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.

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