Ireland's new foreign project: Timor-Leste
Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern named Timor-Leste as a test case for a new Conflict Resolution Unit in his department. The plan is to assist the tiny Asian nation to make the transition to a functioning democracy.
But as RTÉ journalist Anne-Marie Green discovered while travelling with Minister Ahern's entourage, internal divisions and rising tensions have come to the surface since Timor-Leste's independence from Indonesia in 2002.
Flying into the Timorese capital Dili is like an opening scene for the television series 'Lost.' The densely forested mountainous island rises up from the Timor Sea - a lush paradise but with a threatening undercurrent. It could be a mecca for tourists. The hills promise great hiking, the warm sea waters diving and the laid-back culture an interesting alternative to Bali or other resorts in the area. But six years after independence from Indonesia the country's infrastructure cannot cope with its present inhabitants, let alone newcomers who want holiday comfort.
And then there's security. Following the shooting of the President Jose Ramos-Horta earlier this month, hundreds of international troops and police patrol the streets. A state of emergency is in place and an 8pm curfew is strictly enforced. Not the kind of information you want on a holiday brochure.
The attack shook everyone. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao admitted his government had not taken seriously the rebel leader who had been involved in the incident.