Historic Injustice as an impediment to good governance in East Timor


In October 2012, Warren C. Wright of the Dili-based East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin published a scathing critique of the existing justice system in East Timor. Headed "Perversion of the rule of law in East Timor and its impact on state legitimacy", it was a particularly courageous article because it criticised the country's former military chief Taur Matan Ruak not long after he had been elected as the country's second democratically-elected President and because it said what many citizens thought privately but were afraid to say.

This paper will look at its claims and will examine the disconnect  between the Timorese public and their leaders over justice issues.   It will also look at recent improvements in the legal system which could herald a solution.

Jill Jolliffe is a freelance writer who has worked as a foreign correspondent for most of her career. She is best-known for her coverage of the 1975 Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor and its 24-year struggle against military occupation. In 1978 she left Australia to live in Portugal, continuing to work as a freelance writer for a wide range of international media, including The Guardian, The Sunday Times, the BBC and The New York Times. She came back to Australia after Indonesia€™s withdrawal from Timor in 1999 and based herself in Darwin, from where she resumed work in the ex-colony, ending a ban of over two decades.

In 2009 she published Balibó on the execution of six journalists during the first days of the invasion. It won acclaim as a feature film starring Anthony LaPaglia and directed by Robert Connolly. In 2012 she returned to live in her home city of Melbourne, where she continues to work as a freelance writer, university teacher and public speaker.

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