Somebody tell the Pilot

[Dear readers, My guest blogger rightly fears reprisals, so even a pseudonym is out.]

At the ‘development partners’ meeting a few weeks ago I was reminded of a line from a the book Outliers, where the First Officer says to the pilot “the weather radar has been very useful” suggest that other devices apart from the naked eye could be used to land the plane as they are about to crash into a mountain.

Except that not one of the ‘development partners’ would even hint that there was such a thing as a weather radar. At this meeting the government, the DSRSG congratulated the government on its excellent progress to date, especially on matters such as food security and security sector reform – what the hell?!

The World Bank also appeared to be in an extremely congratulatory mood. When the national priorities of justice and governance came up, not one ‘development partners’ raised a question about the President’s, Prime Minister’s, and Minister of Justice’s alleged breaches of the constitution with regard to the Martenus Bere case, nor did any of the ‘development partners’ raise any questions about the lack of accountability, transparency, and apparent unlawfulness and outright craziness of the misappropriation of the $70 million from the now postponed(?)/cancelled(?) heavy oil plant for pakote referendum.

The excuse appears to be that these issues are raised privately in meetings between high level representatives of the ‘development partners’ and Ministers. I know that these issues are not raised or even hinted at.

Why are the ‘development partners’ so afraid of offending their hosts? I understand that bilateral partners have a long term relationship to think about, but what about multilateral partners. What is the worst that would happen if they do offend their hosts by telling them the truth about what they are doing wrong? Would they get kicked out of the country?

Unlikely as people like the President are too cautious about their international image for that. What is the worst that will happen if they don’t inform their hosts about what they are doing wrong? The country may descend into civil unrest again. And isn’t the raison d’etre of a DPKO mission to “keep the peace”?

Why won’t the UN openly state: security and justice sector reform in Timor-Leste is a joke. Today some government civilian staff who were trying to uphold some administrative systems were threatened by senior FFDTL members and PNTL officers waving weapons in their faces because they would not just handover cash to the FFDTL and PNTL.

What can these civilian staff do?

If they complain about the unlawful behaviour of these FFDTL and PNTL to the PNTL or the Prosecutors Office either 1) nothing will happen or 2) they will be faced with reprisals by the people they have complained about.

If they just handover the cash to these FFDTL members and PNTL officers they will be accused of maladministration and may face investigation by the Provedor or the Office of the Prosecutor.

If they just handover the cash it will also give courage to others trying to violate the system.

So where is the progress on security sector reform the DSRSG was so effusive in his praise about? And what kind of lawless state are we living in when the FFDTL and PNTL can pull their weapons on civilians and because the formal justice system is so dysfunctional and both institutions are so unaccountable (despite millions of dollars of bilateral and multilateral support) that only the civilian will be punished?

Malaes continue to privately bemoan the lack of accountability and responsibility of Timorese for anything – whether it be for not turning up to work, stealing fuel from generators and vehicles, handing out millions of dollars of contracts to companies which only exist in the scrap of paper in the back pockets of Minister’s wives/husbands/brothers/sisters/sons/daughters, paying tens of thousands of dollars in spurious medical costs of convicted murderers who tried to overthrow the state, or providing clemency to mass-murderers.

And malaes also complain that Timorese will not honestly tell each other “NO, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. YOU CANNOT TAKE A 50% CUT OF EVERY CONTRACT THAT COMES THROUGH THIS MINISTRY.” But why should Timorese be accountable, or responsible, or honestly tell each other anything, if their malae ‘partners’, and especially the biggest malaes – the UN, World Bank, and other ‘development partners’ will not provide the same courtesy?

“Ukun rasik an” is a term that many in the Timorese in power like to bandy about. I am not sure what is so rasik about the fact they still have malaes to police the state, malaes to provide external security, malaes to write the budget, malaes to manage the country’s wealth (the Petroleum Fund).

The only thing that seems to be done rasik is to fail to execute the budget, fail to tender for or oversee contracts, and to violate every single law in the country on a daily basis.

As one commentator has suggested, if the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister are so delusional as to believe that Timor really can ukun rasik an, maybe its ‘development partners’ should let them do it for a while and see how they go.

How much more of the Petroleum Fund is left?

This fund that was supposed to last more than 50 years (and probably would have if Fretilin had not been forced out) will be lucky to last 8 years.

Who will pay the FFDTL and PNTL then? (let alone all the other civil servants). How many other countries have descended into civil war because the government was so corrupt and so inept that it could not only not provide basic services, but could not afford or was incapable of paying the people with weapons? What will the UN and other ‘development partners’ say then? Sorry, we knew this was going to happen but because we held your delusional ukun rasik an in such high regard we did not want to offend you?

The plane is still descending through the storm clouds, and there may still be time to remind the captain about the weather radar and even better suggest an alternative means of landing before the plane crashes, and everyone on board, development partners included, becomes incinerated by the flatulence of their own egos.


4 thoughts on “Somebody tell the Pilot

  1. This article makes me think of a scene in the movie Airplane –

    When talking about the imperiled flight passengers:

    “Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let ’em crash. “

  2. Hi Milca, If there is one thing I have learned being so involved in Timor, it is that certain people have incredible staying power. And key personalities in the AMP government have this! I actually believe the lack of security sector reform – demonstrated by recent flagrant abuses by PNTL – poses the biggest threat to this government and the stability of the state in general. As for the author of this post, I have a hunch he/she would agree 😉

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