Parliamentary voting day

I understand that voting day has gone fairly well and the UN aim of a boring day has been met.  I don’t think there have been any incidents that might affect the final result, although there have been a couple of rules broken.

I had to laugh when I heard the leader of a certain (minor) party turned up at a polling place with his supporters waving party flags.  The reports suggested many members of the group were drunk and they were certainly breaking rules re. display of party materials within the confines of the polling place.  I believe drunkenness is also breaking the rules.

I believe this guy has a good chance of getting a seat.

Yesterday, I heard that bad weather in Covalima has led to about 7 bridges being washed out which has messed up a fair bit of logistics planning.  Access to some sites is now not possible by road so the UN and ISF choppers are/will work overtime to plug the gaps.

Counting starts at 7am Sunday morning in the 13 district administration centres and is expected to take 2 to 4 days with counting occuring between 7am and 10pm each day.

Back on the angry pills

I heard yesterday that a UN police officer of African extraction overtook on the wrong side of the road and wiped out a cyclist on the other side of the road.

Being a cyclist who has lifted the middle digit to UN police drivers more times than I have had cereal for breakfast, it makes me mad. Some of these UN police drivers (and some UN drivers in general) should not be driving on Dili roads. It is a joke that some of these morons are behind the wheel.

Several times I have been cycling correctly on the left side of the road near the kerb and been confronted with UN vehicles overtaking and heading straight for me. Do they elect to hold back ? No. Do they slow down ? No. They press on with hand on horn, expecting me to clear off. I usually see this stuff well ahead and have my digit prepared for insertion upwards and on the odd occasion, let off a string of invective.

On one occasion, the response was the raising of a middle digit out the drivers window by the driver. Touchee.

I must recall the incident where a UN driver admitted that he never drove a car back at home (possibly no licence) but was handed a vehicle on arrival here. He had to get someone else to back-up the vehicle when he got himself and the vehicles around him into a jam.

For me, UN driving remains a joke and it is up to them to clean up their act. If you came from a country called “UN”, you would be embarrassed. Will we read about this incident in any UN report ? Probably not. The carpet must be getting pretty lumpy by now.

Rally #2

My 2nd and last parliamentary rally was the Fretilin rally held in the national stadium this afternoon. I could make some direct comparisons with the CNRT rally which I attended at the same location yesterday.

Memories play strange tricks sometimes but my gut feel was that CNRT had 10% more people yesterday. The guts also said the average Fretilin rallier was a shade younger.

Organisationally, the Fretilin rally was better run and they managed to get Mari Alkatiri on stage well before my patience ran thin. He was on at 2:30pm and talked his way through for about 70 minutes. There is no doubt he spent considerable time “boring it up” * Xanana and CNRT. Me thinks he will not be a complacent bystander if he becomes a member of the opposition.

The streets were nowhere near as volatile as they were during the presidential election campaign, even though I heard of an incident down at “Pig Bridge” sometime today.

* “boring it up” = slang for saying provocative and antagonistic things about someone

TV election coverage

It is pretty rare for me to watch the local TVTL television broadcasts. For one, reception is pretty bad through our rabbit ears but usually, it is all fairly turgid stuff.

But the word was that they would be doing a big coverage of the elections last night. Now that we are in the last days, it was interesting to see just how they handled it.

Although I didn’t do a count, it looked like they gave all 14 parties a 2 minute slot. All of it was roaming cameras at political rallies and meetings with the party leaders given the opportunity to state their case. Not that I understood what they were saying through the hiss (refer rabbit ears above), it seemed a pretty fair and reasonable coverage for all of the parties.

It may not have been CNN but it seemed to pass the equity test.

A day at the rally

I finally got to go to a parliamentary election rally yesterday. Firstly, I dropped in to the scheduled PD (Democratic Party) rally at Democracy Field. No-one there except a contingent of UN police waiting for a rally to happen. It didn’t look like anything was going to happen so I gave up and had a coffee at Cafe Brasil.

Cruised up the road for the CNRT rally at the stadium. This one had the numbers alright and eventually managed several thousand. They had terrible trouble with their sound system and I reached my limit as far as how many times I wanted to hear anyone say the word “testing” over the microphones.

Eventually Xanana arrived with Kirsty and located himself up in the stand. A bit later, President Ramos-Horta arrived to receive his CNRT cap and t-shirt. These things are pretty slow and after about an hour and a half, my patience departed and I left before Xanana and the President made their way to the bandstand erected in the middle of the football field, from where they both gave speeches.

I saw no inkling of violence either in the stadium or in the streets outside where many CNRT trucks full of people had been cruising about town.

Anecdotally, it seems that CNRT will be one of the major forces in this election and it will be interesting to see just which parties lose voter share to them when compared to the presidential election results.

Bill posters will NOT be prosecuted

Bill, you are safe here.

I understand a couple of international groups have been providing guidance in the process of electioneering. How to stick election posters on every known surface … how to string up tiny flags on strings and hang them across as many roads as possible …

Nowhere is safe. I hope they provided guidance on the appropriate glue, otherwise the biggest post-election job creation scheme will be removal of election materials.

There is no doubt that there has been a bit of tampering with opponent’s advertising, as you tend to notice things like “yesterday, that light pole was party A, now it is party B”. I haven’t seen any defacing of candidate faces yet.

Perhaps the most amazing posters and banners are the CNRT ones. This week, I hope to take a few photos of the more incredible ones. They all seem to have photos of Xanana, but many have photos of incredibly modern things like 22nd century 20 storey apartment buildings, jet fighters and all those things that are not here now. To be honest, lets hope they are kidding about the multi-story condos and jet fighters. Club Med TL ? No thanks.

There is no doubt that Xanana is one of those icons that ought to be an advertiser’s dream in the same league as Michael Jordan. I hope we are not heading for Xanana toothpaste, Xanana beauty soap or Xanana BBQ accessories. I could handle “Xanana Export Pumpkins” but I draw the line at exporting bananas.

TL and the obesity epidemic

There isn’t one.  Next.

So I read today that nearly 50% of OZ adults are overweight or obese.  After a while here, you forget but one quick trip to Darwin (and the Casuarina Shopping Mall) and you start to become convinced it may just be true.

I suppose it says something about the expats who are here.  Maybe they are the go-getters who are prepared to just “do stuff”.  I mean if you want to do as many things as easy as possible, you probably don’t want to be here.  And with no Maccas, KFC, Crispy Cream Donuts, fried take-away joints and no air-conditioned shopping malls to wile away the hot periods in between ice creams, well it may not be the place for those who always get their money’s worth at a smorgasbord.

Dili now has traffic lights which occasionally perform a useful function and new street lights are in operation in parts of town, so it may only be a matter of time before a true foreign junk food outlet arrives to attack our guts.

You see the occasional overweight expat but they really are rare.  As for the Timorese, I don’t think I have ever seen an obese person.  There is one exception here and that is Timorese politicians.  Some of them have clearly adopted western dietary ways and are carrying a shade too many mangos under the shirt.

At the end of the day, the constant heat coupled with the proximity to places where you can exercise freely (ie running, cycling, swimming) means that my own general health is as good as it has been for a long time.  The downsides tend to be higher risks in the hygiene area, general food safety and water supply purity.

There are two dedicated ice cream shops in Dili that I know of, but if you are really into western food that puts on a bit of tonnage, you are stuck with pizzas, hamburgers and as-many-as-you-can-get-down “pasteis de nata” from Hotel Timor (mmm).  Oh yeah, and beer.

Driving blindfolded

Driving between 6pm and 8pm is now becoming a bit like driving blindfolded.  Having had a near collision with a motorbike without lights, you may as well drive blindfolded.  (After 8pm, the general traffic diminishes so it is not as noticeable.)

Having been sensitised by this incident (ie he was heading for my driver’s door), I counted well over a dozen similar blacked-out motorbikes and a few cars as well over the next few minutes.  Having raised this in conversation, it appears I am not the only one to notice.

The curious belief that using lights uses up more petrol is often mentioned.  In other cases, the bikes and cars just do not have functioning lights – a lot of this from being belted with rocks or sticks over the last 12 months.  I suspect few vehicles would pass OZ-style roadworthy tests.

There are a few other aspects that would also fail such tests.  The first is cars with tinted windows so dark, you can not detect any sign of life through the windows and secondly, vehicles with cages instead of windows, which make them look like vehicles from a “Mad Max” movie or from a speedway circuit.

It’s safer on the bicycle.

The election campaign

I still have not seen a proper parliamentary election rally but now have the campaign schedule which details where each party will be doing their stuff from 27 May right through to the end of the campaign on 27 June.

As per the presidential election, most of the action is out of Dili early in the campaign but tends to concentrate back here towards the end. However, I can now mark my card if I want a little bit of light outdoor entertainment.

Today, PMD will be in Vera Cruz and tomorrow, PUN will be in Laulara, then nothing until Fretilin do Metinaro on Sunday. Then Fretilin are concentrating the rest of their campaign in and around Dili.

Interestingly, CNRT are really hammering outside of Dili and only doing one rally here at the end. In fact, many of the others are much the same. There is no doubt that Fretilin will be concentrating on Dili very hard. In a single electorate vote, concentrating on the biggest population centre makes sense from a “bang for your campaign buck” point of view.

Surfing the wedge

As everybody knows, typical Dili seascapes are of flat seas. Not your surfers dream.

Except if your Hawaii surfing days are over and you are surfing the wedge. Yes, you can surf off the beaches of Dili. No, it aint your typical Hawaiian cliff-like wave, but more your entry-level wave to the retirement home.

One metre hangers. Only old farts need apply. Scotch drinkers preferred. Bring your own panadol.

I am expecting a bit of flak for this one.