Monthly Archives: May 2006

Dili burns while Aussies look on

From: Lidia Tindle of Tyneside East Timor Solidarity in Dili 5pm Tue 30 May

Lidia is from Gateshead and works for an NGO in Dili

Hello Everyone

Australian troops are doing nothing to stop the burning of houses and
cars. A workmate stranded in her house had to flee as other homes in her
street were torched. She phoned the troops for help for her community
but no one came until after everyone had fled and the homes were all
burned down.
This has been happening all over Dili, houses have been set alight
around the International School in Marconi near where I live (if I could
get there). I have been camping at work for the past few days which is
in Farol near the embassies so relatively safe.

The Australians protect the embassies and other western concerns but not
it appears the Timorese people. I have just tried to phone the UK
emmbassy but couldn’t get through. They phoned me this morning asking
the same tired question “are you OK, any plans to go home” told them NO
again.

Can people highlight food shortages again? There is very little food in
Dili. Some refugee’s are are being given rice but people still living in
there streets are not. This has already caused fighting.

We have 40 refugees at our office and HAK (another NGO) at the moment. I
explained this to the embassy person – she said she would get on to the
UN – but couldn’t promise we would get food – still waiting for a return
call never mind any food!

Inaccurate news reports are being put out, this morning on the phone to
family in England, I was told the BBC were saying “the Timorese had
no-one to blame but themselves”. This is untrue, fighting and looting
are going on but there is a political motivation inflaming the
situation. Cultural and ethnic differences are being used as a tool to
divide and conquer as usual. Apparently Australia wants an acquiescent
East Timor for strategic reasons – oil. Alkateri the prime minister was
said to be a hard a negotiator on the issue of who owned the oil in the
Timor Sea so Howard (Australian PM) wants him out.

Gunfire has started again.

00670 3325013 (phone doesn’t work very often 8hour before us)

In solidarity

Lidia

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Email from Dili

Sunday 26th May 2006

Email from Dili – It was sent under extremely difficult conditions and is a bit disjointed – Some of the personal information has been edited out.

At the moment it’s peaceful in Dili where I’m working, in the area secured by the Australian troops, there are no problems it’s secure here because its near the prime ministers house and embassies, where I live is nr. Loro Mata and ain’t secure, which is why I’m moving around. and why I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 5 days..

There are still some problems in the outskirts and out of town, and I’m not really sure what the *@@% the Aussies are doing apart from protecting government buildings, UN offices, internationals, the airport (for internationals to flee, Timorese no way) – they ain’t doing much for the ordinary Timorese. A report in the papers this morning a soldier saying, “everything will be fine the boys are back in town”, well on my way here, I got brought down in a car, I saw three of the “boys”, one was taking photos, two were posing with their guns, as if they were in a conflict situation, this was in a
completely deserted spot no gangs to be seen. Those photos will go back home as if they are facing troublemakers. In the meantime families on Banana Road, nr. the airport, a long way from here, were being threatened by a gang, someone phoned for help – ‘ok we’ll come in 10 mins.’ 20 mins later they phoned again, “can you come it’s urgent”, ‘ok we’ll be there soon’, 10 mins later still no one the families decided to abandon their homes and come down here for protection. They tell me gang members will take everything they could not carry.

Narciso and many people from the area I stayed in when I first came to East Timor went to the American embassy for protection. They wouldn’t even give them water, never mind let them in, but they felt a little safer outside there – the cavalry would have come if anyone threatened the Yanks. Eventually they got friends from Falintil to take them to a safe place, where they would be given water. They had stood outside for about 5 hrs in burning heat. I kept in constant touch and decided it was safe enough to go out with water, Linda of the my Aussie came with me, but got a call from them saying they were on the way to Mitanaro, sorry if the spelling isn’t right!

One term of engagement is that the troops do not disarm the gangs, though the troops can stop the gangs threatening ordinary people (and to be fair to some of the Aussies some of them have intervened and stopped fighting, but not enough are doing this).

Another term of engagement is that FFDLT (army), & the Timorese police return to their barracks. They did comply, but when they heard that the international force were not protecting the ordinary people some of them came back out. It’s their families who are being threatened and having their homes burnt. Problem is it then becomes rather than FFDLT and the police protecting all the people, it turns into protecting whoever they are allied to which can, of course, put then put them into conflict with each other.

What is so sad about this whole affair is that people from Loro Sae & Loro Monu are not traditional enemies, they live in Dili in the same places, i.e. Loromata. There have been fights before, but that was instigated by the Portuguese, divide and conquer technique. Unfortunately, in my opinion, actually I have been given some information off the record as well, that is what is happening now. Xanana and Alkatiri don’t get on, and there have been moves for a long time to get rid of Alkateri. Also as I told you the other day Howard dosen’t like Alkateri.

Alkateri and Xanana have been so busy bickering over who is in charge of what that they allowed this situation to get out of control. Both Xanana and Alkatiri have made statements which appear to blame the other for the mess things are in at the moment. Xanana is seen to have sided with the Western elements of the army who went on strike and then were dismissed. Alkatiri, who isn’t liked by the Australian government for his negotiations over the oil (yes it’s oil again!), is mainly supported by Fretilin the party that comes from the resistance to Indonesia’s occupation.

I have discussed this with some people, I said when I walk to work I see a lady washing her clothes in the sewer, I see the beautiful beach and the roadway covered with rubbish, with no programmes to put in place to collect rubbish. Ordinary people have poor health because of these conditions despite hospital treatment and medicine being free. Doc. Dan has a clinic and he treats people free (he’s a nice guy, met him the other day) Last night many people sought refuge at his clinic. It was on TV news. TB is rife with no preventive measures put into place, and dengue fever has a direct
link to mosquitoes which thrive in the dirty water that is in the open sewers all around the shanty towns.

The answer I was given to these points was the Western banks and other concerns hold the government to ransom, I agree with this up to a point but as you know Alkiteri’s brother got the contract to arm the police, and people have mentioned other instances where maybe shady deals have taken place.

I also see an emerging middle class, yep the old story let’s use them as a buffer zone against the troublesome peasants. The middle class have water piped into their homes, they can afford electricity and good food, their houses are nice. So their are certainly problems with this government and some of the youth are discontented. They have been adding to the troubles because they see this as a time to loot and rampage, before I could say clearly that the Loro Sae people were just running but now gangs from both sides are fighting.

For example I have just been phoned by Yasinti, she is from Loro Monu, but her home has been burnt, and her and her family have taken refuge in the airport. Just phoned Rosa, there is fighting in Becora again – that’s a long way from here – homes behind her have been burnt, so she has gone to the church, she’s from Loro Sae.

Do you see what I am saying it is no longer clear who is fighting who or why any more, and the politicians continue to play their stupid games with peoples lives.

I’ve told people here that I’m emailing information home, and asking activists to pass information on, demonstrate about the lack of protection for the Timorese, go to see M.P.s anything to help. They say please do this, just spoke to a young lad from security, he’s just a kid and terrified. I told him that I wasn’t frightened for myself because I’m an international and protected, but I’m afraid for the Timorese and will try to get people at home to try to help.

Latest from Lidia in Dili

Sat 27th May

From Lidia in Dili

Phone message to say she has moved to the International School to sleep and still working at Lao Hamutuk office – no bed in the office. Was warned the place where she lives isn’t safe by people from the HAK next door (HAK is another human rights NGO). British Embasy didn’t seem to know what the situation was in the area I live in.

Fri 26th May

From Lidia in Dili after Australian soldiers arrive

Hi,

It’s me again. Not sure if anyone reads email’s, certain no one has replied.

If you get this sometime in the next year, I’m still at work – it’s pouring and there is some fighting near my house – so much for the cavalry calming situation, anyway sleeping at work with some friends –

See you.

Love, despite the lack of response, Lidia

Trouble in Dili (20:30 Dili time)

I’ve spoken to Lidia a member of Tyneside East Timor Solidarity now working for Lao Hamutuk, in East Timor, about the situation in Dili.

She says she and Narciso are both OK.

She says although it is very hard to get a good idea of what is going on it seems the situation has got worse since the Australian soldiers arrived.

The mobil phone system seems to be only working intermittently however there are reports of some of fighting in Tasi Tolu again and one of the markets has been torched.

As well as Australian soldiers at the airport there is a warship in the bay at Dili.

Dave

Water to Mehara sponsored walk

We have raised over £300 and all the money is not in yet. Hopefully this will allow the people of Mehara to finish the pipe and water storage project.


Photo by Steve Copeland

Tasi Tolu and Loro Mato from Lidia

Situation is calmer now, least in the centre it is – but there were loads of houses burnt in Tasi Tolo, others were broken. No houses burnt in Loro Mato, but both places are like ghost towns. C****** and R***** and a couple of others still there. They came with me to do the interviews getting testimonies about the incidents on the 28th Apr. Lots of people have gone even from when I visited last Sunday. Dom Basco is a big church nr. Tasitolo and its where the refugees from that area are staying. The Government want them to go home, but many have no homes or are too frightened to go back. It’s a long story more when I can do a proper write up.