Another bad day

Got only 4 hours sleep last night. I wouldn’t be the only one pretty tired around here. Nervous energy being consumed in large quantities by everyone.

This morning from first light, has been marked by the sound of propellor-driven aircraft, presumably Hercules C130s as the press have reported. There is either a lot of them or a lot of circling going on.

One notices this as as the only normal air traffic is the regular AirNorth flights to Darwin and Merpati flights to Bali. So I assume it is all Australian and perhaps one Malaysian aircraft.

The UN released details of the casualties from an encounter between FDTL soldiers and the police after army soldiers attacked the police headquarters :

“As the unarmed police were being escorted out, army soldiers opened fire on them killing nine and wounding 27 others, including two UN police advisers,” Dujarric said.

This is just after the UN police attached to the local police had brokered a deal to lay down weapons and leave the building. Now, where I come from the army don’t usually gun down unarmed police. If anyone needed an excuse for foreign intervention, this sort of thing could be it.

But so far, the foreign press are missing out on the general lawlessness. I believe the casualty count from smaller scale conflict involving neither army, police or rebels will turn out to be a lot higher than this.

The katana (ie machete) has been given a good workout all over Dili over the last 36 hours. The general fear level is probably the highest it has been, only tempered by being more accustomed to it after a few weeks.

No matter how this all started, the problem is more than a dispute between a rebel army group. Not only is there a fractured army, but also a fractured police, ethnic disputes related to the east/west (lorosae/loromonu) divide and uncontrollable gangs of young men all mixed together.

The local TV news last night and this morning restricted coverage to reporting that the Australians had arrived and that the President had taken control of the military. No word on the conflicts during the day. The Portuguese TV had a quite long coverage and apart from showing a clip of the Portuguese Prime Minister promising 120 personnel, also had Prime Minister Alkatiri disagreeing with the President for not seeking parliamentary approval for the foreign intervention. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out their are also problems in governance.

The weather is absolutely magnificent and it belies the conflict that is taking place. There are people down the seafront, foreigners on their morning walk and an Australian frigate doing a continuous loop along a 5 to 10km stretch of water off Dili.

I have not heard a single word indicating that trouble has been anywhere else but Dili and its surroundings.