Kingsbury, Damien and Michael Leach (eds.). East Timor: Beyond Independence.

Author:Sensenig, Victor
Position:Book review
 
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Kingsbury, Damien and Michael Leach (eds.). East Timor: Beyond Independence. Melbourne: University Press, 2007. 302 pp.

Imprisoned by the New Order regime during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor, prime minister and former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao arrived late to Suharto's funeral in January 2008, but even this perfunctory payment of last respects is revealing. One of the poorest and smallest countries in the world, East Timor has received intense international attention and disproportionate aid due in part to the well-publicized brutality of a Western-supported Indonesian military that killed up to a quarter of East Timor's population between 1974 and 1999. Gusmao's attendance at Suharto's funeral indicates recognition by the nation's leaders that good trade relations and growth take priority over the delivery of legal justice.

A wide-ranging collection of articles by mostly Australian academics, East Timor: Beyond Independence, as the title suggests, weighs the implications of a forward-looking development philosophy. It focuses on the fundamental challenges faced by East Timor in the five years between independence in 2002 and the outbreak of violence in 2006. Though dealing with a broad range of topics, including politics, security, resource management, and education, there seems to be some consensus that, while growing per capita GDP, East Timor must take great care not to give itself over to the exigencies of a development agenda that shortchanges local resources and the well-being of East Timorese people. Indonesia spent $750 million on development, building roads and expanding education, but as Aure1io Guterres observes in a chapter on migration, "'Development'--intentional, controlled and state-led rural development--became a cornerstone of political control, and one of the key objectives of such development was the antithesis of immanent development: the keeping of order by encouraging people to stay on the villages and farms" (p. 47). All development schemes are presented as essentially benevolent, even the most stringent market-driven approaches, and the contributers to this volume are admirably pragmatic in recognizing that while Australia has been a leader in liberating and stabilizing East Timor, its loans and project assistance are ideologically driven.

Most of the authors engage with this issue of the tension inherent in the need for a small nation to enter the global marketplace and nurture its own...

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