For me, the last week has been pretty confusing and all over the place, like flies at a BBQ. (How did I post an article twice – I don’t know !) Hopefully, the last of the big power problems have fizzled away. But the violence appears on the increase again. Election dates have been called and the election campaigns are starting to wind up. There are chronic rice shortages and a perplexing lack of coordinated effort to sort it out.
I received messages yesterday to avoid unnecessary travel due to trouble and the absence of diners at lunchtime at the Beach Cafe or Castaways was a sure sign. (Bicycle now tucked away at home for the time being !) I believe someone from the OZ embassy had their car stoned on arrival at the embassy yesterday. Rock fights and stoning of vehicles reported near City Cafe and One More Bar – places I happily cycled past yesterday. Troubl;e near the Bebonuk rice warehouse. The Fomento building (Ministry of Agriculture) has come under sustained rocking over the last 36 hours. (This is the building that was comprehensively trashed last year.)
I believe the UN police suggest that it is the worst they have experienced since they arrived last year. (Keep in mind they arrived a number of weeks after the military forces had subdued the more serious stuff of last year.)
The rice shortage has been known about for weeks but nothing much “seems” to have happened. The shops do not have any at the moment and this is a local staple. The World Food Program (WFP) warehouses are said to have stocks but it has also been reported they have been looted. There are other reports that the looting was politically motivated and I have read assertions from both Fretilin and its opposition inferring that the other may have been behind the looting.
When out east a couple of weeks ago, it was quite noticeable that the rice paddies near Baucau were drastically short of water, with perhaps only about 5 to 10% of the paddies in operation. It seems generally accepted that the wet season is about 6 weeks late, with more regular rain only over the last week.
Commission of Truth and Friendship
The international news has tended to concentrate a lot on the Commission of Truth and Friendship at a time when ironically, security issues here have been deteriorating. It seems to have grabbed a bit more attention but I am sure the events of the last 24 hours will swing the action back here again.
The traffic lights came into operation about 2 weeks ago but at first, for short periods only. I have never seen anything grossly offensive but admit to driving through a red when no traffic was around. Others have reported being overtaken at a red light and today, I was told that no-one is stopping for fear of being a target. Some have dutifully stopped and then been rocked. No, it is not the time to be sitting down and doing a photo shoot on the subject.
The Presidential election
I believe a couple of candidates have put their names forward, with the current PM Jose Ramos Horta expected to so by the end of the week. People were suggesting that the PM was angling for Fretilin backing, but it was not to be as the President of Fretilin Lu’Olu is now the Fretilin candidate.
The Parliamentary elections
The date is still unknown but the real political fight is this election. Australia’s “Age” newspaper reported that the current president Xanana Gusmao was going to be a candidate under the resurrected CNRT party. We will have to wait and see on that one.
Well the boys are doing it tough right now. Dare I say the unsayable, but it is pretty obvious that an integrated force from over 20 countries is a bit of a shambles. Command structures and communications are said to be a bit on the disorganised side. We all know how inefficient things get, the bigger the committee.
In general, it feels like things have reverted to the way things were in May last year. Lots of ad-hoc security problems and a feeling like things may still get worse. Once the streets get too unsafe, movement of goods and services will start to suffer, fresh fruit and veg supplies may be affected and general food distribution could be a problem for everyone.
As long as the elections are on the forward planning calendar, one feels that we are in for a roller coaster of a ride. And no limes at home … again.