Dili Unrest #12

Despite a high level of general uneasiness yesterday, I slept well.

The dead quiet continues. The exodus out of Dili continues. There are police around town but obviously public confidence has evaporated despite no hint of any organised violence in recent days.

President Xanana Gusmao made an appearance on TV today and appealed for calm and asked people to return to their homes. After an unexplainably long absence from public view, Prime Minister Alkatiri also appeared next to him. It will need someone more proficient than me to analyse just what was said and what it all meant.

The Dili town water supply stopped this morning and one suspects that due to staff leaving town, there is a shortage of people left to maintain equipment. Government offices were closed during the morning.

The mobile phone network is pretty much unusable due to overload but SMS messages seem to eventually get through.

It appears that the number of “refugees” at the catholic retreats has increased again, but there are clear indications these places have become transit stations for travel to other parts of the country. The foreign diplomatic and aid communities have pretty much taken up the task of looking after Timorese in these refuges.

I have seen the terror that seems to overcome some people. With images still clearly etched in memories from 6 years ago, I have heard locals talk about “we stay together, we die together”. Yet, from where I stand/sit, I can’t see who or what is going to cause this sort of a problem. Sure, public confidence has hit rock-bottom, but I don’t see anyone with the muscle or need to indulge in more violence. Well, I hope so.

This morning, there were warnings of likely trouble today but from where, no-one seems to know. And nothing happened.

2 thoughts on “Dili Unrest #12

  1. Dili-gence,

    Nice blog! Your assessment of the situation is informative but it must be noted that due to the difficult history Timor has been through, the population is very sensitive to perceived threat. It was not much more than a year ago that a group of young pranksters drove through Dili in the back of a dump truck yelling “tsunami”. There were no signs of tremors or receding tide and the ocean was actually very calm.

    The resulting response by the polulation was unimaginable. Mass panic resulted in people packing up their homes to head up into the mountains to avoid the incoming wave. Reports from Timorese estimated the number of people fleeing at levels equal if not higher than that during the violence in 1999. It tooks weeks for the situation to normalize and for people to feel safe enough to return to Dili.

    Now, following the incident ending the peacful protest last Friday, rumors have begun to fly. There are several rumors spreading that contradict each other. To discuss them is to give them merit. I firmly believe that the situation reflects more the deep seated trauma that the population endured during occupation and violence in 1999 and it is our collective responsibility to avoid feeding conspiracy theories that will only aggravate the situation.

    Thanks from Dili

  2. Nick,

    Yes, I heard about the tsunami stuff. I do try to offer informative and (as best as I can do) straight down-the-line stuff on what is happening. I would be more worried about some of the pieces in the traditional press like the Australian which talks about “20,000 fleeing … civil war”.

    Mostly I am keeping friends and relatives up-to-date with just what is happening or not happening. Until quite recently, very few outside my own personal circles knew about the blog and I have no agenda apart from deciding a while back that repeating the same email over and over to multiple people was too tiring.

    I take your point – no more deck-chairs.

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