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Southeast Asian Affairs 2006 TIMOR LESTE On a Path of Authoritarianism? Jacqueline Siapno Scholars, journalists, and political analysts observing East Timor for the past 20 to 30 years and visiting East Timor in 2005 comment that things seem to have become more "disheartening": the local people are more angry towards the malaes (foreigners), more disillusioned with the government, the political elite, and emerging Timorese capitalists; members of civil societies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are more worried about the narrowing of spaces for pluralistic visions, opposition, and dissent; ex-Falintil1 veterans are feeling more betrayed by the lack of acknowledgement of their contributions to the independence resistance struggle; armed forces soldiers have abandoned their barracks in Metinaro claiming discrimination and inequality; and citizens genuinely are concerned that the path to nation-building and democratization is increasingly signalling an authoritarian Mozambique-style suppression of opposition and freedom of speech. Politically, East Timor is a fascinating study of democratization processes in a conflict/post-conflict context, in addition to being a paradoxical case study of the United Nation's mixed performance and most extensive involvement in nation-state building and peacekeeping in Asia and the Pacific. The country is currently undergoing serious challenges to freedom of speech and judicial sector reform, with a centralistic and rather insecure state trying to control, censor, and regulate NGOs, civil society, media, and opposition parties. As an example, one of the most widely discussed issues between the government, the judicial sector, and civil society at the moment is the re-introduction of the defamation Jacqueline Siapno is a Joint-Lecturer in Political Science and the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. She has been living and working in East Timor and Australia since July 1999 and has worked for political movements and women's groups in East Timor — as Lecturer in Universidade da Paz, as former Vice-Rector I in Universidade Dili, and as consultant and adviser to local and international NGOs. 326Jacqueline Siapno law in the East Timor Penal Code. A defamation law (somewhat akin to the "Internal Security Act" in Singapore and Malaysia), which was criminalized by the Indonesian occupation and used under the "Subversion Law" to imprison independence resistance leaders, and was de-criminalized by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, or UNTAET (Executive Order No. 2000/2) under Sergio de Mello, is being reinstated by the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the Council of Ministers in a move seen within opposition circles as intended to silence opposition in the country prior to the 2007 legislative and presidential elections. Under Indonesian occupation, it was better known as pasalpasal penghinaan. These "elastic laws" (pasal karet) — so-called because they were so wide-ranging, arbitrarily applied, and elastic — included "engaging in an act or an activity which indicates sympathy for the enemies of the Republic of Indonesia ..." (Article 13 UU No. ll/PNPS/1963); "whoever defames, insults or intentionally deviates from the State Ideology of Pancasila or discredits the authority of the State or the Head of State or any apparatus of the State"; or "spreads, gives rise to and perpetuates enmity, separatism, conflict, disorder, a state of unrule, or anxiety among the population" (Article 13 UU No. ll/PNPS/1963). The United Nations subsequently de-criminalized this law.2 However, at the seventy-second meeting of the East Timor Council of Ministers on 7 May 2004, the following decision was made in relation to the re-criminalization of defamation in East Timor, reversing Executive Order No. 2 by UNTAET: Following the decision of 19 February 2004, the Council of Ministers renewed their discussions about the proposed law on the criminalization of defamation presented by the Minister of Justice. This objective of the proposal is to end the situation of impunity, for whoever commits defamation or injures someone's reputation, and to reinstate the law set out in Articles 310-321 of Chapter 16 of the applicable Penal Code. The Council of Ministers partially approved the substance of the law, and decided to improve on the preamble. While President Xanana Gusmao has yet to promulgate the defamation law, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is already using it as a threat, summoning opponents for interrogation via...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-9135
Print ISSN
0377-5437
Pages
pp. 323-342
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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