Salsinha almost in custody

Reports suggest Gastao Salsinha is sort-of, almost in custody.  Given he has promised to hand himself in about 57 times, I am not giving this “just about, almost, anytime soon” stuff much credence until he is seen in Dili having tea and biscuits with the PM.

Ermera is still in a curfew condition and I guess that will not be lifted until Senor Salsinha is back here in Dili – plus a few of his mates.  Ermera is one of the main centres of the coffee industry and the harvest is due to start in a matter of weeks.  It will be a good thing to get all of this curfew stuff out of the way before then or people will get mighty cheesed off.  I understand that once coffee processing gets underway, its a 24 hour operation – hard to do with a curfew in place.

It has now not rained in Dili for a week and the weather pattern is pretty much dry season stuff now.  The air is not so humid and the dust levels are starting to get noticeable again.  Take a good long look at the lush green vegetation right now before it slowly slips away for 6 months.

State of emergency lifted, replaced by state of bamboozlement

Unless I am sadly mistaken, the state of emergency and associated curfew has been lifted thus enabling one to officially gather in large groups and stay out late. Around Ermera, the state of emergency remains.

I hope this means the Timorese military cool it a bit and stop this confounded racing at high speed around town with lights flashing just to get back for lunch. I hope it means one sees less of these guys with loaded (and safety off) rifles swaggering around the place.

President Horta gave a speech today in Parliament and I have only got snippets courtesy of a Portuguese to English machine translation. Lots of religious talk and lots of amnesties being tossed around like confetti. The follow-up to all this will be interesting.

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I am completely bamboozled by the President’s statements of late. I just can’t follow the flow at all.

11 February – there is still an opera in all this

I have been reluctant to comment on the events of 11 February.  I wasn’t there and I thought that eventually some facts must come out.  There have all sorts of speculation on motives, the actual movements of the players and the odd bits of information here and there but there are still information gaps to be filled.

Key phrases in all this are : Who did it ? Why did they do it ?  What did they hope to achieve ? Why was Alfredo in a fresh and very expensive army uniform ?  Why the money in his pockets ?  What role did Angelita play ?  Were mind altering substances involved ?  Was it a carefully planned event or a complete balls-up ?

One day we may know.   Meanwhile, night curfew continues from 11pm to 5am until 22 April.  Afternoon rains have been fairly consistent over the last week thus upsetting my exercise schedule.  Beer prices over the bar have increased in most places to US$3 per tinny except for … where I will be this evening.  Sadly, the comic opera I once proposed for Major Alfredo may have to be re-written into tragedy (the operatic form I mean).

Curfew schmurfew

A friend reminded me that I have been economical with my posts of late.  So in the interests of economy :


I recently went to the Gion Japanese and was pleased with the outcome.  On the subject of Japanese, the Riung Kuring Indonesian restaurant (Sundanese, I think) closed at the start of curfew but is coming back soon (if not already) with a Japanese menu.  I will be marking the card.  The Thai Jasmine also closed at the start of curfew (actually a planned owner holiday) but is open again.  The old cook from there is now down at Sabai Sabai (the old Soupy’s/Bangkok Thai).

Since ceasing drinking from the large water barrels,  my gastric system has been in top condition.  One recent set of tests that I am aware of showed that filtered bore water was of better quality than the barrel water.  This is but one set of tests – there may be product variation in your case.


There is still a week to go.  Not being a real night owl anyway, it hasn’t upset me too much as I am usually gone by 10pm anyway.  The vigorous activity from police and military in the first week or so of curfew has now fallen away and it pretty normal apart from the annoying roadblock on beach road from Motael Church down the the TSDA corner near the lighthouse.  Traffic has to hack its way through the backstreets of Motael.  I have heard that the boys at the police/military command centre in Memorial Hall are quite liking the facilities.  I suppose only a new (Chinese funded) F-FDTL HQ will see the roadblock go.

Although curfew is due to end on 23 March, if one accepts that the need to have it is still there, then one would expect it to continue.  However, although I am not that way inclined, it may upset some of those Easter-like rituals such as midnight mass and candle-lit prayer vigils etc.


It just seems that a lot of expats have acquired dengue this year.  I didn’t get it and I am glad I didn’t.

Bicycle tyres

I went over one year here before I had my first flat tyre on the bicycle.  I bought some green slime inserts from OZ and inserted them and things continued on fine until about 6 months ago.  I have had about 10 flat tyres since and about 5 this year.  Some of the recent ones were due to faulty inner tubes which were clearly tubes made from patched together pieces.  They simply blew apart.  I even resorted to buying new tyres.  Re. inner tubes, buyer beware.

Security things

In summary, although Susar and a couple of his mates have handed themselves in, Mr. Salsinha and his group remain somewhere in the Ermera area.  There were a few false reports of Salsinha handing himself in but as far as I know, it has not happened.  The UN have released very little information to the public since the President was shot.  There are tons of investigators working on all sorts of things but for the moment, details are not being released.

Mr. GS in number 57, your time is up.  Mr. GS response : “boys, keep pedalling”.

Interview with a gecko on the wall

The new 30-day 10pm to 6am curfew is now bedded down but not before a few dodgy incidents with police outside of curfew hours (ie police over-zealousness).  The TL military and police are quite active now and it seems all armed to the hilt. This does tend to make one nervous given these 2 groups were not exactly seeing eye to eye in 2006. It seemed to take the TL police boys a couple of days to get the hang of 10pm curfew. Heavily tinted car windows are no longer flavour of of the month – they became hugely popular after 2006.

The new army/police merger – called joint command (I think) has resulted in the joint command HQ now in Memorial Hall in Farol and the boys have decided to block off that section of the beach road including the hall, Timor Sea Designated Authority, Thai Embassy and Motael Church.

From time to time, one sees truckloads of joint command speeding around town with sirens blaring. No sign of any security problems at all so it is assumed that they are late for lunch or something.

Despite the now ridiculously inaccurate weather forecasts on OZ radio and TV, it has not rained for several days.  At this time of year, these forecasts are pointless really.

Fortunately, this has meant no further deterioration in road conditions. The beach road outside the Malaysian Embassy is pretty bad as are some huge holes in the road down past Sabia restaurant (the new name for Bangkok Thai/Soupy’s which is under new ownership). The waves have chewed away under the seawall leaving a Moris Mini sized hole for the unwary. A couple more storms and it could have been interesting.

Obviously sorting out the events of 2 weeks ago is still a work-in-progress. I think a bit of sarcasm may get the geckos talking. But can’t expect much as the flies on the wall never ratted.

State of siege

I believe the “State of Siege” has now been extended by 30 days. I presume this means the curfew goes along with it, so no night-time movements until 23 March. I decided to look up “State of Siege” in the english version of the constitution (a 68 page downloadable PDF file). I am still not clear and all I could glean from this document is :

  • Suspension of the exercise of fundamental rights, freedoms and guarantees
  • Can only be enacted for a maximum of 30 days at a time
  • Parliament can not be dissolved during this period
  • The constitution can not be changed during this period

I think it would be handy to get a bit more detail on what rights, freedoms and guarantees have been foregone. We sort of know that there is an 8pm to 6am curfew and rallies and other public meetings are not on.

I had thought that some of the bar/restaurants would do OK but I am told this is not so. Some restaurants simply are not bothering to open at night and some are taking holidays. The bar/restaurants with accompanying accommodation will probably do better than others. This is going to hurt the food and beverage sector.

The “6 o’clock slam” will probably be institutionalised over the next month, some people will get more sleep and there will probably be a bit of curfew syndrome. I have already heard the term “stir crazy” mentioned several times. A good time for expats to take holidays I reckon.

Those expats who live in modest accommodation with no cooking facilities may do it hard. The One More Bar is offering sleep-overs so you can watch the rugby or whatever then pass out on the floor. Not for me.

AMENDMENT (8:17pm) :  The curfew hours have been altered to 10pm to 6am.  Bars and restaurants rejoice.  Alas, the “6 o’clock slam” may not be quite so exciting.

What’s up Friday PM

Not much really. It is as dead as a dodo out there. I am told that the curfew is really being treated seriously so if you want a visit to the police station, just get on out there.

During the day, it really is quite normal. The increased security presence really does overwhelm any thoughts of activities as experienced in 2006. I can’t see how it is possible.

The international press are now swarming all over the place. Major Alfredo’s funeral and PM Kev’s visit have given the lads (a gender neutral term) a good couple of days. I guess the hotels are full.

I am increasingly confused by all the reports, conflicting observations and speculative conclusions. One thing that one should consider here is that it is a small place. Sometimes it seems that every Timorese you know is related to some other Timorese. At times, it is quite disconcerting. So when you read of “guards/witnesses recognising attackers”, you better believe that it is quite possible.

So when a close to lightning raid happens and people escape, it was no surprise to hear that 20+ people are already on arrest warrants/lists. A lot of local people seem to know these things.

My cyclist mate has been interviewed and I am convinced that reasonable police investigations have been carried out so it is just a matter of time before some real information is released – hopefully.

Meanwhile, the events of the week destroyed Valentine’s Day organised dinners (cop it Cupid) and I believe the Atlantic Grill had intended on an opening night bash tonight. Think lunchtime parties this weekend.

Not the Spice Girls

At the moment, I am just reading the news like everyone else but there are still many conflicting views.

I have heard/read “Alfredo shot in a bedroom/shot at the front gate”, “shooting started at 6:50am versus Alfredo shot 30 minutes before the President”, “kidnap not assassination”, “PM Xanana knew nothing about what happened 40 minutes before / made fully aware”, my cyclist friend has been elevated to diplomat but downgraded to jogger etc. etc.

I am sure the UN police know enough to knock some of these on the head quite quickly but they probably will not say until they believe they have the facts worked out sufficiently. There are arrest warrants to be issued etc. etc.  And of course, they are fighting their own battle re. claims of being slow to respond and reluctant to enter the shooting area.

Meanwhile we await if the “state of siege” will be extended by 10 days. There seems to be some degree of uncertainty. But if it presses ahead, the bars will receive a hit. I rang a friend at 7pm last night (to discuss a work issue) and found the friend in a bar operating at full swing. I am not old enough to have experienced the (now historical) Melbourne 6-o’clock swill * but I detected an element of that in the festivities.

The last 3 nights have been very quiet. The HMAS Perth arrived Tuesday morning and is roaming up and down the Dili coastline. On Tuesday, ABC TV reported that OZ troops and police arrived “secretly” at Dili airport. That raised a chuckle. There are only about 2 plane movements a day at Dili airport and the only jet is the lunchtime turnaround of the 737 from/to Bali. So when the 4-engined jet nearly blew the roof off late afternoon, “oh, they’re here”. Even the Spice Girls could have arrived more secretly.

* The 6 o’clock swill was the term used for lining up a number of beers at the bar prior to the cessation of bar service at 6pm. The law at the time was designed to put an end to the male breadwinner drinking all night in bars. So he just bought 3 or more beers and lined them up, which might keep him going until 8 o’clock. I would love to have seen it – purely from a sociological point of view of course.

The state of emergency and curfew

To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a curfew until this morning.  It was between midnight and 6am – times I am unlikely to be too conscious.  Tonight is meant to be 8pm until 6am.

To answer a commenter about what “martial law” is like.  I don’t know as it is a “state of emergency”.  I still don’t know what that is either but I suspect it is more related to a set of emergency powers rather than anything I will see looking out the window.  As for the curfew, I doubt I will notice any difference.  I guess it will probably mean all cars will be stopped at roadblocks tonight and anyone not on reasonably important business will be told to go home.

In reality, these measures have been instigated to stop what “might” happen not what is happening as the situation was far worse at this time last year from a street not political point of view.  And even worse in 2006 when no such official “states” were enacted as I recall.

The streets are close to normal and the hotels filling with international reporters.

Gunfight at the President’s Corral

A friend who lives near the President’s home (about 5 kms east of the centre of Dili) called me at about 7am this morning to tell me that there was gunfire which had been going on for about 15 minutes. It appears the gunfight started at around 6:30am but perhaps the confrontation actually started earlier. Within 1/2 an hour, the security warnings apparatus came into play and it has been like that ever since.

I rang another friend who usually goes for the ritual Jesus walk each morning and yes, the President was out on his regular morning walk as well. He walks regularly with his small security team. Reports from here (and cross-referenced with what ABC radio has reported) have differed slightly but it would appear that some sort of gunfight actually started while the President was on his walk. My friend said the President got on his phone when the gunfire started and continued walking home – probably something like 1/2 to 1 kms. A 2nd flurry of gunfire occured a few minutes later. To put this into personal perspective, I did the Jesus walk last Thursday morning at 6:30am and passed the President on his.

Later reports suggest that the President was in “convoy” but I presume this to mean this was his “on-foot” group as they were walking up the hill to his home.

The line on the map below is 2kms long. It shows the President’s house, the Cristo Rei statue and the road up the hill to his house.

TL President shooting general location map

It now seems certain that he was shot and that he was taken to the Australian military hospital which is located at the heliport. Note that the heliport is NOT the airport which is some 5 kms on the western side of town. The heliport is also just west of town and NOT near to the President’s house but some 6kms across the other side of town.

I have heard ambulances but have no info on the ABC reports of up to 20 wounded or if Major Alfredo was amongst them or indeed killed, as reported.

Basically, this has put a lot of expats on hold until accurate information comes through and more importantly from a personal security point of view, what the reaction will be from the Timorese themselves. The average Joao in the street is keeping off the streets becasue they don’t really know what will happen next.