Monday, May 01, 2006

(East Timor Problems) May Day in Dili

Today we came to Daniel’s work to check emails and upload new blog posts. We again walked down our little street and noticed that although a few more of our neighbours had returned home, the place was still rather quiet. We decided to walk along the main road so that we could take photos of the burned down coffee sellers houses before catching a mikrolete into town. The road was quite busy, a noticeable change from yesterday. The mikrolete driver and conductor told us that the fare would be 20c each as the price of petrol had risen to $1 a litre. We thought nothing of this as this is the official fare set by the government that we tend to pay regardless. However, we have noticed that the mikrolete drivers and conductors often only charge 10c if the price of petrol is reasonable. Some other passengers were less pleased and a few kids were refused a ride because they didn’t have the extra fare.

The talk amongst passengers was about how, even though few people had experienced violence, large numbers of people who had left their homes to seek shelter had been robbed in their absence. This also happened during the tsunami scare early last year. It is just appalling how some people will take advantage of others in times of fear!

Upon disembarking, I again tried to buy a telephone card from a young man confined to a wheelchair who appears to have no legs. Again, he wanted $11 so I said I would wait. Daniel thought we could have considered the extra dollar as a donation, but I remain opposed to these particular market forces, verging too near opportunism for my liking.

Some of Daniel’s colleagues were at work despite it being a national holiday. Most of them asked how he was, given that he lived in a manas (hot) area.

When Daniel checked his email he was astonished to read a series of emails from one of his colleagues who had spent two nights sleeping at their workplace. His emails were to us extreme, but understandable given his past experiences. In the first email he said that this would probably be his last as he was in all likelihood going to die. Daniel and I had commented to each other that we were incredibly naïve when it came to violence perpetrated by one human being on another. We have been fortunate to live our lives in a safe and secure country, free of organised violence. Although we have felt tense and a little worried about what might happen, we certainly have not thought that things were as serious as many Timorese did.

We also have had the benefit of being in contact with both the Australian Embassy, the AVI Country Manager, Radio Australia, BBC World News Service and local television and radio which kept us informed as the situation developed. None of these media outlets reported anything as extreme as we heard on the rumour mill, which is how most Timorese obtain their news. However, their recent past has traumatised them to such an extent that any outbreak of violence, leads them to flee their homes in search of safety. Although not always visible on the outside, their scars run deep and (paradoxically perhaps) are never far from the surface.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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