East Timor: Security reforms needed for long-term stability

Updated On: Feb 16, 2009

The security situation in East Timor has recovered from the precarious security situation of a year ago, says an International Crisis Group (ICG) report, but reforms are badly needed to ensure long-term stability.

East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, has suffered from outbursts of violence and unrest since gaining full independence in 2002.

The security situation in oil-rich East Timor was volatile in the previous years, with an attack on President Jose Ramos-Horta and a leaked U.B. peacekeeping brief reporting that the nation was on the brink of collapse.

In 2006, 37 people died and 150,000 were left homeless after a split between the country's military and police sparked fighting between Timorese from the country's east and west.

A group of rebel soldiers shot and wounded Ramos-Horta in February 2008, and attacked Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on the same day.

However, security is said to have improved “strikingly” in the last 12 months, according to the Brussels-based ICG.

"When President Ramos-Horta was shot in February 2008, many feared Timor-Leste (East Timor) was falling back into violence. But the incident and its aftermath strengthened the government," the ICG said in a report.

The ICG urged significant reform and a comprehensive security review as recommended by the U.N. Security Council in 2006, in order to create long-term stability, particularly encouraging efforts to strengthen the legal system, reform the military and police force, and curb graft. The report stated that a weak justice system, a government intolerant of dissent and its inability to combat graft was at “the root of the instability facing Timor-Leste since independence”


Reuters, “East Timor security improves, reforms needed-report”, Feb 9, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSJAK430496

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