It is really difficult trying to get a handle on what is really going on here and why.

The local press seem to have relatively easy access to the rebel groups. So the TV news gets regular feedback from the rebel groups and the government activities. However, I am not sure this represents the definitive view of the entire situation.

Now, there are foreign English-speaking reporters doing their bit to find out what is going on. However, the Portuguese media (eg LUSA) probably have a better handle on things than these guys.

The foreign embassies do their bit as they have responsibilities to their citizens, but you tend to only get formal information from them via travel warnings. Other information tends to be passed informally but with an emphasis on only reporting known facts.

A large part of the information flow comes in the form of rumour. The informal network that exists amongst Timorese is astounding. News travels fast, courtesy of mobile phones and texting. I think I have been spared a lot of the more outlandish rumours, but it is rumour that seems to spook the Timorese more than anything else.

After a couple of weeks, rumour has tended to settle a bit. I think many people are so tired of responding to rumour and going through another domestic upheaval when the rumour does not eventuate. I know some are consciously trying not to spread something they heard just in case it spooks someone else and is incorrect.

But it has made it very difficult to know just what is exactly going on. The natural tendency for foreigners I know is to compare notes on what they have seen or heard (usually via staff at their workplace). If a pattern appears, then one tends to go with it.

Personally, I like to make the distinction between rumour and speculation. I prefer to think rumour refers to reporting on historic events and speculation refers to the future. The accuracy rate of rumour (ie historic) has been a lot higher than of speculation (ie future events) and if you only knew which bits to throw away, amongst what is left is a reasonable interpretation of the facts.

So I try to ask a friend what she is hearing on her grapevine but can’t get through to her because when rumours are running hot, the mobile phone network comes to a halt. Rumour has it that the phone company is controlling access to slow the spread of rumour but that is one rumour I will happily throw away.

One thought on “Rumours

  1. This is from the RDTL government this afternoon:



    Timor-Leste requests international support

    This Wednesday, 24 May 2006, the violence erupted
    again in Dili. Military Elements of Timor-Leste´s
    defence forces, FALINTIL-Forças de Defesa de
    Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) were today again attacked by
    breakaway, renegade elements of the F-FDTL, in
    Taci Tolu. In face of that, the Government with
    the support of the President of Republic, Xanana
    Gusmão, and the Speaker of the National
    Parliament, Francisco Guterres “Lu’Olo”, formally
    requested to the Governments of Australia,
    Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal the urgent
    sending of military and police forces. The aim of
    this help is to re-establish, as soon as
    possible, the public order, the respect of the
    law, normality and the stability, needed to develop the country.

    This request is due of the fear clime that the
    renegade elements of the F-FDTL have created
    among the population and due to the difficulty
    showed by F-FDTL and police to control the
    situation. And also because of the strong will of
    the Government to avoid killings.

    The international support has been requested by
    letters to the chiefs of Governments of
    Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal,
    signed by the President of Republic, by the
    president of the National Parliament, and by the Prime Minister, Mari

    To Australia and New Zealand, the Government
    requests military support to work with F-FDTL. To
    the Governments of Malaysia and Portugal the
    request has been to receive special police forces
    to support and train the PNTL. In the case of
    Portugal, this is the reiteration of a request
    made recently to the Portuguese Prime-Minister
    for the sending of a company of the GNR, whose
    mission would be to train the Fast Intervention
    Unit of PNTL, remaining in the country until the next year’s elections.

    The request to the four governments was made at a
    bilateral level, together with an appeal to the
    United Nations to support this intervention at a
    multilateral level action. That was due to the
    need to fasten the effectiveness of the response.

    The Government awaits with serenity the answer of
    our friends, in the certain that these will not abandon Timor-Leste.

    In a meeting, this morning, with the President of
    the Republic and with the Speaker of the
    Parliament, the Head of Government presented the
    situation in Dili, repeating the need to use the
    F-FDTL to control the situation, having this
    position deserved the support of the head of
    State and the Speaker of the National Parliament.

    Díli, 24th May, 2006

    For further information, please contact the media advisor:
    Rui Flores (tel. +670 723 01 40 ou rui.flores

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