When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, part of its justification was that the then ruling Fretilin intended to allow the country to become a regional base for China. Fretilin had recently assumed power, having defeated the conservative UDT’s attempted coup in August of that year. But Fretilin’s victory was viewed in Indonesia as establishing a communist base in the middle of its archipelago at a time when the Cold War was running hot and communism in the region seemed in the ascendency. At that time, Indonesia was vehemently anti-communist, having destroyed its own communist party less than a decade before and broken off diplomatic relations with China as part of the purge. The idea of China having a base, or at least a friendly country, in its midst was intolerable to Indonesia’s generals. Whether or not Fretilin intended to establish close relations with China is a moot point.
East Timorese newspaper Tempo Semanal published an article this week which claims that the new Timorese Government represents "an oligarchy", and criticises the new government for its size and for the fact that it contained some brothers and sisters. There was criticism of the last Timorese Government for many reasons, including corruption. However, this same government established the Anti-Corruption Commission (KAK) which has led to some former ministers being investigated and in one case found guilty.
When Timor-Leste's new Cabinet was announced, there was a flurry of critical comment within Timor-Leste, about both the size and composition of the ministry. Some critics were unhappy that an expanded ministry would cost more and potentially lead to more corruption while others railed against Timor-Leste becoming an ‘oligarchy’ rather than a democracy.
The positive aspect of this commentary is that is shows that Timor-Leste is a plural political society expressing a range of political views. It is also important to note that while some of the commentary reflected partisan political positions, much of it also reflected a genuine concern over the size and capacity of the government.
The new ministry, with 17 ministers, is not especially large by any standard and is much smaller than many of other countries. The criticism therefore reflects on the inclusion of vice-ministers and secretaries of state, who exercise quasi-ministerial functions.
When you walk into Hungry Jacks, or McDonalds, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, and order your Whopper Value Meal, Big Mac Value Meal, or Ultimate Burger Meal, what does 1430kj, 2590kj and 3800kj (approx.) mean to you? Probably not very much.
But, instead of esoteric energy counts, what if you were confronted with something more comprehensible, like 75 minutes of sprinting (Medium Whopper Value Meal), or a 2 hour game of squash (Large Big Mac Value Meal), or, perhaps 5 hours of fast swimming (Ultimate Burger Meal)? Would you think again about buying all that food?
I think you would.
My childhood was influenced in some measure by two great icons that no longer exist. The first was Kodak – I adored my Box Brownie and I still have the wonderful grainy black and white pics. The second great icon was larger than Kodak: it was a stack of books known as Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The childhood I experienced was not unusual. For baby boomers, Kodak was our memory collector of choice and Encyclopaedia Britannica the Google of its day. But neither has survived the remorseless advance of the digital economy.
The invention of the internet, the inevitable convergence to a mobile phone or tablet, and the discovery of how to monetise a digital transaction have been death blows to these two icons and to so many others we can all name. And this transformation is far from finished.
Book Review: The Scapegoat, About the Expulsion of Michael Rasmussen from the Tour De France 2007 and beyond, Verner Møller , Akaprint, Aarhus, 2011.
In a country in which there are no public opinion surveys and in which the still developing media could not be said to reflect, much less shape, the views of most people, trying to understand why the people of Timor-Leste vote as they do was not an exact science. Such judgments that could be made were only on the basis of anecdotal evidence set against what is known about Timor-Leste’s history and some conventional theories about politics.
Australia’s rebuilding of diplomatic ties with Fiji has taken some observers by surprise, given the strength of opposition to Fiji’s 2006 military coup. Australia has been torn between principle and real politik since its high commissioner, James, Battley, was ordered out of Fiji in 2009, followed by acting high commissioner Sarah Roberts in 2010. The question now is whether Australia has moved too quickly to still have any influence in Fiji’s proposed return to democratisation.
After cancelling the country’s 2009 elections, Fiji has recently established a voter roll, which indicates that the country could be preparing for elections, nominally scheduled for 2014. Fiji has not enjoyed freedom of speech or a free media since the 2006 coup nor does it allow freedom of assembly. Ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase, whom Bainimarana installed after the 2000 coup, has just been convicted of abuse of office in a long-running corruption case.
Australian and New Zealand ministers responsible for food regulation last week bowed to lobbying from processed food manufacturers and agreed to permit them to market products with general level health claims without requiring pre-market or independent verification.
General level health claims are those that relate a food or an ingredient with a health benefit, such as “product X helps promote the strength of the immune system”.
The ministers’ decision came just over a week after the Australia Institute for Health and Welfare released its Australia’s food and nutrition 2012 report, showing approximately one in four Australian children and nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Diet-related diseases including obesity cost the health system over A$16bn annually.