Snapshots

nov28 women

For current images of Timor, I highly recommend the Flickr East Timor Pool, which has an RSS feed. And surprisingly, Operation Astute (AKA the Australian ISF) has a number of quality images from 2008, including the one above taken at this year’s November 28 celebrations.

Another interesting place to look is Panoramio, where photos are geolinked. (Unfortunately, it does not have feeds by location.) If newness is not an issue, and in fact for those needing some historical perspective, a number of Portuguese photographers have added photos from the 1960s and 1970s (see Vitor Neves and Sottomayor).

Land of the rising sunshine

I’ve been intrigued at the activity on Wikileaks by certain well-placed individuals concerned with Timor.

Starting in late June 2008, Timor Leste Wikileaks has seen a spike in leaked documents: 19 sets of leaks in total.

I contacted Wikileaks to ask whether Timor wins the award of “Leaks Per Capita” and they said they could not be certain, but they said Timor was among the top three, the other contenders being the US and Kenya.

After a quick calculation, here are the winners in leaks per million people in 2008

  1. Timor 19
  2. US* 1.33
  3. Kenya 0.58

Timor is well ahead of the country of Daniel Ellsberg and Mark Felt. One wonders who is doing the leaking.

Are we seeing the Leak trump the Rock in Timor? Or are these whistleblowers operating outside of the world of the frustrated ema kiik? (After all, only the well-connected or well-heeled have the resources to be scanning and sending documents over the internet.)

The next question is: does the increasing number of leaks mean more than there is a growing taste for the “whistle” by those interested in Timor? Does it tell us something about rule of law and corruption?

As Charlie Scheiner of La’o Hamutuk admonished on the ETAN mailing list “In a country as dynamic and volatile as this one, [indicators on corruption] should be taken with a lot of salt.”

I would argue that leak trends too must be taken with a massive dose of artesanal salt.

But I cannot help but continue to celebrate Wikileaks in the land of the loro.

Lest I celebrate too much, just a reminder of where leaks and secret sources got Tempo Semanal and editor José Belo: in court.

*projected from a three month period October-December

Indications

It has not been a couple of good weeks for Timor in what relates to reports and opinions from the wise “international community.”

The World Bank’s Poverty Report was circulated in Dili, indicating that poverty has risen since independence, and is particularly bad in the more populated central, mountain districts. (It has yet to be made available officially.)

Then the US decides not to select Timor as a “compact” country of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a massive fund for bilateral aid created by the Bush administration. (Let me say, as a disclaimer: I have serious doubts about the MCC.) The MCC sets up multi-year “compacts” to pump in massive amounts of money, often for infrastructure programs, based on a country’s performance in governance and poverty reduction. The indicators for governance (called “Ruling Justly”) are taken from the World Bank Institute and the right wing think tank Freedom House.

Leaving out the Freedom House indictators, we can see that Timor dropped in from 07 to 08 in the World Bank Institute’s estimation.

2007

mcc2007

2008

mcc2008

President Ramos Horta lashed out at the World Bank recently, probably in response to these studies. He said that he was tired of “geniuses” and “einsteins” coming and measuring Timor. He said “We are always getting beat up for not implementing programs,” and that “sometimes more money is spent on evaluation than on programs.”

Ramos Horta asked reporters late last month, “And how much do they claim to have put here? Maybe it sums in the hundreds of millions, or I venture to say billions of dollars. Why is it that poverty continues to persist in our country?”

This follows a virulent attack by Xanana’s office against Oxfam Australia for its food security assessment released in October.

Something perhaps both the supercilious donors and Timorese elite should take on board: money cannot buy “development” or rule of law.