Dili Unrest #10

Firstly, the foreign media appear to have caught up with things now.

Tuesday was the first normal workday since the major trouble started at noon Friday. Most things seemed normal except people numbers were down and about 1 in 3 of all shops were still closed.

I re-commenced my evening bicycle ride down to the Cristo Rei statue and back. It seems half the expat community had done the same and I stopped about 4 times to chew the fat with friends and acquaintances. Everyone has their own little take on things that are happening around them.

For instance, there has been a bit of a run on stocking up fuel used by cars and power generators. Many expats live in accommodation that either runs off generators or at least, has them as backup when the Dili grid fails (which is frequent). Wholesale prices rose 10 to 20% on diesel. Some had run out over the weekend and could not get supplies.

Most told me that a lot of local staff from wherever they happened to live or work had not showed up for work.

The foreign press have caught up with things at the Don Bosco Seminary where Father Adriano has estimated 10,000 were there on Sunday night. Numbers have reduced but many are not returning to their Dili homes but are heading for other provincial towns.

Australia’s ABC has confirmed 6 dead but the local talk is that this figure will rise. I can confirm that the number of houses destroyed at Tasi Tolu is between 20 and 25, not 100 as has appeared in the press.


It appears that the destruction at Tasi Tolu village occured a bit like this. :

  • petitioners/protestors march to the government buildings
  • things go pear-shaped and 2 “loromonu” (ie westerners) are killed
  • other westerners SMS their mates at Tasi Tolu and tell them the “lorosae” (easterners) are heavying the westerners back in town
  • the westerners torch easterners houses in Tasi Tolu and “some” people are killed
  • the military (mostly easterners) head out to Tasi Tolu to sort it out
  • conflict takes place with an unknown number of casualties
  • westerners are chased up into the hills
  • military chase them up into the hills
  • easterners who lost their houses are holed up in a military camp with few possessions
  • The point is that initially this conflict did not seem to involve the petitioners/protestors.


    Dili is the only real urban centre in Timor-Leste and attracts a huge number of people from around the country who are seeking fame and fortune. So, in a Timorese sense, it is a melting pot of many different racial groups from around the country. Many people are either from somewhere else or at least, the family roots are somewhere else.

    So at the first sign of trouble, the usual reaction is to seek refuge at one’s family base. For many, this is outside of Dili.

    This morning (Wednesday) it seemed clear that there was a slow and steady movement out of Dili. Local people are very nervous. The rumour mill is extraordinary. No-one knows what is going to happen next. The government don’t seem to be doing much except try to encourage people to go back home and stay calm. At this stage, no-one is believing this.

    This would explain the lower number of people around the place and the closed shops.

    The military withdrew from Dili on Sunday afternoon and there has been no sign of any trouble since. People say there has been the odd scuffle. Having seen the destroyed Taibesi market (and regretting not having been there before), trouble was always expected at the Comorro market. I have been told that the Comorro traders banded together and have successfully resisted attempts to burn them down as well.

    I believe that one senior military commander appeared on local TV and said that the military response to violence would be violence. Apparently, this has gone over like a ton of bricks. I can’t understand why !