Saturday, June 24, 2006

Timorese Socialists and Neo Colonialism

August 2005-
Joe Carolan from Socialist Worker interviewed Avelino Coelho, General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST).

How did you first get active in the resistance in Timor Leste?
When I was a student I was deeply influenced by socialist views. I was attracted by the idea of building a new society, a new human relationship, without discrimination, based on equality.

How did the events of the Indonesian revolution help the struggle in Timor?
There was in East Timor within Fretilin’s leadership two main paths for achieving independence. One was that with western support and national unity we could win- the view of the moderate “Social Democrats”. The second path is that our revolution lay down the path of Indonesian revolution, struggling for democracy. These two views have determined the internal conflict within the struggle for a very long time.

I continue to believe that Indonesian social transformation will determine East Timor's political path. We were in the right train, because after Suharto fell we won liberation. Fretilin won the election in 2001, and the local elections recently. But its ideology does not represent social transformation on behalf of the poor. . Today there is discrimination- huge differences between rich and poor.

Is Australia now trying to make East Timor a neo-colony because of the oil and gas in the Timor Sea?
Exactly. East Timor is a new colony of Australia economically, and of Portugal linguistically. The elite that runs this country depends on western power. We are free and independent with flags, and a constitution, but economically we are very deeply dependent on big powers that before independence played a strong role in supporting the annexation of East Timor by the Indonesian army

In Ireland, socialists participated in our national revolution in the War of Independence. James Connolly, the Irish Marxist, warned workers to "hold onto your guns". In your view is there a Timorese comprador class emerging?
In East Timor during the struggle the workers, the poorest farmers and youths did the struggling, while the well-established people supported the occupation, preparing themselves for power. Now after independence, the poor are marginalized, while the comprador class takes advantage. The people vote for flags and symbols, but not for a political platform. The elite try to manipulate and exploit the ignorance of the people for their own purpose.

The PST is making gains, increasing its membership and influence at the grassroots. Why does the PST now find it necessary to stand against its old comrades in Fretilin?
Fretilin is not the Fretilin of 1975! It is now the representative of capitalist interests in East Timor. Any policy that's been made is not in the interest of our people. Our agriculture is paralyzed. The workers and farmers are oppressed! This is providing space for PST to increase its support in the struggle for socialism. In the recent local elections, we got significant support. From 450,000 voters PST won 28,000 votes. This figure represents a significant increase, and a possibility for social transformation in the national elections in 2007. We have in front of us two years of hard work! We appeal to whoever that believes in the honourable principles of socialism, justice and equality, to support us!