Monday, July 31, 2006

Helicopters at night

For the past week after dark, helicopters have been flying over the house in Aitarak-laran. On one occasion one flew over at 1am and needless to say woke me up. Living next to the airport in Raikotu, we are very used to hearing and seeing military helicopters coming and going but not many do so after nightfall.
I assume that the increase in military surveillance is a result of increasing tensions in the community since Major Alfredo Reinado was arrested by the GNR on the 25 July. Supporters of Reinado, are not happy that the GNR arrested him as they see it as a political move by Alkatiri’s supporters. Reinado is ostensibly supported by the Australians, and had been left to his own devices, until the GNR stepped in.

In brief the theory goes something like this: Alkatiri is supported by the Portuguese and by extension, the GNR will arrest anyone not supportive of him; Gusmao, Ramos-Horta and Reinado are supported by the Australians and by extension its military and police personnel won’t arrest these same people, instead focussing on the Alkatiri supporters. Apart from a grossly oversimplified idea of the politics and competing interests here, this is also quite an insult to both military groups' professionalism!

Over the weekend the Australian Federal Police arrested 40 men, 19 of whom were planning an attack from a banana plantation near the airport on an IDP camp. During the course of the weekend, six houses were burnt down. Violence regularly flares up at Komoro market and inevitably, one sees the increasingly hated GNR called out to diffuse (or is that inflame?) the situation.

Meanwhile the Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian governments have begun to withdraw their troops. By the end of the month, Malaysia will have withdrawn all its military personnel leaving behind its police. Australia is downgrading its personnel but plans to keep 2,000 troops in Timor. There is no doubt that the main issue is policing and the yet to be created new UN mission in Timor will hopefully have a large contingent of international police as part of its mandate.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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