For decades, East Timor has been the one of the world’s most closed-off nations, with political protests and public protests largely forbidden. Though East Timor declared independence from Indonesia in 2002, the country has suffered extreme political turmoil and violence since then, including a short civil war in 2004.
Under the terms of its Australian-backed security pact, Australia has had troops stationed in East Timor since 1999, and in 2002 the two nations agreed that the Americans would also send an advisory force, called the Regional Assistance Mission to East Timor (RAMSI), to bolster East Timor’s security.
RAMSI had a long presence and mission. Its staff maintained the de facto peace in East Timor and it helped to develop the country economically. In 2014, the body finally returned home, and one of the people whom it left behind was East Timor’s longtime prime minister, Xanana Gusmao.
As Mr. Gusmao became increasingly isolated, with some reports suggesting that, according to him, Australia could harbor plots against him, his parliamentary supporters ultimately turned against him, and he resigned on June 20. Mr. Gusmao is now serving as a pro-independence figurehead.
As reported by The New York Times, this drastic turn of events will be tested soon, as a parliamentary session is set to convene on Monday. Elected parliamentarians in the country will be asked to vote whether to continue the security pact. The question seems obvious to most observers: With the country’s longtime political leaders having fled the scene, it’s unlikely that East Timor’s very existence will not be at stake if the pact is held up.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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