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Peace should now be the norm for Timor-Leste’s political contests

As Timor-Leste goes to the second round of the presidential elections, the peace that marked the first round appears to be holding. Apart from an incident in Viqueque District, there have been no notable outbreaks of violence, so far, to mar this electoral process. Many have congratulated Timor-Leste for this important achievement.

The peaceful environment that has greeted these elections was in part as a result of an agreement between the leaders of political parties to restrain their supporters from attacking each other. This stands in marked contrast to the 2007 elections, in which there were few if any such restraints and violence and destruction were widespread, both before and after the elections were held.

Many of Timor-Leste’s friends wondered at this time what the purpose was of achieving independence if this was to be its result. Many in Timor-Leste asked the same question, and have since rejected violence.

Aceh’s troubled elections

Indonesia’s province of Aceh goes to the polls on Monday, in what has been a bitterly contested election for the position of governor. In Indonesia’s other provinces the position of governor is important but, in the autonomous province of Aceh, following a three decade long separatist war, it is critical.
As a result of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami, Aceh was also the site of the world’s largest ever emergency relief program, at $9 billion. The tsunami devastated large areas of the heavily populated coastal regions of Aceh, leaving around 170,000 dead and missing.

Political 'Neutrality' in Timor-Leste

As Timor-Leste heads towards the second round of the Presidential elections, many are wondering who, ultimately, will become the new figurehead leader of the nation. While the role of the president is largely ceremonial, it does have some important powers, its symbolism is an important unifier in a country still developing a coherent national identity, and how votes are allocated will start to identify the shape of the next parliamentary government.
Importantly, while in the 2007 elections there was a backlash against the incumbent Fretilin government and the second round of presidential voting saw the formation of two clear blocs, the 2012 elections are more ambiguous. In particular, the announcement by the out-going President, Jose Ramos-Horta, and the Democratic Party (PD), that they would remain neutral and not allocate preferences in the second presidential round, has increased the sense of uncertainty as to its outcome.

Marriage equality lawful, constitutional: Deakin law academics

A group of academics from Deakin University's School of Law today called on the Australian Senate to pass laws to allow marriage equality.

The academics' call was included in their submission to an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. The Bill is one of three Bills currently before the Commonwealth Parliament which propose to amend the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to permit two people to marry regardless of their sex.

The submission noted that the realisation of the rights to non-discrimination and equality are fundamental to a free and democratic society. Conversely, discrimination and inequality result in social exclusion, poor health outcomes, entrenched poverty and disadvantage, violence and other negative outcomes.

Do schools and corporations mix?

 The furore following the announcement that Jenny Craig CEO Amy Smith would address a gathering of hundreds of girls' school teachers has once again brought the uncomfortable issue of corporate presence in schools to light. 

The public response – that school groups should not be seen to endorse the dieting industry – is certainly warranted. But such corporate presence in education is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Counting the numbers in Timor-Leste’s elections

Jose Ramos-Horta’s decision to support the Democratic Party (PD) in the parliamentary elections has two sets of implications for Timor-Leste’s politics. The first and most obvious will be the effect that this has on the outcome of the parliamentary elections and in particular the level of success of PD. The second, less obvious, implication will be for the next, second round of the presidential election, for which Ramos-Horta was unsuccessful.
Assuming that votes for candidates will be translated, more or less, into parliamentary votes, based on Ramos-Horta’s support, with his 18% added to PD’s 17%, PD can expect to receive around 35% of the vote which, extrapolating from first round presidential figures, is likely to make it Timor-Leste’s single largest party and hence in a dominant position to form a majority alliance in parliament.

Timor-Leste’s presidential run-off

Following Timor-Leste’s presidential election last Saturday, the two leading candidates, Fretilin’s Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao-backed Taur Matan Ruak, will now progress to a second round of voting in mid-April. Their success to date reflects perhaps more the relatively high level of party loyalty within Timor-Leste than support for the two as individuals.

At 28%, Lu-Olo’s vote was almost exactly the same as in the first round of the 2007 election. Ruak’s vote reflected support in 2007 from the main government party, CNRT, for outgoing president Jose Ramos-Horta, then at 22 per cent. At that time, CNRT was a new party and has since had time to consolidate in office, reflected in Ruak’s 25% vote. 

Both Lu-Olo and Ruak are well known in Timor-Leste, but neither is especially well known outside the country. That will no doubt change for one of them after April. 

The appeal of long form "adverfilms"

Clearly, some PR company (or companies) is making good money out of convincing large corporations and businesses that the way to get to consumers, in this fragmented media world, is to do long-form advertisements. Rather than short, pithy 30 second spots, there seems to be a bit of a movement toward longer, snappy and emotionally rich adver-films that tell the story about "Our People". Some swelly music, beautiful sweeping pan shots, nice depth of field, and happy smiling faces... you get the picture. The Australian mining industrythe Mormons, and now Qantas have all put together a series of films about how their people, are people, just like you and me.

Liam Jurrah and Yuendumu

Liam Jurrah’s involvement in a violent incident in an Alice Springs court last week has captivated the Australian media for days. The 23-year-old forward at the Melbourne Football Club recommenced training yesterday, after being granted bail by an Alice Springs court on charges of unlawfully causing serious harm and being armed with an offensive weapon. The weapon is believed to have been a machete, and Jurrah is implicated in an attack that left a 35-year-old man in hospital with serious head injuries. The incident is reported to have been part of ongoing clan disputes that have plagued his home community of Yuendumu, 300km west of Alice Springs, for 18 months. This morning, The Conversation spoke with Jurrah’s biographer and friend Bruce Hearn Mackinnon. Mackinnon is a senior lecturer at Deakin University and hosted Jurrah on his initial move to Melbourne.

Democracy as Lulic?

Amongst Timor-Leste’s traditions, there is none more central to how Timorese understand themselves in relation to their world than that of lulic, or that which is ‘sacred’.

While a sense of lulic is not always visible, especially in life that is affected by elements of modernity, such as in a town or in Dili, it continues to lie under the surface for many, perhaps most, Timorese.

The idea of lulic can apply to place, to the relationship between things, such as the sun and the moon or the earth and the sky, to relationships between people, to life and death and social obligations and to symbols of authority and social organisation.

As traditions evolve and change to incorporate new elements, so too has lulic changed to incorporate such symbols.

Old Portuguese swords may be considered as lulic, as can flags that have a particular value or importance.

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