anthem)
As suggested above, most East Timorese imagine that their political party is more important than the nation, the national interest or national unity. In relation to the national flag as one of the national symbols, Suara Timor Lorosa’e (STL 2007c) reported the following on the day after East Timor Independence Day, 28 November 2007:
The Vice President of the National Parliament, Maria Paixão in the plenary session [said that], there is a bad culture when the national anthem is played in this parliament. There are Members of Parliament, and Members of the Government who do not show respect. All the people have more respect and sensibility 10 toward the flag of their political party than to the national flag.
In East Timorese culture, any objects that symbolise political power, unity or peace are viewed as holy or sacred. Sasan lulik is the local term for these objects. Evidence suggests that the new national objects and symbols for most East Timorese are still viewed as mundane items which have no special meaning for them. Therefore, most East Timorese do not have respect or sensibility towards these unifying national symbols, because they consider the flag of a political party has more sacred value than the national flag. Many East Timorese still do not know how to sing the national anthem. Some say that the style of the national anthem is too Western and this is not the way East Timorese sing a song traditionally. G. Political Structure And The National Leadership
The traditional power is the lulik (sacred, holy), because according to the stories, the one that holds the rattan [rota] and the flag has the power to rule. That person is the liurai. The rattan switch and the flag are both lulik and are usually stored in the sacred house of the liurai. (Hohe and Ospina 2001:41)
Hohe and Ospina (2001:72) note that traditional political concepts form a system in which a traditional society can work without a proper state body. Traditional social systems have a mechanism to prevent themselves from collapsing where there is no formal constitution. The ancestors are the secure link to the past. They are the ones that established the system and if their descendants disregard it they have to fear ancestral punishment. The traditional system was the most suitable in the stateless environment to guarantee social stability. It is the paradigm in which the majority of East Timorese people have grown up. For them it is the way [End of p.171] [start p.172] things have always been. Therefore, it is no surprise to observe that in most places the power holder is still selected in accordance to the traditional social structure. Even in places where, ‘the old system is over, everybody can become leaders’ and they have conducted democratic elections, the leaders of the ruling families are still in place, respected and listened to. At present, evidence suggests that some traditional leaders sometimes highjack government officials’ roles at village level when they disagree with a particular government policy. This makes the work of the elected village chief more difficult, especially if they come from a common family and were put in place by modern election processes. East Timor’s political structure adopted a semi-presidential system wherein the president acts as head of state while the prime minister is head of government. The East Timorese are not used to this idea. The East Timorese hierarchical social structure only allows room for one leader whom they follow and obey. Having two leaders, without clear roles and proper traditional legitimacy, has divided society and resulted in violent dispute between members. As hierarchy is at the core of social structure in East Timorese society, a presidential system may be better suited to the local power structure. 10
In relation to national leadership, Trindade and Castro (2007:22) argue that in the new setting of governance in East Timor since independence, national leaders have not held any sacred objects to legitimate their power. Their legitimacy as national leaders comes from elections, which for most East Timorese is still an alien idea. This creates confusion among many people because for now the former legitimate leaders are out of power and replaced by national leaders who do not (yet) have the appropriate legitimacy in the spiritual sense. Political power is connected to the ‘way of the ancestors’ and to the sacred. If the wrong person acts as a political ruler, this will mean misfortune for the whole community (Hohe and Ospina 2001:65) or the whole nation when applied to national leadership. Arguably, the 2006 crisis may have resulted from the fact that wrong leaders were installed at the national level from 2002 to 2006 without proper local legitimacy. There is little trust towards leaders that are not connected with sacred items and ancestral legitimacy (Hohe and Ospina 2001:82). A Question Of National Identity?
At home we wear the cawat (traditional garment), outside we wear the tie. Our culture is our identity. We have to study our culture and we have to pay attention to it. In our hearts there are still traditional customs (liurai, Baucau cited in Hohe and Ospina 2001:80)
A well defined ‘national identity’, according to Smith (cited in Guibernau 2004:133), ‘involves some sense of political community, history, territory, patria, citizenship, common values and traditions’. It seems that the idea of national identity in East Timor has not considered the ‘common values and traditions’ that have been shared by the East Timorese for generations. East Timorese people are united culturally by divided politically. Through culture, the peoples of eastern and western East Timor even view themselves as one people, descended from one common ancestor and coming from one founding uma lulik. Because the ‘common [End of p.172] [start p.173]values and traditions’ in East Timor were ignored, denied, put aside and replaced by the imported new values of human rights and democracy, this undermined the common values and cultural identity of the East Timorese. Human rights principles were improperly introduced and implemented in East Timor as the implementation of human rights programs focused more on individual rights, without balancing them with duties or obligations. Most East Timorese now think that they even have the right to burn someone else’s house or the right to abuse someone else’s rights. Guibernau (2004:134) argues that national identity is a modern phenomenon of a fluid and dynamic nature; one by means of which a community sharing a particular set of characteristics is led to the subjective belief that its members are ancestrally related. Belief in a shared culture, history, traditions, symbols, kinship, language, religion, territory, founding moment, and destiny have been invoked, with varying intensity at different times and places, by peoples claiming to share a particular national identity. The most comprehensive analysis of the cultural components of national identity is developed by Smith (cited in Guibernau 2004:124) where he notes that values, beliefs, customs, conventions, habits, languages and practices are transmitted to the new members who receive the culture of a particular nation. Smith explores the origins of nations and national identity and finds them in ethnic identity as a premodern form of collective cultural identity. In his view, ‘collective cultural identity refers not to a uniformity of elements over generations but to a sense of continuity on the part of successive generations of a given cultural unit of population, to shared memories of earlier events and periods in the history of that unit and to notions entertained by each generation about the collective destiny of that unit and its culture’. Smith (cited in Guibernau 2004:124) adds ‘there is a felt filiation, as well as a cultural affinity, 11
with a remote past in which a community was formed, a community that despite all the changes it has undergone, is still in some sense recognized as the “same” community’. In the case of East Timorese national identity most of these elements were neglected and denied by those who created East Timor as a nation after 1999. The younger generation did not receive the culture of their particular nation. Therefore, East Timorese society is lacking in the process of identification with a national East Timorese culture, which implies a strong emotional investment able to foster bonds of solidarity among the members of the East Timorese community who come to recognise one another as fellow nationals of East Timor (Gellner cited in Guibernau 2004:136). This may have played a role in the east – west divide in the 2006 crisis, as noted by the Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste:
The east-west division is a simplification of a far more complex issue. Timor-Leste has no modern history of concerted political violence between easterners and westerners as unified and opposing groups. However, there are sensitive divisions within Timorese society relating to notions of national and communal identity. The poorly defined national identity, particularly in the absence of a common enemy post-1999, is critical to an understanding of how the east versus west distinction has arisen in recent years (United Nations 2006:20; emphasis added). [End of p.173]
[start p.174] The lack of a common national identity in East Timor was expressed by a local as follows:
There is no common identity yet, because of bad roads and the lack of communication. Therefore, people do not know each other and cannot have a common identity. No understanding of identity was taught in the formal education (intellectual, Bobonaro cited in Hohe and Ospina 2001:82)
The process of nation-state formation in East Timor assumes that ‘resistance’ is the main source of national identity without considering that the resistance really only came into existence and united the people in the twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation. The idea of resistance has created divisions within East Timorese society and it played a major role in triggering the unresolved 2006 crisis. The idea of resistance has divided members of F-FDTL and PNTL, and the regional social division of lorosa’e (easterners) and loromonu (westerners). The divide is based on who fought more in the resistance, the true fighters versus those who were associated with Indonesia or the militia, or even common East Timorese who simply voted in 1999 and disassociated themselves from politics or ‘resistance’ (Trindade and Castro 2007:13; Babo-Soares 2003:278). Scanteam (2007:4) notes that among the factors that contributed to the 2006 crisis was the absence of a sense of ‘nation’ or common identity once the purpose that unified the East Timorese population during their liberation struggle broke down, to be replaced by competing narratives about East Timor’s history and identity that emphasise division rather than unity. Most national identities are imagined or constructed (Anderson 1991). Cultural heritage and history from the colonial period served to differentiate the East Timorese from the Indonesians, and to create the beginnings of a sense of ‘nation’ where social coherence had never before existed in the context of a nation-state. Efforts by the political elite to develop a Lusophone identity were often seen as an imposition, particularly among youth who had no affiliation with the colonial past or Portuguese language and culture. Historically‐based concepts of identity did not incorporate the experience of the youthful population, further alienating them from the older leadership and the nation-building process (Scanteam 12
2004:50). Therefore, it provided space for a ‘violent identity’ to emerge amongst that population through joining different martial arts groups, which provided them with an alternative ‘sense of security and belonging’ in opposition to the state. According to Hohe and Ospina (2001) the younger generation views traditional values as inherent to the identity of the East Timorese people. Traditional values can be modified to adapt to the progress of society, but cannot disappear. Traditional values should not be neglected in the development of a sense of nationhood and there should be a combination of the traditional and the modern. The question of how this combination of traditional and modern values should look specifically is difficult. However, there are already political parties campaigning for the combination of the modern and the traditional. For example, ASDT (Democratic Association of East Timor) proposed expressing the word ‘democracy’ in the local term nahe biti, a reference to a woven mat where traditional elders and the community gather to discuss community interests and resolve disputes between individuals or groups. The concept of ‘foreign affairs’ [End of p.174] [start p.175] was proposed to be explained as manu’ain, the messenger that traditionally passed messages between kingdoms. Executive, legislative and judicial positions can be explained in traditional power structure as lia fuan (lia = words, issues, matters, problems, fuan = heart) a reference to the national parliament speaking, discussing and making decisions from and with their heart/love; ukun fuan (ukun = to rule or to govern) a reference to the government ruling and governing the people with their heart/love; and lia nain (the keeper of the words) a reference to the state judicial system holding the judicial power to resolve disputes between state institutions and members (Hohe 2002:78). The importance of culture in creating a sense of nation and common identity was recognised by Fretilin during the short period when it was in power in 1975, as described in the CAVR (2005, part 5:11) report:
Fretilin cultural activities aimed to develop a sense of nationhood [...] Fretilin took traditional songs from many regions and politicised the lyrics to further this cause. Songs were sung to traditional dances such as the tebe and dahur
In short, East Timor has failed recently as a state because key elements and dimensions required in forming a state were not included. After acknowledging the above complexities, one may ask ‘where do we go from here?’ For the sake of the East Timorese people, one may need to take a moment to review and think about the mistakes we have made, either deliberately or not, whether by individuals or institutions, locals or internationals, so that we can correct them and establish the right order. Admitting to the mistakes we have committed in the past is the first step to correct them, because East Timor’s past has determined the present and the future will depend on our actions in the present. What then is an ideal state for East Timor? How Will The Ideal State For East Timor Look? A simplified version of a domain or an uma lulik in East Timor may look like the diagram shown below called the ‘Lulik Circle’.11
Diagram 1: Traditional Lulik Circle. See Appendix One for explanatory notes on this diagram. [End of p.175]
[start p.176] A domain (or kingdom) always has a space called the laran (centre) (layer 1) which is viewed as the most sacred (lulik) place in a domain. This place is inhabited by the ancestors and is the source of rules, regulations and moral standards in East Timorese society. The centre is where all rituals are conducted. It is a place where the real world and the spiritual world are connected and communicate with each other. The lulik centre is weak, but at the same time it is very powerful. It represents female values, the source of fertility and prosperity for society. If the centre is disregarded by society, ancestral sanctions will strike society in the form of conflict and disaster, whether natural, social or political. The second layer is inhabited by the landlord, who holds ritual power which represents male values to protect and guard the female values at the center (layer 1). Therefore, in dualism concept the center (layer 1) represents female values, while the second layer (ritual power) represents male values. However, second layer (ritual power) will become the female values in its relationship to layer 3 (political power). In another word, ritual power (layer 2) acts as the male values to lulik (center) and female values to political power (layer 3). The third layer is inhabited by the newcomer (the immigrant) who holds political power because the newcomer is perceived to be connected with knowledge (matenek) and ability to rule or administer the land and the people. In its relationship with the other two inner layers (layer 2 and 1) it represents male values while the other two layers represent female values. As described above, East Timorese society bases its social and political structures on dualistic belief systems, where harmonising or balancing two opposing ideas or entities is crucial. The idea of checks and balances in terms of political legitimacy in modern society can also be explained with the Lulik Circle. The checks and balances concept in modern (Western) society, such as the balance or separation of powers in the modern state between the executive, legislative and judicial bodies is similar to the Lulik Circle structure. In East Timorese society this separation of powers to check and balance is between the lulik centre (layer 1), the ritual power, the dato/bei (layer 2) and the political power or liurai (layer 3). The nearer the centre the more powerful it will be, therefore, the very centre, or lulik, is the most powerful region, but at the same time is the weakest in comparison with the two outer layers. It is weak because the centre is an invisible concept or an idea. The belief of society in the concept of lulik made it powerful and 14
it became the source or the secure point for the legitimacy of rules and regulations and political affairs in society. The checks and balances in this case are three-way; one layer is checked and balanced by the other two, with an understanding that the truth of the centre (lulik) is unquestionable. The unquestionable truth of the lulik seems to lie with the age of its existence. It seems that the rules and regulations of lulik at the centre have been tested for thousands of years and have gone though many experiences and modifications since they came into existence in ancient times. Logically, by giving regard to the lulik centre of ancient rules and regulations society is stable and the prosperity of society is guaranteed, because if society is stable peace is also guaranteed. If the centre is disregarded, society will be endangered because it upsets the ancestors who inhabit the centre. The logic behind this notion is that if people or society breaks their own rules and regulations determined by the ancestors, then society will be involved in war or [End of p.176] [start p.177] conflict, which in turn hinders the growth of prosperity in society. Therefore, the East Timorese tend to interpret conflict, such as the 2006 crisis, as the result of ‘disregarding the ancestors’. If the ancestors and the cosmic world are respected and protected and balanced by proper behaviour in society by East Timorese individuals or groups, the central (inner) part in turn protects the outsiders around them. Whatever comes from the inside always returns to where it came from. The outsider is sent away to find food and wealth to be sent back to the centre for the benefit of all the people who inhabit layers 2 and 3. This dual system is alive and endless because it is a circle. In layers 2 and 3 there is opposition (that is, new values versus old values), because opposition is always complementary for a better result. When there is no direct opposition found in this system between the insider and the outsider, social stability, tranquility and prosperity are guaranteed. It may be worth mentioning that the Portuguese and the Church in the past not only conquered East Timor, but also penetrated to the very centre of East Timorese society and its belief systems (layer 1) and established themselves and their administration with the backing of the centre. The Indonesians, on the other hand, only managed to enter layer 2 and never tried to enter to the central (laran) part. Therefore, the Indonesians were not accepted and had to leave East Timor in 1999 after twenty-four years of East Timorese resistance. If we apply the above to the idea of the state in East Timor, it looks like the following:
Diagram 2: Modern (Modified) Lulik Circle. See Appendix Two for explanatory notes on this diagram.
The author’s argument is that ‘a strong ideal state should seek to base itself on the core foundation that has existed in that society for generations’. Contemporary activities (state activities, development processes) in East Timor are happening [End of p.177] [start p.178] and circle around and around with no end, but only in the political area at layer 3. State activities have not gone anywhere near the second layer, the later of ritual power, and layer 1, the centre, is out of the question altogether. It has already been mentioned that the Portuguese and the Church penetrated East Timorese society and its whole structure by placing themselves at the centre and controlling the East Timorese from the political area (layer 3). East Timorese society and its whole structure were trapped in layer 2 during 450 years of Portuguese occupation. The question remains, ‘does the current state and its processes have the ability and strategies to penetrate to the inner part of East Timorese society?’ To achieve social and political stability in East Timor all stake-holders need to answer this question because the future of East Timor is dependant on these answers and they must come from even the smallest unit of East Timorese society, the ordinary individual.
The Difficult Road To Get The New State Structure Off The Ground A. Reconciling The Conflicting Paradigms: An Overview ‘Conflicting paradigms’ in this paper refers to ideas or concepts either modern/national or traditional/local that co-exist and are viewed as in direct opposition to each other in the current processes of East Timor, 16
by influencing and affecting, whether directly or indirectly, the life of the East Timorese. By analysing these modern concepts and ideas from a local legitimacy point of view, hopefully room for merging can be developed for reconciling these conflicting paradigms. For these purposes, this paper uses the concept of ‘dualism’ developed by Van Wouden (cited in Hohe and Ospina 2001:28). In this concept there is always a balancing of the positive and negative aspects in life that complement each other. In East Timor, there is a wife-giver (uma mane) and a wife-taker (feto san), there are female values in opposition to male values and there are sacred houses classified as newcomers (foreign/male) and others as indigenous (local/female). This dualistic structure is extensively described in anthropological sources on Eastern Indonesia and East Timor. This structure provides an excellent framework for local societies to integrate ‘new happenings/the foreign influences/the male values/the outsider’ into their local belief system ‘the old structure/the local influences/the female values/the insider’ (Hohe and Ospina 2001:28). This is relevant because when East Timor reached independence in 2002 there was a ‘new happening’, and a lot of ‘foreign influence and values’ were integrated within East Timor without fitting properly into the traditional and cultural context. As an example, East Timorese tradition and culture always interprets the foreigner/outsider and its influences as something coming from the inside that went away and later returned. Therefore, if a stranger visits a sacred site, they will be given permission and considered as a grandchild (bei oan) who left before and now returns. So the earlier Portuguese presence was explained locally as the ‘younger brother’ who went away and returned (Hohe and Ospina 2001:28) and the Church was explained as ‘younger values’ which came to complement the ‘old traditional values’. To give another example, During their colonial rule, the Portuguese adopted the local idea of rota which symbolises political power and legitimacy. The Portuguese created their own rotas and distributed them to all the uma luliks in East Timor. These rotas were installed inside the uma luliks and [End of p.178] [start p.179] treated as sacred objects. Most uma luliks still treat these rotas with respect and they are viewed as important treasures. Meanwhile, the Church adopted the title of ‘Maromak Oan’ (son of god) for Jesus Christ (as the only Maromak Oan) from the ruler of Wewiku-Wehali (a kingdom located south of present-day Atambua, West Timor) and used this idea to spread Christianity throughout the territory. The Church also incorporated the idea of lulik into Christian beliefs, where priests are called ‘Na’i Lulik’ or ‘Amo Lulik’ in local terminology (see Therik 2004). With these rationalisations, the Portuguese administration and the Church were accepted and survived with little conflict. Based on this logic, the modern idea of a nation-state has to be explained or categorised as an ‘outsider/the new one/the newcomer/the younger brother/the male’ and local traditions are viewed as the ‘insider/the old one/the landlord/the older brother/the female’ in East Timorese socio-cosmic belief systems. The two must be reconciled to complement each other in a harmonious relationship or society will be endangered. In East Timorese tradition, the ‘outsider or the newcomer’ will be granted political authority to rule the land and the people. They will be titled liurai (liu = passed, crossed, left behind, rai = land) a reference to those who left their homeland and passed through or crossed many lands to arrive at their present destination. However, it is important to note that the previously mentioned powers can only be granted after proper relationships have been established through marriage exchange or blood oaths. Subsequently, harmonious familial and societal ties will be established between the locals and the newcomer. Political authority encompasses various tasks that include dealing with foreign affairs with different kingdoms. While the ‘newcomer’ holds political authority, the ‘insider or the landlord’, on the other hand, will hold the ritual power, which deals primarily with internal affairs, including appointing individuals for political positions (Hohe and Ospina 2001). Both political and ritual power must complement each other for the benefit of the people. 17
In the contemporary setting, the ideas of state, state bodies, democracy and human rights are categorised as the ‘newcomer’ that holds political power. This has created incompatibility as ‘the newcomer, the political power, the male values, the state’ fails to incorporate the values of the ‘landlord, the ritual power, the female values, the local culture and traditions’. The two consequently have not established a harmonious relationship, and are often viewed by East Timorese as being continuously in direct opposition. Therefore, according to many, any failure to reconcile the opposing ideas will result in putting society at risk of falling into violence and other catastrophic events. The 2006 crisis is widely seen in this light. In summary, a way out must be found to reconcile both entities at both conceptual and institutional levels. However, only explaining these concepts to the East Timorese will not necessarily create change amongst the people. Therefore, real action needs to be taken so that they can see and feel a real process of reconciling or synchronising the two concepts, the local and the national, to complement each other instead of standing in opposition. It will be a ‘difficult road’ because to get this concept off the ground we may need to reverse a little bit. It will cause unpleasant feelings for those who have invested so much effort, energy [End of p.179] [start p.180] and time to build up the ‘current fragile state structure for the East Timorese’. It may also cause unpleasant feelings for those who benefit from the current fragile state structure. But I believe that using common cultural symbols and practices that represent the entirety of the East Timorese is the best way to carry out the aforementioned reconciliation. If this strategy is given the slightest thought and opportunity, we may need to consider the following steps: B. Conducting a National Juramentu In order to welcome the new ideas of nation-state and its processes, the East Timorese need to create a sense of unity among the ethno-linguistic groups across the country. As recommended by Trindade and Castro (2007), a national juramentu between traditional elders (liurais) from main traditional uma luliks may serve to establish a sense of unity among the population. The juramentu or hemu ran (blood oath) is a method used extensively within East Timorese society to create unity and peaceful, harmonious relationships between the ‘newcomer, the outsider’ and the ‘landlord, the insider’. This method is also used to create unity and relationships between kingdoms, social groups, clans, families and individuals. As mentioned earlier, the juramentu or hemu ran was used in ancient East Timor (Trindade and Castro 2007:23, 38) and the ritual appears in many origin myths. It was also practised during Portuguese and Indonesian rule, and within the resistance movement (Hohe and Ospina 2001). The proposed national juramentu should also aim to dissolve the social division between lorosa’e and loromonu inherited from the 2006 crisis (Trindade and Castro 2007:38). This sense of unity will be the key and the foundation to successfully reconciling ‘foreign concepts’ and ‘local ideas’, the ‘modern’ and the ‘traditional,’ or the ‘local’ and the ‘national’. C. Construction of a National Uma Lulik There has been a lot of research on East Timorese uma lulik (sacred houses), such as Hohe and Ospina (2001), McWilliam (2005), Loch (2007) and Trindade and Castro (2007), that highlights the importance of the uma lulik for East Timorese society, past and present. For example, under the Indonesian occupation, the Suharto administration used the uma lulik symbol to represent and differentiate the East 18
Timorese from the rest of Indonesia in Jakarta, where a model of a Lautem-style uma lulik was physically built in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, the miniature representation of beautiful Indonesia (McWilliam 2005:31). McWilliam (2005) describes how resistance against the Indonesian occupation survived partly because it based its networks on the uma lulik structure, binding resistance activists to have faith in each other and fight until the end. The uma lulik is the ultimate symbol of East Timorese culture, representing a society that is clustered and ordered according to hierarchy. For the East Timorese, the uma lulik is the main expression of ‘local identity’ (Trindade and Castro 2007). It embodies the ethos of communal unity and the binding relationships between the people, the land and their ancestry. No uma lulik, no identity (Loch 2007). An East Timorese who does not have or belong to an uma lulik is considered to have no roots, or abut laiha. The abut laiha person has low status in East Timorese society, an indigenous wanderer without culture or traditional roots. Without uma lulik, East Timorese would live like wild animals, with no rules, regulations [End of p.180] [start p.181] or moral standards. Therefore Trindade and Castro (2007:38) recommend (based on testimonies from various parts of East Timor) that a national uma lulik should be created to represent East Timorese national identity, solidarity and peace. The national uma lulik will be seen as the focal point for local uma luliks across the country and the communities associated with them. It will stand alongside the state and be considered as the ‘inside/the female/the old/the older brother/the local/the ritual power’ to complement the state and state bodies and processes associated with the state as the ‘outsider/the male/the new/the younger brother/the foreign/the political power’. It will rekindle the process of forging national unity by establishing a connection between people at the grassroots level. These connections will be founded on a symbolic relationship between local sacred houses and the national uma lulik, essentially making one house within which all East Timorese live. With this base of unity, individuals will be able to relate to each other as family regardless of regional affiliation, ethnicity (Trindade and Castro 2007:39) or political party affiliation. According to Trindade and Castro (2007), the national uma lulik will have the following crucial functions:
• • • • • • • It will be a venue to balance the flow of values between foreign (modern) and local (traditional) to ensure the East Timorese world view is alive and respected The building will represent peace, national unity and the national identity of the East Timorese It will symbolise the idea of multiculturalism under the ethos of ‘diversity under one house’ It will enable the East Timorese to understand and imagine East Timor as one nation in the relative absence of print capitalism and literacy. It will be a sacred place to store national sasan luliks It will symbolise East Timorese culture and tradition, and create a space for its preservation and development It will be a venue to ritually inaugurate the elected president and prime minister
D. Establish A Council Of Liurais/Elders To Ritually Validate The Elected National Leaders
If a national uma lulik is constructed, it should have its own Council of Liurais, whose members in the eyes of the East Timorese are still the legitimate leaders. A Council of Liurais would play more of a symbolic role and not necessarily have political power, but it could be responsible for the following:
• Inaugurating the elected national leaders, at the proposed national uma lulik. This is to avoid the local belief whereby only designated descendants can be leaders or rulers, and in anticipation of a ‘commoner’ being put in place by the election process. Through this ceremony, the elected national leaders will be legitimate from a traditional point of view and the East Timorese worldview will be respected. The ceremony will represent a symbolic transfer of power and legitimacy to the newly elected national leaders, even where a commoner is elected. The East Timorese will see that their legitimate leaders are respected (even if they do not have political power) and their worldview has been [End of p.181] [start p.182] acknowledged, and no contradiction or opposition to their belief system is created It will provide necessary advice to government officials and institutions regarding the people and issues related to national unity and the national interest It will work to promote culture and traditional values to enhance peace and unity amongst the East Timorese
The ritualisation process will create an understanding that the ‘ritual power/the female’ lends political authority, power and legitimacy to the ‘elected national leaders/the male values’ on a temporary basis for a period of five years (in accordance with the election cycle) to rule or to govern the country properly in accordance with the rule of law and the sanction of the ancestors (bandu), for the benefit of all East Timorese. With this in mind, if national leaders abuse or misuse their political power and legitimacy they will fear ancestral retribution, as well as consequences from the modern formal justice system. The former will worry East Timorese leaders more than the latter. This idea will also confirm or support the democracy principle of ‘from the people, by the people, for the people’. The Council of Liurais will be viewed as representatives of the people who lend power and legitimacy to the national leaders. E. Ritualise Or Convert The National Symbols Into National Sasan Luliks Only items that are passed down from the ancestors are perceived as holy or sacred by the East Timorese. If a mundane item is selected to represent the nation, it needs to undergo a traditional ceremony to convert it into a holy or sacred symbol. In order to turn the national symbols into holy items, a traditional ceremony at the national level needs to be held, where the national symbols will visit all the main uma luliks across the country to receive cultural blessing and local legitimacy.12 After the ritualisation process is completed, the national symbols which have now become national sasan luliks will then be put inside the proposed national uma lulik. In addition to this process, we need to consider creating a new national rattan stick (the national rota), which from the East Timorese point of view represents political legitimacy to rule the land and the people (Hohe and Ospina 2001). The national rota can be held only by the president of the republic (Trindade and Castro 2007:40). People will look up to, follow and obey the person that holds this highest symbol of political power. In the process of ritualising the national symbols, dualistic thinking again is applied where national symbols represent the ‘outsider/the male values/the political authority’, while the blessing process represents the ‘insider/the female values/the ritual authority’. 20
Conclusion People might think that the current turmoil in East Timor is caused by economic issues, social injustice, political issues, unemployment, education and health issues. All these points are valid and relevant. However, even if all these issues are resolved, without a solid foundation upon which all these factors can be based there is no doubt that it will collapse again in the future as was witnessed in the 2006 crisis. A new foundation must be based on East Timorese culture, traditions [End of p.182] [start p.183] and worldview. Reconciling the conflicting paradigms in East Timor according to the principles and strategies outlined in this paper will make it possible to achieve a better future. Appendix One Diagram 1 is explained as follows:
Description Centre/Sacred. Represents the cosmic world, source of rules and regulations and moral standards. The truth of lulik is unquestionable because it is determined by the ancestors The sacred house of the Dato who holds the ritual power Ritual power holders, the landlords, the insiders. They represent female values Authority to conduct ceremonies and rituals and ability to communicate with the ancestors Old traditional values of the area which are determined by the ancestors of the Dato The political sacred house of the Liurai Political power holder. Legitimacy of the Liurai is from the Dato who appointed the Liurai according to ancestral rules Authority to rule and administer the land and the people including dealing with the outside world The new values that are brought in by the Liurai or influences from the outside world Represent relationships between layers and its entities which always complementary to each other to ensure harmony in the society. The layers and its entities always check and balance each other as in dualism concept
Opposition in Dualism to Balance Two Outer Layers Political Uma Lulik and Lulik Liurai and Lulik Political Power and Lulik
Ritual Uma Lulik Dato/Bei Ritual Power Old Values Main Uma Lulik Liurai Political Power New Values
Ritual Uma Lulik and Lulik Dato and Lulik Ritual Power and Lulik Old Values and Lulik
[End of p.183] [start p.184] Appendix Two Diagram 2 is explained as follows 21
Suggested State Structure
Origin (Traditional Structure)
Description Refers to ideas and concepts that represent peace, unity, and prosperity for the East Timorese. It defines the national goals and dreams for the future, which will never be achieved but always improves and develops over time and towards which every individual works and contributes. It also defines the civic ideology (the spirit) of the state including development of a common culture and shared meanings for the East Timorese. It is situated at the centre, because this is the inner, lulik, sacred, the vision of the nation and the direction to move ahead for a better future. This should be viewed as the national interest. If one can make the East Timorese perceive ‘national values’ as lulik and manage to place it at the centre of the ‘Lulik Circle’, then the East Timorese will have strong unity and bonds amongst them, regardless of their language-groups, region or political party affiliation. The question will be, how to bring the national values from layer 3 through layer 2 and place them at layer 1? It is a difficult task, but if there is strong political will, it will be accomplished Refers to the traditional ritual centre of the nation. The National Uma Lulik should act as the central house to shade every East Timorese citizen as family members. This is where unity and solidarity among the population is based. It also acts as the focal point for the local main uma luliks across the country and as a venue to store the national sasan luliks, the national symbols (see section 4.B) Refers to East Timorese citizens in general, including all ethnic minorities (Chinese, Indonesian, African, European, etc). People placed under the National Uma Lulik to create a sense of unity and bonds among them under the banner of multiculturalism, ‘diversity under one house’ Refers to the national symbols which are now converted into sacred items through traditional ceremonies across the country (see section 4.D). These are placed under National Uma Lulik because this is where they will be stored. It will always be included in layer 2 with an understanding that the items are only given to legitimise the elected national leaders to rule for a period of five years and are then returned to the National Uma Lulik when elections are due. They will be given out again to the same leader if reelected or to the new leader Based on the original ritual power concepts from traditional understanding Refers to representatives of liurais or traditional elders who represent the main traditional uma luliks across the country to create a sense of unity among them and the
Opposition in Dualism Concept to Balance
Centre, Sacred, Lulik, CosmosWorld, Spiritual World
The human world, the reality, the real world (layers 2 and 3)
National Uma Lulik
Ritual Uma Lulik
The State and its institutions (the Government) and National Values (layers 3 and 1)
[End of p.184] [start p.185]
The State and its institutions (the Government), National Leaders and National Values (layers 3 and 1)
People in the traditional structure are situated in layers 2 and 3. See traditional structure above The sasan lulik is not visible in traditional uma lulik because it is part of every uma lulik in layers 2 and 3 in the traditional structure
National Sasan Lulik
The State and its institutions (the Government), National Leaders and National Values (layers 3 and 1)
Ritual Power Council of Liurais
Political Power and National Values (layers 1 and 3) National Values and the elected National Leaders
population who still view them as legitimate leaders. For their roles, see section 4.C Traditional Values 2 Old Values Refers to original traditional values and practices that are still valid and used today by the contemporary East Timorese in their daily lives
(layers 1 and 3) National Values and Modern Values (layer no.1 and 3) Everything in layers 2 and 1
State and State Bodies
Main Uma Lulik
Refers to the government and its institutions
[End of p.185] [start p.186]
Refers to elected national leaders who are responsible for running the government and its institutions. The legitimacy of their political power comes from a legitimate democratic election. The Council of Liurais will grant them local power legitimacy through traditional ceremonies at the National Uma Lulik. They are the key actors in achieving national values and hold major responsibility for keeping the whole structure (society) from collapsing The same as in the traditional structure Refers to democracy and human rights and other related modern values from outside Refers to the endless flow of life and values in the dualism concept in which there is opposition, but the elements ultimately complement and balance each other. This notion can be utilised to introduce the idea of the multiparty system to the East Timorese, where opposing political parties are not ‘the enemy’, but represent a balance between the two for a better outcome that contributes to the centre, the lulik, national values which in turn benefit individuals from different political parties
Everything in layers 2 and 1
Political Power Modern Values
Political Power New Values
Everything in layers 2 and 1 Everything in layers 2 and 1
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Culture in this paper refers to ‘the whole repertoire of action, language and styles which enables a person to recognise their belonging to a given social group and to identify with the group in question, without necessarily being confined by it. […] Culture and tradition, however, are not frozen or stagnant; the individuals and groups partaking of any culture actively shape and reshape it in their daily endeavors’ (Nyamnjoh 2002:114). 2 Nation-state in this paper refers to Anthony Smith’s definition, where he notes that ‘nation-state’ is a relatively modern concept; it is an institution that has legitimate monopoly over use of force within a prescribed territory and an aim to unite the people within that territory via cultural homogenisation. It bases this legitimacy upon an assumption that it represents the nation (Smith cited in Guibernau 2004). 3 Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliaçao, or Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. 4 Translation by the author. 5 Lulik literally translates as sacred, holy or forbidden. It also has magical connotations. Lulik in this paper refers to ideas, concepts or regulations determined by the ancestors (the spiritual world) for the East Timorese people to follow and obey. The objectives of the notion of lulik are to create peace, unity and tranquility by establishing a harmonious relationship between individuals, families, clans and social groups in the real world. 6 The Constituent Assembly was put in place by an election process, participated in by political parties and sponsored by the UN in 2001. Its main duty was to create the first East Timor constitution. The constitution created included an article to turn the current Constituent Assembly into the first National Parliament, even though in the election campaign process no such thing was mentioned. The official explanation from the UN was that there was no time for another parliamentary election and the budget was limited. 7 The preamble of the East Timor constitution emphasises the idea of ‘resistance and struggle’ (see East Timor Constitution 2002) serving as the main component in national identity and was favoured by resistance fighters, Fretilin members, and East Timorese exiles. Many East Timorese with different political backgrounds (UDT, APODETI and others), and those who simply voted in the 1999 popular consultation, felt excluded. This division created animosity, grievances and jealousy as those who were involved in the resistance struggle claim that they fought and suffered more during the resistance period compared to the others. These claims played a major role in triggering the 2006 crisis, divisions in government institutions (such as PNTL and F-FDTL) and the regional division of lorosa’e – loromonu. 8 This argument also applied to Section 3 (Citizenship) of the constitution. (See Constitution of RDTL 2002: preamble) 9 Translation by the author. 10 Translation by the author. 11 For more on the origins of different domains and how a political structure was established between newcomers and the landlord in the areas of Bobonaro (west), Aileu (central) and Baucau (east), see Hohe and Ospina (2001). For information about Wehale (possibly the source of traditional social and political structures in Timor), see Therik (2004). The ‘Lulik Circle’ is based on these authors’ thoughtful work. 12 For further information on this practice see Trindade and Castro (2007:40).