A quiet Sunday

Sundays are usually fairly quiet.  Most shops are closed and if you see large groups, they are usually going to and from church.  The expat supermarkets are always open and I had decided to do a big shop, mainly as I had run out of breakfast cereal but also because the other half was slaving over the cooktop doing something substantial for dinner.

Mid-afternoon I went to Landmark supermarket and noticed the streets extremely quiet if not deserted.  There were a couple of police vehicles with small crowds around them but otherwise nothing.  I thought something must be “going down” (a phrase often used here) when I saw (& heard) the Blackhawk doing quite small circling in an area of Fatuhada only a couple of hundred metres away.

As is quite common, Landmark could not satisfy the full requirements of the shopping list so it was off to Cold Storage at the other end of town.  Still deathly quiet and I thought “this is just what it was like back in May/June”.  Something feels wrong.

And so it was.  Later in the day, Radio Australia reported trouble following the discovery of 2 human torsos in the Comorro market area.  RA reported that 100 foreign police were called in.  Even later in the day, I noticed very slow response when texting on my mobile – 20 minutes before actual delivery of messages.  This was reminiscent of the mobile phone meltdown several months back when everyone was sharing the news on whats going on.

So even though things are generally under control, the tensions in the community are incredibly high and one wonders what can be done to bring it down.  Certainly not  job creation for the major construction works going on in town – landscaping work in the carpark and on the beachfront outside the Palacio do Governo.

7 thoughts on “A quiet Sunday

  1. The difference between May and now is that in May, as a foreigner, I felt completely safe. Now, I do not. After having many fellow expatriate friends whose cars were specifically targeted with rocks (not by some accidental caught in the crossfire kind of thing), I’m far more worried for the safety of my family then I was in May.

  2. I think a couple of months back I said a similar thing after some expats were nearly hit by rama ambons. I assumed that as it was dark, there was no specific targeting of the foreigner, but a higher degree of randomness. I think I also said that it was only a matter of time before a foreigner gets “whacked”. I still think that it so. I don’t have a better feel about the targeting of expats. Everyone seems to have a slightly different take depending on circumstances.

    By the way, I have been told (over lunch) that there were no dismembered bodies and only one killing on Saturday. Radio OZ and others must have believed local reports. More disinformation perhaps – to stir up dissent ? Or reverse misinformation to do the opposite ?

  3. Yes, we are hearing the same. Security officials for a variety of organizations around town (embassies, ngo’s, etc.) are all unable to comfirm anything about mutilated bodies being found in sacks. Assumption is someone is trying to stir up trouble through misinformation–though still anything is possible.

  4. Certainly looks that way. And it seems to have worked. Locals seem increasingly nervous even though a full scale blow-out is more unlikely than it was back in May. But who knows what is in store next.

  5. I havent been back to TL since early April and intend to be in Dili again in the next week and so find reading your entries incredibly useful – between my nearly non-existent Tetum and our local manager’s English we managed to narrow it down to “still very bad situation” (but come anyway). We are still trading but our staff are understandably jumpy and I am a little concerned I am not fully up to speed with the situation in town. (And why have the govt decreed a two-day public holiday?).

  6. Firstly, I think the holiday is to celebrate end of Ramadan.

    If you left before 28 April then it is a little difficult to compare the various changes in mood that have happened since. Early on, most expats knew little about what and where problems were. Word of mouth tended to be the main method. Now, many organisations seem to have security officers who plug themselves into the UN police information machine and provide regular advice to staff. The embassies did a lot of that in May and June but have stopped now, I think.

    During the day, I tend to think things are OK but most people are wary from dusk onwards. There is not much movement at night and by 4WD vehicle only. Most expats do not tend to live in the real problem areas although the Fatuhada and Bebonuk areas have tended to be both trouble spots and some expats do live in that area.

    In general, the guarded residence compounds are fine. Guns have not been used for quite some time and the UN police do respond quickly to trouble. They advise that if you see either a large group of locals or a police roadblock, to simply turn around and consider a route change. A mobile phone with the UN police number on hand is advisable.

    Its hard to be definitive and hard to recommend when every individual has their own risk aversion level. I still cycle but frequency is probably half what it was early in the year. Night-time cycling (which one might say was dangerous before April anyway) is no longer a preferred option.

    What concerns me more these days is speeding. I regularly see vehicles (usually 4WDs) doing 100+kph over-taking other vehicles in Dili proper while I am cycling. They probably do not notice me giving them the finger.

  7. Hi Squatter, really grateful for your advice as it truly is hard to get a proper handle on what’s going on. I know what youre saying about the changes in mood since April 28. I was leaving as the first lot of trouble in Tacitolu was happening. The streets were deserted by 7pm and you just knew something was building. I think the scariest feeling I’ve had in TL was driving from Lecidere to Pantai Kelapa quite early int he evening and not a soul on the street the entire way back.

    As for security, unfortunately for us, we dont have the benefit of an advisor so its usually a case of “lick finger and point upwards”, shut our doors and hope for the best – sound familiar?

    This morning our manager in Dili says more trouble in Tuana Laran / Comoro yesterday and last night, with one of our staff stuck out towards Dom Bosco unable to get out of the area. Still want to get out there? Absolutely. The place grows on you. Keep up the great work!

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