Saturday, March 25, 2006

Loromonu and Lorosa’e

Trouble is brewing in Timor. Tensions between those from the western part of Timor (the “loromonu” which also means sunset) and those from the east (the “lorosa’e” which also means sunrise) are coming to the fore due to the decision to stand down nearly 600 soldiers, all of whom are “loromonu”. The soldiers claim that there is systematic discrimination and nepotism in the new nation’s army in favour of the “lorosa’e” and they demand that their claims be investigated by an independent panel. After a month since the allegations were publicly aired, the soldiers were fired from the F-FDTL without any resolution of the issues.

The “lorosa’e” claims that the “loromonu” did little to stop the Indonesian invasion in 1975 and allowed them to pillage and rampage for the next 24 years. The “lorosa’e” say that they were the strong fighters who resisted the Indonesians while their brothers in the west were “weak”. However, in defence of the people in the west of the country, they endured the onslaught of the invasion because they live near the border with Indonesian West Timor while those in the east tended to escape the worst excesses of the military.

It’s interesting how definitions of what’s masculine, brave and strong are utilised by Timorese men in their claims that some are more “manly” than others (in this case the “lorosa’e”). Furthermore, that women are left out of the picture entirely, which is understandable really, war is overwhelmingly a male occurrence and women’s bodies are simply used and abused as a means to further “emasculate” the “enemy”.

It would appear that these tensions between the east and west date back some time. How far back in Timor’s history I do not know. During the Indonesian occupation, the people of Timor were united against a common external enemy but now that enemy has gone, the old tensions resurface. With the slightest provocation (a la Xanana’s speech), people resume fighting each other, and violence is their first recourse, not dialogue. This situation is not unusual in pre-modern and post conflict societies but still, it’s sad.

Early this evening we found it difficult to find a taxi to take us from the main street in our neighbourhood to a restaurant closer into town. It was only 7pm and yet no taxis were in sight. While we were waiting by the side of the road, a couple of carloads of PNTL (police) officers passed us by heading west towards Tasi Tolu. Trouble was brewing in our neighbouring village. We gave up waiting for a taxi and caught a “mikrolet” to the Leader supermarket and there, caught a taxi to the restaurant. Daniel asked the driver if there was a problem and he confirmed our suspicions, indeed trouble was brewing in Tasi Tolu.

We left the restaurant at around 10pm and again, found it difficult to get home. The small number of taxi drivers we flagged down refused to drive us to Tasi Tolu. We finally convinced a driver to take us but for a price. He wanted $10 when we would normally pay $2 or $3 so we negotiated $4 which he accepted. Upon arrival to Rai Kotu, the street was deserted. A little apprehensively, we walked down our small dirt road but all around us was deathly silence. We arrived home safe and sound, although our hearts were beating just a little faster than usual.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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