The triumph of Timor-Leste
The ending of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on the last day of 2012 is another reminder of one of the great political turnarounds of recent years: it's up there with the achievement of majority rule in South Africa and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Ok, East Timor is a small and little-known country, but Indonesia's grip on it looked cast-iron, backed as it was by Western real-politik. I remember thinking sadly about the brave impossibility of the independence fighters' task. But the politics of Indonesia changed, the West shifted, and the courage of the Timorese was unwavering.
Independence came with a final shameful, destructive act by Indonesia, working with local thugs to trash the country's physical infrastructure, bequeathing a country in ruins. I was proud to be a tiny, peripheral part of the UN programme that helped set up and run the election and in reconstruction - and one of the many political lessons I took from the whole experience was never to underestimate people power or to give up on a cause however bleak the prospects. Or to pay much attention to geopolitical punditry.blog comments powered by Disqus