Rampaging news reports

It has actually been reasonably quiet in Dili over the last couple of weeks. Any trouble has been out of town in the Ermera, Baucau and Viqueque areas (with Uatulari being particularly bad). Last week there was the Metinaro incident which I saw reported as :

“TWO people were killed as hundreds of rampaging youths torched dozens of houses and clashed across East Timor”

Makes it sound like widespread insurrection or the like. While I don’t doubt that the Baucau and Viqueque stuff was politically motivated, the Ermera and Metinaro incidents don’t seem to be “violence … sparked by the appointment of independence hero Xanana Gusmao as Prime Minister” as reported in the same article.

Near IDP camps, there have always been tensions between camp residents and local residents. Setting up shops in competition … acquiring land against local wishes … perhaps nicking a wandering dog or pig for culinary purposes. I understand it was one of these sorts of issues (a dispute over a soccer game) which led to a rather over the top response. Burning houses down is a very popular form of retribution. Most of the time, we are talking about small shacks rather than houses as we know them in the west. Often wooden frames with galvanised iron walls and roof or perhaps bamboo slatted walls and a skillfully constructed palm leaf roof. And maybe only 2 or 3 separate rooms covering an area of 30 square metres in all.

The fact is that tensions are higher than normal around IDP camps and people are on the edge. If you were an IDP camp resident and you still didn’t feel like leaving because you didn’t trust the security situation, then I guess you wouldn’t trust the police to sort out a local issue. You sort it yourself.

Everyone would like to see the IDP camps disperse but today I noticed 2 camps flying large new Fretilin flags outside. This may not be the way to reduce tensions.

2 thoughts on “Rampaging news reports

  1. Thanks for that Squatter. I agree some of the recent sporadic incidents of violence have been hyped by media outlets. And the distinction between Dili and the districts is hardly ever made.

    I think reports of August 13-14 from Uatolari and Venilale were not exaggerated. Two sucos in Uatolari in particular were hard hit.

    I do not know the exact causes of this violence. I have some ideas, having followed the conflicts there for a while.

    But I do know that any attempt to paint it as “ethnic” is completely bogus, and plays into the hands of those who wish to foment chaos.

    Here is the government’s own accounting for the destruction:

    Statistics, by suco of houses burned and destroyed and affected populations:

  2. Thanks for all that. There is no way I can claim to know what happened out east but my point is that grouping all violence as anti-government (or whatever) is just not true. Sure, one can take 10 steps back and say most of it is due to a government (whether past or present) not functioning at peak performance, but some of the reporting just makes the violence seem to be rooted from the same immediate cause.

    I tend to look at things from the perspective of “what would I think if I was in OZ and read this stuff”. We all know that all reporting (anywhere) tends to reflect the extreme events and not the more mundane day-to-day events, so sometimes I just oar in and take a more mundane and hopefully accurate local approach. It is not necessarily better or more informative, just a different perspective.

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