I was listening to Radio Australia this morning and I heard about the renewed violence in Dili. I suppose the interested listener sitting in OZ is hearing this and thinking things have tipped over again. Not yet.
I moved about yesterday quite freely in central Dili (traffic problems aside) and felt no anxiety re. the security situation. I moved about amongst candidate supporters, as did a number of other expats. Yes, there are a number of extra international media people floating around and they were clearly mixing it with the supporters as well.
I left the scene of the tear gas incident about 1 minute before it occurred and was about a block away when it happened. Even if my timing had been different, I doubt if I would have found myself in trouble as I have no intention of doing more than moving about on the fringes of these big groups.
Of course, if I had seen a confrontation (ie crossing paths) between 2 different groups on the cards, my 6th sense would get me away from the potential conflict point quick smart.
Its all relative. I was much more concerned in January/February and I saw yesterday’s incidents as isolated one-offs. And nowhere near the situation of May last year. However, no doubt there will be more over the next few days.
I think the serious aggro was near the OZ Embassy, which is on the main road (Comorro Road) heading west. This is about 4kms west of the centre of town and this area has been hot for a long time. It would be wrong to infer that the trouble is attracted to the OZ Embassy – it is more that the Embassy is not exactly located in the safest spot in town. So when I talk about central Dili, I mean east of the heliport which is around 2kms west of the centre of town.
Many of the candidate supporters are young teenage males and they treat the whole campaigning process as the biggest party they have seen all year. Think Manchester United winning the European Cup and you are closer to the feel of the campaign rallies, except alcohol does not play a big part in it here. It makes it really hard to come to any conclusions about the electoral intentions of the more silent majority.
I know there was a mobile phone poll but I pretty much discount that for its non-representativeness. So it makes it difficult when there are no reliable pre-election polls and where many people do not want to show their hand until election day in the ballot box. So I have no idea of the result.
One should never forget that no matter what the feel one gets in Dili about candidate’s progress, that many of the candidates do not have the party infrastructure to conduct substantial rallies all around the country. Fretilin have a long established party infrastructure which puts them at an enormous advantage. And according to published electoral figures, Dili has only 19% of all registered voters which is about twice the figure of the next biggest of the 13 voting districts.