06 September 2011

Wikileaks: U.S. Govt and Timor-Leste

A few weeks ago, Wikileaks published their entire collection of more than 250,000 leaked U.S. State Department cables on the internet. They are an unprecedented window into how the U.S. Government, especially its embassies, observes and influences other countries.

The Wikileaks website can be difficult to access (and is blocked by some servers, including those of the State Department itself), so La'o Hamutuk has posted the list of 391 cables related to Timor-Leste. We link to all the full texts and have posted some of the most interesting ones as downloadable PDFs.

The cables, from early 2006 through early 2010, show that the U.S. has interacted with Timor-Leste in some interesting ways, including many discussions with high-level participants in the 2006 crisis.  More recently, the U.S. embassy has encouraged good governance, sustainability, and justice. At the same time, it urged Timor-Leste to support U.S. positions on issues such as Cuba and Climate Change which may be contradictory to the Timorese people's wishes.

Ambassador Hans Klemm appears to have been an advocate for this country, urging Washington to cancel its travel warning in September 2008, and encouraging the continuation of MCC funding for Timor-Leste. He and the U.S. embassy in Jakarta urged Indonesia and Timor-Leste officials to allow the prosecution of indicted militia leader Maternus Bere to proceed, consistent with the Constitution and the law.  The U.S. also discouraged criminalizing defamation and the widespread use of pardons and the amnesty law as undercutting human rights and the rule of law.

Although some are rushing to use the occasional rumors and gossip in the cables to their political advantage, or to defend themselves against honest observations, La'o Hamutuk hopes that they will be used in more constructive, objective ways. For example, we're glad to see that a cable from the end of 2008, Major Projects and Government Procurement in Timor-Leste, expressed many of the same concerns that La'o Hamutuk has been raising about the national electricity project:

In July 2008, news surfaced that the government would purchase two large electricity generating plants from a Chinese firm that would also be contracted to put into place a nationwide transmission grid. On this occasion, the government issued an international tender, although the widespread understanding in Dili was that the purchase had been agreed before the government announced the tender. Although observers described the tender announcement as insubstantial and technically inadequate, fourteen international firms submitted bids. The decision to award the contract to the Chinese firm again was made by the prime minister with very little consultation with line ministers. The power plants are old equipment (with some 40 years of service in China already behind them) that will be dissembled, exported and refitted in Timor-Leste. They will burn heavy oil that Timor will have to import. Experts describe the contracted installation of a national transmission grid within two years as a fantasy. The World Bank reportedly has urged the government to cancel the contract, absorb the penalty, and re-tender the project. There is no indication that the government intends to follow this advice.

1 comment:

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