The army/police reconciliation ceremony

After several days of peace rallies and the like, this afternoon a reconciliation parade was held outside the Palacio do Governo. I will leave it up to the press boys to get the details correct but I think it was the latest incarnation of the F-FDTL (ie army) and the PNTL (ie the police) on parade in front of the PM, President and many other invited guests.

From my more modest position amongst the riff-raff, I could not hear a thing from the sound system until the march off at the end – more later.

From what I could tell there must have been about 200 police and maybe 400 military lined up. It included the military in fatigues and green berets, some other military in khaki, the ordinary police and the military police. The UN police and international military kept right away from it all and concentrated on manning the surrounding roads. Onlookers like myself remained separated by about 100 metres from the activities and I estimate the total onlookers at no more than 200.

As the police and military were in a formation about 4 deep, they stretched about 200 metres across the front of the Palacio and I would guess those on the fringes would have heard little more than I did.

After half an hour of speeches, a few of the police and military started to tire (like me) but after about an hour, a group of Timorese started handing out flowers to the army/police formation. Every one of them ended up with either a flower or in some cases, a bunch. It certainly was strange seeing the boys packing a flower instead of a weapon.  Then an order was given and they all wheeled right (to the west). The recorded music boomed out loud and clear as they marched off to the western end then wheeled around to depart from the eastern end.

I think it was only appropriate that 2 groups who had been at loggerheads several months earlier should march out carrying flowers to the strains of the Monty Python Flying Circus theme music. They were all smiling and so was I.

Touch rugby competition 19 November

There will be a touch football competition on Sunday 19 November at Democracy Park commencing at 9:30am.

There will be :

  • Two sides from the AFP
  • Two sides from the NZ military
  • Two sides from the Hash House Harriers
  • One side from the ADF

The competition will be held at Democracy park on the Sunday, It is hoped to mark out two grounds so two games can be played simultaneously. There are two pools of four teams (where an organization eg AFP has two sides they will be in alternate pools).

Pool 1 Pool 2
Delta Company NZ 1 Delta Company NZ 2
Hash House Harriers 1 Hash House Harriers 2
ADF Spare

The two top sides after the round robin games will progress to the semi finals of the trophy comp, the two bottom sides will progress to the semi finals of the bowl competition. Remember it is $5 – registration per player and there will be water, snags and bread. Perhaps a roasted pig for lunch.

ROUND 1 Game No
9:30 AM 1 Delta Company NZ 1 Hash House Harriers 1
2 Delta Company NZ 2 Hash House Harriers 2
10:00 AM 3 AFP 1 ADF
4 AFP 2 Spare
10:30 AM 5 Delta Company NZ 1 AFP 1
6 Delta Company NZ 2 AFP 2
11:00 AM 7 Hash House Harriers 1 ADF
8 Hash House Harriers 2 Spare
11:30 AM 9 Delta Company NZ 1 ADF
10 Delta Company NZ 2 Spare
12:00 PM 11 Hash House Harriers 1 AFP 1
12 Hash House Harriers 2 Lime
2:00:00 PM, 13 Winner Pool 1 Runner Up Pool 2 Semi 1 Cup
14 Winner Pool 2 Runner Up Pool 1 Semi 2 Cup
2:30:00 PM, 15 Loser Pool 1 Third Place Pool 2 Semi 3 Bowl
16 Loser Pool 1 Third Place Pool 2 Semi 4 Bowl
3:00:00 PM 17 Winner of Semi 3 Winner of Semi 4 Final 1
3:30:00 PM 18 Winner of Semi 1 Winner of Semi 2 Final 2

The Peace Rally

For once, I was in the right place to see the Peace Rally held yesterday.  Initially, my defence system went into alert mode but the peace banners (in the local language Tetum) alleviated that somewhat.  AFP have reported on this but I am just adding my bit because I was there.

Basically, the rally appeared to concentrate on doing laps of the Palacio do Governo.  Participants were 99.9% male and aged between 15 and 25 and a fair bit of adrenalin was flowing.  It was not a calm sedate love-in, but more of a rock concert feel.  It was boisterous but I saw no trouble.
Many of the participants were loaded onto and hanging off vehicles in a rather risky fashion.  I saw one utility vehicle loaded with about 20 rallyers, lose a few as he decided to slam his foot on the accelerator.  About 4 of them fell off onto the road at a speed that would have had me spending the rest of the day in sick bay.  The driver was not booked for speeding or overloading.

“Guide Post” by email

Edition 3 of “Guide Post” is out. For those that remember, it is the current English language community newspaper published in a form similar to the “Timor Sun”.

It contains social news, the odd re-print of news articles and press releases and lots of advertising.

But this week, I learned that :

  • “vasco da gama” restaurant has a new menu – I already knew that
  • The British Embassy has closed its doors here – I knew that too.
  • Plaza Hotel has internet in all rooms (like Hotel Dili) – also knew that one.
  • Com resort is open again.
  • The property section is getting bigger.
  • But the big one was the full page ad for US$2 per hour internet at 2 Timor Telecom (TT) outlets thus under-cutting all of the internet cafes who have no alternative but to buy bandwidth from TT.

And there is more.

It is now available by email by request to :

guidepostadvertising “”AT”” yahoo “”DOT”” com “”DOT”” au

You will then receive a PDF file of about 2 Mbytes in size so make sure you can actually receive attachments of this size before subscribing.

The First Lady Cup (10km Run)

The 2nd Annual First Lady Cup
Fundraising Challenge

10 Kilometre Run or 5 Kilometre Walk.
Sunday 26th Nov. 8.00am. Start Palacio do Governo.

Entry forms available from and payment made to Castaway Bar, Dili Club, Monkey Bar, Harvey World Travel or UNMIT intranet.

Entry fee is US$5.00 Entries close 24 November 2006. Late entries accepted on the day until 7.00am.

Conduct your own fundraising, individual or office & highest will be presented with the First Lady Cup by First Lady Kirsty on day.

The first 10 to finish will receive a certificate signed by the President Xanana & First Lady Kirsty.

Proceeds of all fundraising activities must be received by 24 November 2006.

Start from the ‘Palacio do Governo’ (GPA) 8.00am & continue along the Beach Road to near ‘Cazbar’ and back to the GPA.

Free printed T-shirts on the day to the first 500 entries.

Food available & live entertainment following the Run/Walk opposite the ‘Palacio do Governo’.

Free give-aways distributed during the event.

Further info : Daryl Mills (723 2015) or Trevor Parris (723 6476)
Proceeds to Alola Foundation & Rotary International.

A PDF file of the advertising flier and an entry form is available here

Power struggles

There has always been power cuts – like x number of times over the weekend.  Its the way it is here.  If you are an expat and you do not have a generator servicing your work or home, it would be driving you crazy at the moment.

If you do have a generator and it is well-silenced or a distance away, you may not even hear it and only notice a couple of seconds cut before it kicks in.  Or you could have a noisy generator that constantly reminds you of its operation.

Lately, the power cuts have become highly aggravating for those without generator access.  The cuts have been pretty much daily (and usually in prime time of evening) of late and this weekend the worst I have known since my arrival.

My understanding is that sometimes the electrical authority runs out of fuel.   Generation is by 6 diesel generators located at 2 sites (I think) and if they lose one, power cuts are a certainty.  I believe they are one down at the moment but I also thought demand was still only 50% of what it was a year ago.  Questions, questions …

During the troubles of May/June, the streets may have been deserted and security a problem but electricity supply was pretty good.  Demand was down to 30% which I guess made maintenance much easier.

But I know a guy (a long-term expat) who recently had his first child and the nightly cuts drove him insane.  He acquired his own generator but nevertheless complained about paying for an electricity supply that lately has been pretty unreliable.

Some tips :

  • Invest in uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) if you have a computer
  • If re-setting your TV and recording settings on your VCR drives you insane, get a UPS for that too
  • Curse anyone who gives you an electronic clock/radio for your birthday
  • Forget about ever setting the clock on a microwave

Getting blog technical

I have implemented some blog site anti-spam software AND closed off permission to comment on older postings.  Most blog comment spam seems to be aimed at older posts so closing those has cut 98% of all my comment spam.

The anti-spam software that sifts through the recent posts seems to be spot on and catches the other 2%.

This move is saving me lots of headaches and frustration.

The week in brief

Two weeks ago may have been a bad one but as quickly as it came, it disappeared. There is no doubt that there was an orchestrated campaign to stir things up and turn people against the OZ military then it just seemed like the OZ military switched on the PR machine.

For the last 2 weeks, the ADF’s Major Stone has been appearing on Timor Television immediately after the evening news. He is an accomplished (and entirely self-taught) Tetun speaker and has a “boy next door” face. I think the people have responded to a bit of common-sense. It also explains why I have seen this military guy schmoozing in coffee shops and restaurants for several months. It makes sense – shoot the breeze and find out what’s happening out in the streets, where the rumour mill gets fed.

A Portuguese military officer follows Major Stone on TV with (presumably) similar “calming” words in Portuguese.

Having just said all that, it doesn’t mean absolutely everything is fine and dandy. For instance, on Thursday evening, there was a stoush at the IDP camp located between the Hotel Timor and the port. The story goes that some camp dwellers attacked workers at the port demanding jobs. The story also has it that the GNR (Portuguese military police) came in and slapped the port workers (perhaps picking on the wrong side) thus inciting the families of port workers to come in and get angry. Time will tell if there is any retribution for this one.

Mr. Alkatiri left for Portugal for medical treatment and the PM, Jose Ramos Horta delivered his “100 day speech” which you can find at : (The Timor-Leste government web site has not been updated since January.)

I noticed the resumption of soccer games on the dirt pitch on the foreshore near the Palacio. I haven’t seen them for months. Rather than a specific sign of tension relief, I was told there is apparently some structured sporting activities that occur at this time of year arranged by some of the villages. So the soccer was linked to the tug-of-war and beach volleyball stuff setup on the foreshore across from the World Bank building.

You don’t tend to see many military on the streets anymore. I certainly do not miss the unmistakable clatter of the APCs. The choppers still regularly do laps of town. And yes, you do tend to see more UN police than ever around now. Its hard to see how you can get away with much now. And cycling without a helmet – I was told it will still be quite a few months before they consider pinging me. Yippee.

On choppers, you get used to the familiar sound then a new one appears. It took a few days to sink in that a different chopper was in the skies – a Kiowa. Smaller and obviously cheaper to run than a Blackhawk, it would seem more suitable to the predominantly observation role these days.

[For chopper-heads : Kiowa made by Bell, 2 crew, up to 6 passengers, 2000 lb load capacity. Blackhawk made by Sikorsky, 3 crew plus 2 gunners, 11 passengers, 9000 lb load capacity. Courtesy of quick internet search. Configurations may vary.]

For the last 2 weeks, the humidity has increased and we have the return of the fogged up sunglasses/cameras after leaving air-conditioned buildings. There have been heavy clouds in the afternoon on a few days, indicating the imminent arrival of the first of the wet season deluges. Some predict the first rain will be by 15 November while others think it will hang on for another month.

There is a heavier push to move IDPs (refugees) out of the camps before the wet season hits hard. And the mosquitos come back from holidays in force.

Food for the soul

I wouldn’t be the only one to have drastically cut night-time eating excursions. I think quite a few expat employers have requested staff not to go out at night and of late, it has been a fairly reasonable thing to do. The reach of corporate insurers goes far and wide.

A few months back, I mentioned that “Temptations” was operating just around the corner from the Portuguese Embassy across the road at the eastern end of the Palacio do Governu. It looked like it was off to a flying start but it has fallen away quite a bit now.

“Cafe Brasil” just around the corner is one of the success stories. A month or so ago, it extended its premises on the eastern side and has become perhaps the numero uno coffee shop/lunch place in town. It has a good feel but avoid the sandwiches. I dropped in there several times during the troubled May/June period when almost nothing else was open and I was the only customer (it seemed).

The Terrace Cafe has pretty much finished its construction and seems to be going OK but I haven’t been there for a while.

A new Indonesian restaurant (Riung Kurung ??) has opened about 200m west of the Backpackers about a block before the main Colmera intersection. The food is definitely above average Indonesian and leans towards the health food side of things. I believe that initially it did not serve alcohol and preferred to concentrate on fresh juices. Mercifully, consumer demand convinced them to sell beer so I don’t know how good the juices are. Maybe next time. But one restaurant to watch.

At the eastern end of town along the beach, the Coolspot nightclub has disappeared and reinvented itself with a new restaurant across the road by the beach called the “Erli Sun”. It looks flasher than most of the others on the stretch and is on my dance card for a visit soon. The old Coolspot building has been massively renovated but I am not sure what it will become yet. Even before this year’s troubles started, Coolspot always seemed a bit on the seedy side so we’ll just have to see how that one pans out.

There have been a couple of additional structures built down on the eastern beach strip suggest more eateries to come but no progress on fit-out yet.

Went to Vasco da Gamas (the most up-market restaurant in town) for the first time in quite a long time recently. Everything was the same except for a huge make-over of the menu – better, I think. While extensive, the wine list remains for money market investors only. I also noticed the manager of the Hotel Timor was treading the boards, suggesting they are both linked somehow.

Hotel Dili remains a sentimental favourite for that quiet home-style meal amongst the shrubbery.
As for coffee, I think the quality of some of the coffee in some of the bar/restaurants has gone down. My guess is that most are now using Ensul coffee rather than Delta. Correct me if I am wrong.

Sermon from the mouse

Good morning, I am Reverend Squatter and my sermon today is internet connectivity and the computers used to connect to the internet here in Dili.

I am really preaching to Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) and to those techies who have 24 Mbps (mega bits per second) broadband links piped into their homes. When you have a whole country running on a single 2 Mbps link to the world, (Houston) we have a problem.

I have several different email addresses, only one of which do I pay for. For reasons I dare not guess, the worst of them for spam is the paid one. About a month ago, I was being assassinated by spam emails and when you are on the end of a modem link, this is not good. Even though they did have anti-spam software in place, it clearly was not working too well. Then they announced they were stepping up the aggressiveness of their anti-spam strategy. Spam emails dropped to about a tenth. I was mighty pleased. I know there are people out there who insist that every single email addressed to them MUST be delivered. I guess these are the 24Mbps guys who want to train their anti-spam software to be on the cutting edge of accuracy. But I am more than happy to see this stuff culled before it is delivered over the wire.

With my blog, I have discovered the brave new world of spam blogging. This arrives as “comment spam”. Over the last few weeks, comment spam has been slowly increasing to the point where it cracked over 100 per day. Over a slow link, each and every one of those comments is downloaded for me to decide which one is from a human. This was blowing me out of the water. I have sinced mucked around with anti-spam stuff and I do not get any comment spam anymore (neither do I get any comments from anyone !).

I am pretty anal when it comes to keeping my Windows system up-to-date with Microsoft updates and virus signature updates. Didn’t I just love the last Microsoft Tuesday – 41 Mbytes of updates. Took 4.5 hours. Although it depends on your modem access plan through Timor Telecom, at about 5 cents per minute, that’s US$13-50 just to do the Microsoft updates. So in any month, the Microsoft updates and virus updates (and anti-spyware updates for that matter) are costing not only 4 to 6 hours of time, but probably cost as much as a monthly broadband connection charge in other parts of the world.

The best you can possibly do here is pay over US$700 per month for a permanent 128kbps connection.

Most businesses/organisations with a connection will go for either one of these permanent connections or insanely, get a digital service through Timor Telecom at a rate of over US$2000 per month. Basically, no-one gets more than 128kbps or in a few cases, 256kbps. Because of the monopoly position that Timor Telecom holds, only foreign embassies (and probably the UN and the like) are permitted to get around this monopoly. They go for satellite which I understand is significantly cheaper.

The point is that there are a number of organisations with say 50 pcs networked through a 128kbps connection to the internet. Now, if you have every pc doing automatic updates of everything, you have a problem. And if you were trying to save money, you would have them all turned off overnight. You would only leave them on if you had the money for the electricity and a generator to fill in for the many power cuts and UPSes to manage the cut-over time to the generator and to smooth out the erratic voltage. All that generator stuff raises the bar financially.

Far easier to turn off all your pcs and at 8:30am each morning, everyone gets onto the internet to get their mail and everyone’s updates start kicking in and you end up going for early morning tea. So you either put running your business on hold or turn off automatic updating. Microsoft Update Tuesday could become a national holiday here OR you just don’t do it.

Mr. 24Mbps probably says “ha ha, what you need is Microsoft’s update server”. Well, no-one likes paying Microsoft anything here and adding yet another layer of complexity is probably beyond most organisations here.

Need steak knives ? There’s more.

So the well run organisation probably has someone running around all day with a USB memory key applying updates. The not so well run one has probably given up. The next problem is the user. If organisations had “acceptable use policies” for use of the pcs and the internet AND they were adhered to, then another big problem would go away.

Your typical Timorese can not afford a pc and to be on the internet at home, would need a fixed line phone just to get started on the internet. Only the elite have this. So for many, a pc is either at an internet cafe (ie gaming parlour) or at a workplace. So you do all your private stuff at work if you can. (Note that there are many expats in this category as well.) You download email, porn, music, video and inevitably piles of viruses. Timor is virus heaven (but thanks to my analness, I remain clean as a whistle at home).

In a country where thanks to the telecomms monopoly, internet charges are actually going up, what is it going to be like when typical monthly updates are running at 200 Mbytes per month. And who knows just how much the spam load is ?

I welcome any comments on anything I have raised here over tea and biscuits on the front porch where I will be conducting “how to be anal” lessons.

Here endeth the lesson