Background Briefing by Senior State Department Official on Timor Leste
Senior State Department OfficialEn Route to Dili, Timor-LesteSeptember 6, 2012
MODERATOR: We are en route from Beijing to Dili. Here to talk a little bit about what the Secretary hopes to accomplish in Timor Leste is [Senior State Department Official], hereafter Senior State Department Official. Go ahead, [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll just go quickly, you guys – then if you have any particular questions.
So you’ve read some of the background on Timor Leste. This is the first Secretary of State to visit in the 10 years since Timor has become independent. Its birth pangs were very violent 10 years ago as it broke away from Indonesia. And it – the set of circumstances by which Timor became independent was the leadership in Indonesia suggesting that they would be prepared for a referendum to allow this to take place.
When it was clear that Timor preferred independence, there was a spasm of violence. The UN, others, were deeply involved. The Australians and the New Zealanders played a very important role in trying to bring stability in the immediate aftermath. It was one of the largest projects of the United Nations, of ASEAN and others over the course of the last 10 years, and the United States has been deeply involved in the nation-building project there.
The country has just experienced a successful election. It – we’ll have a chance, the Secretary will have a chance, to speak with both the President and the Prime Minister. It, as you know, is a former Portuguese colony, so it has remarkably little infrastructure. It has some substantial disadvantages: very little transportation, very little in the way of infrastructure, and almost no capacity for English. So it’s a country that the very elite speak --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Pardon me?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) capacity for what?
MODERATOR: For English.
QUESTION: English – not very much capacity for English. So the very elite speak Portuguese, which is not as common in ASEAN and elsewhere. A very small group of people speak English. And then there are a whole host of ethnic languages overall. So one of the biggest efforts underway in ASEAN is to try to build sort of a younger group of people that have English capacity.
You’ll be struck that, when you arrive there, there’s a lot of new building. Much of that building, again, has been brought either by international organizations or China. One of the few areas where the United States and China have actually worked quite well together in terms of joint projects has been in Timor. I think we have been a strong supporter of Timor ultimately being embedded in an institution like ASEAN. But to date, many ASEAN countries are not supportive of that yet because they’re essentially quite weak and they have a long road to go overall.
When we’re there, we’re going to have a chance to, obviously, congratulate them on their – both their new election and their 10-year anniversary. We’re going to go out to a coffee plantation. One of the areas where the country has really started to come back is in the coffee plantation, coffee growing. They work very closely with Starbucks and a couple other coffee chains. You’ll get a chance to sample some of the – it is a very distinctive, very rich coffee grown into the hills there.
I think Timor is still plagued by substantial violence. And we have a number of programs to support the country as a whole, but it does have a long way to go. And its relationship with Indonesia is still complicated. And others in ASEAN want them to be on a slower path towards joining the organization as a whole.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Hillary Clinton: Wheels Down Timor Leste
Mme. Secretary is wheels down in Timor Leste. Here is a cute picture of children greeting her motorcade.
A senior State Department official gave a press briefing en route about her goals for this visit, the first by a secretary of state in ten years. Here is the background provided.