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Nation-Building and the Politics of Oil in East Timor (Commentary)

Arena Journal 2004, Annual, 22

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Former capital of Portuguese Timor and of Indonesia's twenty-seventh province, post-independence Dili is a town riven by segregation. The scaling down of the international presence across East Timor has done little to mask many of the most obvious social divisions concentrated in the capital. Rolls of barbed wire, mountain-walls of sand bags, and armed soldiers keep the international military presence well defended. The numerous vehicles belonging to UNMISET, (the United Nations Mission for Assistance in East Timor) are marked by large UN logos and distinct number plates. UN staff wear identification cards which, amongst other benefits, provide exclusive access to imported and subsidized luxury goods. The United Nations even has its own clearly marked rubbish bins when basic sanitation is absent across the street. Everywhere, the international presence in East Timor marks a division rather than integration. The international presence, of which the United Nations is just one part, has helped to create a two-tiered economy in which social differences have become entrenched in everyday life. What should be absurd has quickly taken on a sense of normality. Male-only door charges at clubs have the effect of keeping Timorese men out, but the rules are waived to allow Timorese women in. Cafes are roped off from footpaths to restrain locals, just in case the congregations of military and foreign bureaucrats fail to act as a cultural barrier. The only locals allowed through for the privilege of ordering a drink that costs more than most people's daily wage are the local capitalist and governing elites. Otherwise, the Timorese have become a blurred 'other', regularly referred to in conversation as 'they' and 'them'. 'They' are slow, lazy and backward. 'They' are the labourers, room cleaners, fruit vendors, porters, waiters and the CD, newspaper and phone-card sellers. They are the background 'noise' to those who are shaping this so often labelled 'newest of nations'.

Nation-Building and the Politics of Oil in East Timor (Commentary)
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  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: 01 January 2004
  • Publisher: Arena Printing and Publications Pty. Ltd.
  • Print Length: 12 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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