Its hard to know just what many people outside Timor-Leste think about the state of personal security here. It would appear that there are no English speaking reporters based here to paint a continuous picture on this.
I also get the feeling that the Timorese government do not want security issues to be seen as the most important issue here. (Most governments do not like advertising negatives.)
I suppose I have just become accustomed to the new reality. At least there are no armed personnel carriers patrolling the streets – that stopped months ago. Chopper work reduced a month or so ago but it is still a surefire indicator of trouble somewhere around town if you hear one circling. There are definitely more UN police around now so you know one is never far away.
Many expats operate under movement restrictions courtesy of employers directives. Some are not allowed to use vehicles after dark, some are not allowed to use taxis, some have been directed to move their place of abode to safer parts of town and to premises with higher security (eg behind walls and guarded).
I was talking to one of the many Filipinos working here recently. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss is about. It happens every day in Manila and worse. But I pointed out that the security issues here are affecting government stability and anyone could be affected.
On Sunday, I was going to a friend’s place at dusk but Comorro Road appeared to be blocked near the OZ Embassy so I just took an alternative route. (The police were just tidying up after the big dust-up near the mosque on Sunday.) Earlier, I had been to to the Tasi Tolu races and had a great day but I was told of another expat who had been at the beach at Tasi Tolu that afternoon (perhaps at Dili Rock). He was threatened with a machete and had his car windows broken. I can understand why you might spend a bit more time at home after that. You note these things and move on.
The word is that the number of security incidents is falling but the average severity of the incidents is increasing. The rumour mill has it that there will be an increase in security-related incidents in the New Year. But of course, if you expect it and prepare for it, it might not actually happen. A couple of weeks ago, the F-FDTL (Timorese Army) returned to the streets of Dili with loaded weapons and they are not obliged to take orders from UN police or foreign military. I know this makes some people a bit nervous.
One disconcerting feature that has appeared over the last week or so, is the regular sound of fireworks – some of the home-made variety. So if it really was gunfire, it would be easy to dismiss it as fireworks and not get excited at all.
I think I have developed a 6th sense. The eyes and ears are on alert for anything out of the ordinary. In general, you are out of trouble if it is more than 100 metres away. You don’t rubber-neck, you just move on. Try not to appear to be Australian, Portuguese or Indonesian. Icelandic is a big winner.
So Santa, I will leave the the full specs for my new digital camera on the fridge door – got it ? Just leave it and move on. Sorry, no gin this year.
Just got a chance to have a look through your recent postings. Hope Christmas and New Year in paradise a good one. Thanks for the insights and look forward to more in 2007.