Friday, August 28, 2009

Timor-Leste ten years on: counting the cost of independence?

In the decade since Timor-Leste (East Timor) voted to become independent from Indonesia, the former mother country has gone from strength to strength while the tiny new nation has struggled with violence, political uncertainty, corruption and a stagnant economy.

An interesting article in The Economist this week argues that many Timorese, particularly in the countryside, are "nostalgic for the benefits of Indonesian rule" and that the highlight of the 10-year independence celebrations in run-down Dili will be a performance by an Indonesian pop star.

Given the violence, repression and lack of development prior to independence, it's not surprising that Timor-Leste has struggled to pull itself up. What's been more surprising is the re-invention of Indonesia following the fall of Suharto and the Asian financial crisis - something that few predicted back in 1999.

The Economist still concludes that most Timorese are happier as an independent nation. But freedom has not come cheap.

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