Another bad day

Sorry guys. Been a bit buzy protecting butt for a day and a bit. Was forced (by generally deteriorating situation rather than direct machete threat) to vacate Chez Squatter and seek a safer location.

Left computer running and packed small bag (plus can of baked beans) but returned later when military presence became more visible (minus can of baked beans).

Yesterday morning, I heard a few shots in the distance but otherwise the night was quiet (or I slept through it). However, by 9am dark clouds of smoke appeared in the mid-distance. It think it was somewhere near Vila Verde. The locals in my vicinity were extremely unsettled and some who had held out at home, decided it was also time to go. I received word that it might now be a good idea to move somewhere safer.

Then things started to get rough. It seemed that gangs of machete wielding youths were causing trouble in many places through town. I think the fear in the Timorese was the worst I had seen so far. It appeared to be complete and total lawlessness. By late morning, there were a number of smoke chimneys from houses that had been torched in the Vila Verde/Bairo Pite area.

On the streets, there was no sign of OZ troop vehicles and it was clear that although the C130 transports had shipped in many troops, they were a bit short on vehicles which were on the supply ships.

At lunchtime, the first sign of OZ army vehicles appeared and like magic, there was a huge reduction in fear levels. Many people went home. But until every 2nd street corner has a military vehicle on it, it is unlikely that full confidence will be restored.

Despite the mass evacuation of foreigners, there are still reasonable numbers of foreigners left. One acquaintance dropped around yesterday morning in his vehicle wondering what all the fuss was about. For lunch, another went down and bought pizzas – shorts, sandals, quick trip down to the Castaway Bar. No problem.

You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many people are emailing or texting all sorts of people to inform them whether they are staying or going. I already have numerous “I am in Darwin (or Bali)” emails. And also the email to meet up at a bar for a few beers tonight last night with those I know who have stayed and carried on as usual. I declined as the other half just couldn’t see the point.

I had a coffee at the Hotel Timor cafe yesterday afternoon with a few acquaintances prior to sticking my nose in on Prime Minister Alkatiri’s press conference. I thought I might be about to witness something significant, but no. It appears the government is in full control.

As I walk out past numerous gun-toting foreign troops, I don’t think so.

PS Running out of toilet paper so will be trying a supermarket trip today.

5 thoughts on “Another bad day

  1. Hi squatter:
    Thanks for ’emerging’ again…really helpful having you on the ground. Hey, look is the government really in control?? This just came in through the ABC:

    [..Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says the East Timorese police force no longer operates effectively.

    “The Foreign Minister of East Timor [Jose] Ramos-Horta told me yesterday that the East Timorese police just don’t exist any more, they’ve become completely dysfunctional,” he said.

    Prime Minister John Howard says the police will leave in the next 24 hours.

    “We need a police capacity as well as an Army capacity, some of the guards of jails have gone and there are some fundamental policing tasks that must be fulfilled,” he said…]

  2. Just started reading your blog. Stay safe–and thanks for giving us a real account of what’s happening.

  3. Really appreciate your updates. These days, I always go straight to blogs like yours to find out what’s actually happening, not what the media thinks I should know.

    I hope you remain safe and the situation calms down. From what I have read in your reports, however, it appears these current events have been a pile of tinderbrush just waiting for a spark to ignite it. Hopefully it will be a purging fire and wiser heads will prevail once the initial lawlessness is brought under control.

    Here in Oz it’s being reported that the Aust Govt didn’t do enough early enough and has been caught with its pants down. Do you see it this way or do you have another opinion?

  4. Spotted reptile,

    I honestly don’t think that the OZ govt. was caught with its pants down. For good international law reasons, the best OZ could do was prepare by moving ships and stuff to Darwin. If I recall, they were criticised for that too.

    They had to wait to be asked or face international ridicule. When the request came, they moved. The reality is that ships with vehicles still take time to reach Dili and unload and organise etc. etc. There are lots of guys here but not enough vehicles YET. I would never have thought the degree of lawlessness we see right now was possible. It is gobsmacking and I just do not understand what it is that makes so many people snap and become machete wielding yobbos.

    Its not the Australian government who caused this current situation. I am not a great fan of John Howard’s view of what Australia should be but I actually do agree with recent statements that the Timorese just have to learn to handle things themselves.

  5. Pingback: think mojo » East Timor - up close and personal

Comments are closed.