My take on security issues

Personal Security

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been instances of expats being targets for projectiles. I think in most cases, the projectile throwers would not have even known the nationality of the target in the dark and behind motorcycle helmets or in 4WDs.

However, the frequency of these events is rising. Perhaps the most disturbing event was a female expat who collected a “rama ambon” smashing through the driver’s window and into the dashboard. “rama ambons” are steel darts fired from a slingshot which are barbed, feathered and silent. One of these can pierce a skull. It appeared to be a random event and disturbingly in an area not seen as being one of the known troublespots.

I have been saying for some time that it is only a matter of time before an expat is seriously injured. I guess it is more likely it will be a foreign policeman. And when it happens, it will be front page news somewhere. Yet Timorese have been going through the local medical facilities with machete slashes and the like for ages.

It has also become clear that both organisations and individuals are taking security more seriously. It appears quite a number of foreign organisations have some form of security advisor who keeps tabs on the situation. Reading the foreign press is very misleading at the moment as the daily rock throwing and house burning is not really reported anymore.

Being a relatively small expat community, the information provided to staff tends to spread around. Eventually, any localised events are made known. For instance, a friend told me recently that during “Quiz Night” at the Dili Club, a number of people received either text messages or phone calls warning of trouble. This sort of more formal sharing of security information is new (to me anyway).

One of the general bits of advice is “avoid going out between 6:00pm and 8:30pm” as this period is the most dangerous period. There is no doubt there is talk of this stuff being organised to the point of being timetabled.

According to a local restaurant owner, business fell after the prison escape of Major Alfredo and plummeted after the shootings 2 Fridays ago. The Fatuhada/Comorro area remains a bad area but there has been a shift in emphasis to the IDP camp located in the park across from Hotel Timor and right outside the front gates of the port facility (ie the OZ defence force base).

The boys move north from the Colmera shopping area and commence their rock fights across the main thoroughfare. The road is often closed once this starts and when combined with the one-way road system, makes going places a bit difficult (particularly from west to east).

Just as I have fear that an expat will be seriously injured soon, it may only be a matter of time before the rock throwing includes some little extras like “rama ambons” which ought to scare anyone. Even bow and arrow would lift the tempo of these little outbreaks.

Postscript : Since I first started writing this, I think the foreign troops have done a little push in the Hotel Timor area and it has been quieter.

Major Alfredo Reinado

As for Major Alfredo Reinado, my understanding is that Becora prison does not operate like a typical western prison. I believe inmates “were” allowed to wander outside freely during the day and were pretty free to do what they liked inside. So the prison “breakout” was probably not as dramatic as reports would make out. More like storming out in a huff from a day care centre.

I would be surprised if the OZ military do not know exactly where the Major is right now, but may be perfectly happy to simply monitor the Major’s movements. I can see no sign right now that the Major intends to do anything dramatic but who knows the extent of his powers of patience.

I would be amazed if the Major was in any position to do anything to cause a security issue.

Postscript 11 Sept.

– What I meant was I didn’t think the Major could personally be involved in any major conflict. Recent reports suggest he will still cause a fair bit of trouble on the general stability side with calls to unseat the current government.

2 thoughts on “My take on security issues

  1. Hi Squatter,
    Thanks for your Dili blog, I have found it to be the best information source so far on current conditions in Dili. I was a press photographer during the 1999 independence vote and in the UN compound during its post vote siege. I then worked for three months in the Bobonaro district distributing aid for an NGO organisation. In October I will be returning to Dili for a prolonged stay through to the election next year. I am not sure in what capacity I will be able to assist and I am on a ridiculously low budget but I believe with my feet on the ground in Dili, something will present itself. I am very multi skilled. Thank you for your valuable insights into Timor at present, most appreciated. kind regards, Steve Tickner

  2. Thanks Steve, I hope things work out. With the (maybe temporary) demise of the local Timor Sun, their malae photographer is scratching to earn some coin. There has been an influx of logistics people (eg Patricks) who are taking over some of the support infrastructure for the foreign troops and police. Maybe the UN will go the same way.

    Its only a matter of time before the police are allowed out and suddenly, the restaurants will ratchet up a gear.

    However, at night the streets are still deserted and perhaps more so than ever right now. There is talk from the locals that there will be trouble in the next couple of days. Based on past rumours like this, I’d give it a 50% chance of turning out that way.

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