Another beautiful day in Paradise – really

A note to the Darwin refugees – again !

I woke to a beautiful day in paradise. Quiet, peaceful, the last 48 hours the quietest this year. Went for a run this morning !! Yes, you heard right – me … run … morning. My body has been trained to operate at the cutting edge of relaxation in the mornings, building to a crescendo in the afternoon. The flab was getting to me and morning feels safer than evening.

No stonings over the last couple of days except for ruffians doing it on their day off. I guess the gangs must be “workshopping” at the moment.

No queue in the bank yesterday. Supermarkets well stocked, rice available ($5-70 per 5kg at Landmark last week). Restaurants taking a hit again.

Just enjoy the saltimbocca, a good movie and a few jars of Guinness while you have the opportunity. Melbourne Bitter and Worcestershire sauce is not quite the real thing.

2004 Census pdf and a rice report

A very good reference for the statistically minded is the pdf version of the printed booklet called : “Census of Population and Housing 2004 – ATLAS”.

This was published in September 2006.  I saw the printed form and said “I want one of those”.  Now a replica of the printed booklet is available at :

Forgive me if I am telling you how to suck eggs but I am sure I looked for it on the above web site about a month ago and I am sure it wasn’t there.  It was a whole collection of separate links to parts of the document.  The single pdf file download is 13Mbytes so patience is required if you are not in an internet cafe or a luxurious workplace in Dili.  For those on real broadband, you will barely have time to blow your nose.

One detailed article on the rice shortage can be found at :

I will admit to being wiser but not totally sorted on why.

7 years – what does it mean ?

I was pondering the 7.5 years sentence for Rogerio Lobato and wondered a few things.  I wondered if it would be reduced on appeal – I guessed yes.  I wondered if he would ever spend a day in Becora prison – I guessed no, home detention more likely.  I wondered if an amnesty might be on the cards after the elections are done and dusted.  I wondered if the poor health card would be played.

Does it mean he keeps his government provided house and all the trimmings ?  What about his parliamentary salary ?  Is he still a member of parliament ?  Seven years in a government minister’s house on home detention would be like paradise for more than 90% of the population.

And if he goes, what about all the others that are probably implicated by the guilty verdict ?

Did everything go really quiet because of the verdict ?  Has it hit the sweet spot that keeps all sides happy ?

I’m just asking the questions.

I have put on a few pounds over the last 2 weeks due to not enough moving about.  I think I need more adrenalin, which I may have found if I had gone to Same with Fat Old Sod.

Lobato 7 years

Not sure if this is hot off the press or not but I think ex-Minister for the Interior (ie amongst other things, in charge of the police) Rogerio Lobato was sentenced to 7 years this afternoon.  One media report had said the maximum possible penalty for all charges was 35 years.

I think many people have been waiting for this announcement and it has been very quiet.  When this sort of event occurs here, it can take a day or two for any backlash to become evident.  So even if it is quiet again tonight, it could be Monday before one knows the true reaction from any unruly groups.

It has been raining most of the afternoon and the temperature is as cool as it gets here.  Who knows if this will affect any immediate responses.  Maybe by lunchtime tomorow, there will be a general feel amongst the majority.

Not again

The events of the last couple of days have culminated in the scheduled departure of a significant segment of the expat community.  It is not only non-essential OZ embassy staff and families of staff members, but all OZ volunteers (AVI) and large groups working on AusAid projects.  Most departures are elective with only some of them compulsory.  UK and NZ have followed suit.  The UN and UN volunteers have made no move as yet.

Many government departments are not really operating well as local staff are not showing up for work and a number of expats are choosing to leave.  The Ministry of Education is a bit of a mess and suffering from looting, trashing and a bit of burning.  An education ministry warehouse next to the main offices is a smouldering wreck with all contents burnt and the roof caved in.  The F-FDTL are now guarding what remains of that warehouse and hopefully preventing further damage, which seems to have been limited to the bottom floor of the office complex.

I believe the Ministry of Agriculture has been disfunctional for some time (due to regular stoning of the building) and with the departure of many other expat capacity building staff, an awful lot of things may well go on hold for some time.

I think the last 2 nights were actually pretty quiet but car tyre burning and road barricading is still a feature and clearly evident in the morning.  Of course, residents of Bairo Pite and Delta may disagree – I don’t know.

Movement seems fine during the morning period, but the expectation of trouble after dark seems to be visible from lunchtime on.  Thats the feel anyway.

By next week, the expat scene may well be a shadow of its former self, although I admit I know nothing about what the Portuguese community is doing regarding leaving.  It all really depends on whether the threats of violence actually take the next step.  And it is the threats that are driving a lot of this situation.

I do feel sorry for some of those compelled to leave as it involves packing a bag of no more than 10kgs.  Just think – laptop, backup drive, music player, personal papers, 2 pairs of underwear and only one sock.  So you leave all of your other stuff and wonder just how long before you get back.

Note : I had trouble posting this yesterday when I fisrt wrote it.

Dili status

I will try to be as un-dramatic as possible.

Well I did wake up this morning and everything seemed fine.  I drove down Comorro Road and could see the tell-tale signs of a number of burnt tyres, from the Tiger fuel corner to the OZ embassy.  I am told that last night’s events were pretty uncontrolled in this section of road and while I heard shots between 6:30pm and 7:30pm, the gangs had this section of road barricaded until 1am.  All the shots were from the foreign security forces – mostly GNR with warning shots, rubber bullets, tear gas etc.

I dropped into Hotel Timor to have a chat with a friend and found a number of people I knew who related experiences from early today.  One had come from the ransacked Ministry of Education offices which had been trashed and looted overnight.  The GNR had advised them to abandon the building before there was more trouble.  Someone else had received similar advice with respect to their workplace in Taibesse.  In other words, a lot of expats are probably having trouble achieving anything in their workplace.

But things seemed to deteriorate by late afternoon and the street barricades were going up in a number of places around town.  I am not sure of the exact purpose of these, whether it is to slow down the UN police, prevent people from going into trouble areas or for ambush purposes to extort money.

So far the night is much quieter than last night, but the boys are well equipped to run amok into the early hours.  One normally expects trouble in Bairo Pite and the Delta area.  An SMS warning listed a number of areas in town as being no-go zones from late afternoon.  Only the extremely brave or extremely hungry will be venturing out tonight.

At around 5pm, the OZ travel warning recommended that all Australians leave but an hour later modified this to “consider leaving”.  I believe the OZ volunteers (AVI) will be leaving over the next few days.

Level 5.10 ??

OK, I now get the drift.  Level 5 was the correct call after all.

Yep, I went out twice today to do shopping – even bought rice from Landmark.  No problems.  But a friend told me things went to crap in the Delta area late afternoon.

There was a flurry of SMS warnings, all tending towards the stay at home, doors locked variety.  That was cool – nice big comfort dinner planned (a week ago) at home anyway.

Very late afternoon, the SMS flurry heightened.  At around 7:30pm, there were many “gunshots”, some quite close and I admit to a little bit of gastric agitation.  This was followed by the tell-tale banging of metal light poles (of the lights that don’t work anyway) and a bit of “whooping it up”.  For about 1/2 an hour there, I thought things were as bad as last year in May.  But I think the reality is that the “gunshots” were all from the security forces and not from anyone that was going to cause me harm.  Anyway, this is what you tell yourself.

So you start tucking into a really nice meal, red wine and good conversation and try to ignore the gunshots.  After about an hour, all went quiet.  The streets were absolutely deserted and you could hear a pin drop.

A topic of conversation was just how was one to get an adrenalin rush back in the western world after all this is over.  I suggested finding the local “blood house” (ie extremely rough bar) and sup gin and tonics while watching the action.  Maybe returning to become a world championship wrestling fan.  And tomorrow morning, I will wake up.

PS  I think OZ volunteers are being asked to leave.  Some will be happy but an awful lot will not like it.  And no-one else outside TL quite understands this.  I think the best way I can describe it is – “home is where the slippers are”.  Mine are here – even though I can’t find a reason to actually wear them.

Level 5 – lingerie, soft toys, guns, confusion

The raising of the OZ travel warning advisory to level 5 probably confused a lot of people.  No guns, no restrictions on movement during the day etc. etc.  It was probably based on the situation with Major Alfredo and was probably setting things up for a resolution.

At a dinner last night, a couple of calls came in to other diners suggesting that steps were underway to get Alfredo but that he had escaped.  Fifteen minutes later, one caller apologised and said it was just rumour.  I can’t believe he escaped but if the rumour spreads amongst the locals …

At about 3:45am, I woke … extremely tired … then heard the unmistakable sound of gunshots.  I heard about 5 to 10 over the next half hour, then it went quiet until the choppers fired up.

This morning, there was active trade of information by phone as a lot of expats heard gunfire and it certainly put the wind up the locals.  The phone wires were probably running hot as many expats were trying to work out what was happening.

Radio Australia report that the OZ troops did make a move last night and supposedly have taken control of Same but no other details are available.  I went to do shopping this morning and things were OK but there were more “observers” than normal – locals on watch for anything out of the ordinary.

A friend confirmed that some locals believe Reinado has escaped and is going to attack Dili.  I would think this is not possible.  But the rumour mill is running again.

The OZ media report that OZ special forces have been sent here.  “The Age” and “All Headline News” report it as 100 SAS troops in 4 planes.  I saw 2 Hercules transport planes depart on Saturday afternoon.

One acquaintance reported a lot of activity in the Bairo Pite area and I understand the gunshots I heard were rubber bullets and other stuff that the GNR (ie riot police) use.

Another friend CM reported gunfire from the Becora area and many locals yelling out “Alfredo, Alfredo” as if he was coming in right now.  There were 2 deaths yesterday morning in Becora and it is quite possible that this morning’s events were payback which required more shots from security forces.

I have heard no evidence that any of Reinado’s group or supporters were involved in the firing of any weapon in and around Dili.

A number of expats have been requested by employers to stay indoors today with doors locked.

I expect official information to be coming out soon on the Same situation.  If only because locals will be phoning friends and relatives here in Dili with a sketchy view of what is going on and potentially feeding the rumour mill.

Postscript : The above commentary is how it tends to go here.  You piece it together from radio, internet, official warning messages and information from others who are located all over town.  You compare the number of gunshots you hear etc. etc.  The you ring someone else and they are completely unaware of any problem at all.

A note for SOL Mama

This is to ease Mama’s concerns a bit.

It seems I got it slightly off-beam last night.  When you get a “going to level 5” message, a phone call saying things are going down bad in Delta area and the guards staying for the night (on a piece of carpet on a concrete floor), I assumed that things were going bad.

It seems the Delta thing was nothing more serious than any other rock night, and when you have a bevy of security forces with decent equipment, at the end of the day, they ought to be able to dampen down things, and obviously they did.

Today seemed perfectly calm and for a level 5 (whatever that is), no problems at all.

So sorry for raising the sweat levels, except if you live at Delta 4.

The fan is blowing brown again

Things have been heating up across the board.  I will list what I think is fueling the current trouble :

  • the death of 2 Timorese at the airport IDP camp on Friday
  • Major Alfredo’s actions at the border posts and subsequent stand-off with the ISF
  • the apparent support by the local Same population for Alfredo
  • media reports here that cover the entire spectrum of statistical possibilities for describing the background to an event
  • the rice shortage
  • the Presidential election politicking

The Australian government has raised their travel advice to LEVEL 5 which must be getting close to “please leave”.  I received a message from a mate who received a message from a work colleague suggesting a major bust-up in the Delta 4 area tonight and some more trouble in Bairo Pite.  I have heard the tell-tale sounds of choppers to the west as Delta 4 is just to the east of the Comorro River a few kms inland.

I thought I heard a gunshot earlier but I dismissed it as nothing at the time.  At night-time, there is almost no noise at all in Dili (except in a power cut) and with the roads deserted, a gunshot sound could travel a long distance.  I know the chopper sound does.

A dead give-away of trouble was the fact the day guards at the compound did not go home and are staying the night.  This has not happened in a long time.

Notes :

ISF – International Stabilisation Force (I was calling it Security not Stabilisation)
Same pronounced “sarm-ay” not “s’may” or  “saym”