Dili Unrest #13

I read in this morning’s on-line Australian newspaper : “20,000 Flee Dili Fearing Civil War”. Yes, there is a degree of anxiety, but it has been a slow and steady exodus and I am not sure where the civil war bit is coming from.

I have seen and listened to a Timorese family go through the mental processes associated with leaving town. Family groups appear much stronger and tighter than a typical western family. Often only 1 or 2 people in an entire extended family bring home income and it is not uncommon for one breadwinner to be feeding 10 or more people. Homes may also contain extended family.

Some of these family groups can be quite large and in the case I am relating here, around 30 people including 5 or so babies. Initially, they were going to seek refuge but after hearing that refuges were no luxury resort, thought again. Then they considered moving to the family base way out in the east. But the logistics were going to be difficult. Not enough cars in a fit enough state or the likelihood of having to spread the group over a number of buses for a long trip on pot-holed roads.

In the end, the family leader (not the oldest, but one of the breadwinners with an education) was asked to make the call. After many tears, she did. Basically, they agreed that “we have had enough of all this … we live together … we die together”. That’s how emotional and edgy this is to many Timorese.