Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A Weekend Break

I’ve just spent a couple of days (Saturday and Sunday) in Bacau working for SBS television news, the thinking Australian’s channel of choice (so very small viewing figures there).
I think the accepted cliché for Bacau would have been “quiet but tense’. After an uneventful 2 hour and 14 minute trip (no traffic) we entered a very subdued town. There were Fretilin flags everywhere and the market had only about half the normal number of vendors.
We went upto the UN offices where an NGO were ‘re-locating’ to safer premises at the airport. We also had a bit of a trawl around town, filming the burnt out CRS compound, a destroyed kindergarten and quite a few other destroyed buildings. We were told by UN security that it was too dangerous to travel onto Vicqueque so we went back to the hotel, edited the piece and sent it via satellite from there. We had to order our dinner before 7pm as the staff was all going home as they were too afraid to stay overnight. I was given the keys to the hotel and so we settled down for the night. We didn’t feel at all apprehensive as we had 12 Bangladeshi police, with APC, guarding the hotel overnight.
Up early Sunday morning and off to film Mass at the local church. The main thing I noticed about the church ceremony was that the congregation consisted almost entirely of women, I would say around 97pct.
A few of the flags had been taken down and the atmosphere was a lot more ‘normal’ than the previous day. We went around town, filming here and there and then set off back to Dili. As we drove through the Metinaro IDP camp we were a bit more alert than usual as there had been reports of cars being stoned here. As it happened, most of the people in the camp waved at us, “hello Mr.’ red” us and saw us on our way. We shouldn’t have been so complacent though, as about 5km’s outside of the camp we got rocked! No injuries, slight damage to the car, although if you knew my car you would be hard put to spot the rock marks amidst all the other dents and scratch’s.
Once back in Dili, we edited the piece, sent it off and parked off for the rest of the day.
On Monday we got an interview with Dr. Mari Alkatiri who told us, among other things, that Fretilin would not be boycotting parliament and that they (the Party) strongly condemned any and all violence occurring in their name. Immediately after we had an interview with H.E. JRH who basically said the same thing. This was straight after a meeting between JRH, MA and the SRSG.
There was a few reports on Monday of rock throwing and fighting at the airport, so I was backwards and forwards between there and the town a few times, but it was all very low key compared to the past.
Right now things are very quiet in Dili. Its Assumption day today (whatever that is) so a lot of people will have the day off and I would imagine the day will carry on in this quiet way.
Let’s hope so.

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5 comments:

maps said...

Nice dog. Can you lend me your time machine, so that next time rioting breaks out in East Timor I can go forward in time and read about rapes and arsons that haven't been reported yet, and thus avoid your pentrating criticisms? I promise to return the machine before I borrow it.

fat old sod said...

You're right, I'm wrong. Bugger.

maps said...

Fair enough in a way though. As an on the spot journo you must get annoyed at the way that commentators back home stitch together blog posts out of fragments of primary material. I've criticised the tendency to a manichaen view of East Timorese politics:
http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-tears-for-alkatiri.html
What is your assessment of the situation now? Has East Timor settled down, and if so what will Fretilin's next move be?

fat old sod said...

You are right, it does get a bit annoying. For example, in your article it mentions demonstrators greeting John Howard on his recent birthday visit here. Whilst no lover of Bonsai (little Bush) I gotta tell you that the ‘demonstrators’ were about 8 boys with a hastily made and mis-spelt banner.
The situation now is pretty calm, at least in Dili, but I understand bad things are still happening in the far east of the country. As to Fretilins plans, its hard to say. In public they have said they will now attend Parliament and that they are sending their representatives to the districts to try and calm the situation. Which begs the question: ‘Why do they feel the need to do so if it is not their supporters doing the bad things?’
From a personal point of view, I have been very impressed by the ISF forces here, especially the Kiwis (no, I’m not sucking up). It must be very frustrating for the soldiers here as really this is not a military situation but more of a policing op.
We have had lots of enquiries from potential tourists (the diving here is spectacular) but only the more intrepid have dared to come here. The feedback when they leave is all positive and most people say they will come back at a later date to spend more time exploring the whole country.
That’s about it. By the way, nice blog. I’ve put you on my links as a weird Aussie bloke but I think I may have done you a disservice. Are you a weird Kiwi bloke?

George said...

Interesting post... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your blog. I'm sure I'd visit here more often. George from weekend breaks.