|Subject: PUB: The Magic of the White Vehicle
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:34:03 -0400
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: Publico Date: 3 June 1999 Dateline : Dili Byline : Luciano Alvarez** Scope : Abridged Original Language : Portuguese Headline : The Magic of the White Vehicle
** Publicos envoy to Dili for the run-up to the 8 August ballot For 3 days, Publico accompanied a UN mission on a journey that took them over 500 kms of the disputed territorys terrain: Dili, Baucau, Lospalos, Viqueque and back to Dili." "An island of contrasts, where intimidation by the pro-integration militias has terrorised the people, who speak only of independence. The breeze of freedom sweeps through the white vehicle of the United Nations that loosens tongues and rekindles hope in the Timor of the dazzling green mountains, of the disappearing rice paddies, where the arrival of the asphalted road has not changed primitive habits. The UN mission to East Timor returned to Dili, now absolutely certain of what it had previously only suspected that organising the 8 August referendum is "a mission almost impossible" "From Dili to Baucau: a nervous beginning Dili, Sunday, 30 May, 7 am. BP (full name witheld for security reasons) is waiting at the entrance to the Makhota Hotel, visibly nervous. Thanks to the English course he took at the University of Dili, he was one of the first Timorese to get a job as a translator with UNAMET. "This is possibly the most important day of my life", said BP, before departing with the UN team whose task is a 3-day logistics drive around the territory. The main destinations are Lospalos and Viqueque, his native land." "The first stop is Baucau, nearly 130 kms east of Dili. The road, which two weeks ago was totally controlled by pro-integration militias, is now clear. The only traces left by the paramilitary forces are the red and white (Indonesian) flags, hung up here and there, and the thatched huts set up by the roadside, where the integrationists had put up their roadblocks."
On the way to Lospalos: 20 years in a few minutes "All the inhabitants now gather round the two men who are speaking in Portuguese with the reporter from Publico." .. "In that region, say the men, "there have been no problems with either the army or the militias", and the inhabitants of Daudare know, "because people have passed through" there, that on 8 August there will be a ballot "to choose between Indonesia and independence". "Here, we all want independence" they insist.
MB and RS (identities not disclosed for security reasons) have more questions than answers to put to the UNAMET team: "How will they (the Indonesians) know that we have not voted in favour of autonomy? How can you ensure we are not attacked the very next day? How are those who are up in the mountains going to be able to vote?" There were answers for the first two questions, but not for the third." . "The conversation ends very awkwardly: a UNAMET information official in the group turns to BP and tells him to ask the villagers if they have TV. BP looks embarrassed, but puts the question to them. The men exchange glances, and then one replies: "No, we dont have electricity." "Someone speaks Portuguese in Raça.." "The militias had not been there either, but news had arrived that the Timorese are going to choose what they want in August. We want freedom, he whispered to the reporters." "At around midday, Lospalos is deserted city. The region is inhabited by about 53,000 people, but in the city the number is only about two thousand. Hardly a vehicle passes along the Rua Luis Monteiro Leite - formerly the main trading street under the Portuguese where the shops that sell just about everything are now in the hands of the Indonesians"...
"But the UNAMET team has its mind on other things. The meeting that had been arranged with the Chief of Police for 13.00 hrs. has been postponed until 17.00 hrs. (the Chief was at lunch), and the "hotel" where the UN mission is to stay is no more than a dingy 7-room "pensao". There are no premises in which to set up a local UN headquarters, and the infrastructures that do exist belong to the Church, and there is no guarantee that permission will be given for them to be used. Lospalos is, therefore, considered by UNAMET to be "a very complicated place", although at least there are no very serious problems with the militias."
"According to many of the residents with whom Publico spoke, an old militia called Alfa has been operating in the city for the last 3 years. A long time ago, it expelled all the men who were independence supporters. Nowadays, it just goes around frightening people at night, to keep up the fear, said the locals. It is quiet now, because the people realised that it is better to keep their mouths shut. They are intimidated, and stay quiet, but they are waiting to give their answer when they are called and asked for their opinion in the consultation, explained another resident, adding that the citys (pro-Indonesia) militia group is led by the districts Administrator, Edmundo da Conceicao.. He (the Administrator) and the army are the leaders of the militias. " "The first day in Lospalos was a complete waste of UNAMETs time. It did not manage to contact any of the citys authorities, and so had to spend another morning there." "In Uato Carabu, about 70 km from Lospalos, Timor is more developed. There is electricity, and the rice paddies spread out in every direction Here again, the red and white flags can be seen a sign that the pro-integrationists so-called "socialisation activities" have arrived. One local said that there are 10,000 people living in the area, and the majority know they are going to vote for independence. And when are the UN going to come?, he asked." "Seven hours and about 160 km later Viqueque comes into view. If a sign had been placed at the gates to the city saying Welcome to Hell, it would not be amiss." "Viqueque is an ugly, untidy city, with dirty streets full of hundreds of people, surrounded by dilapidated buildings houses that collapsed from old age, and unfinished huts that spring up all over the place Indonesian statues in bad taste, and police and army posts in far greater number than in any other place visited by Publico." "A city where you can almost smell the fear. As soon as the sun begins to set, the people shut themselves away inside their homes. By 18.00 hrs. there is not a soul left on the streets. Night has fallen by the time the UNAMET vehicle enters the city, so it is only the following morning that the UN team can start work. The meeting with the Police Chief, originally set for 9 am, is postponed til 11 am. The hotel accommodation is no more than two run-down old "pensoes", with a total of 14 rooms. Premises with even the most basic conditions for the UN headquarters in Viqueque cannot be found anywhere. Viqueque, like Lospalos, is another "problematic" city for the setting up of machinery that, in a period of 2 months, will have to organise everything for the 8 August consultation." "Another old militia group operates in Viqueque: the paramilitary group called the "Team 59/56 Junior", consists of army and civilian men who, according to Church sources, "have been active in the region for over 10 years". "In the past two months, they have killed over 100 people", they say, showing us lists of names of the people they say have been killed."
"Still in search of a place in which to install its Viqueque headquarters, the UN team goes to have a look at the old primary school that dates from Portuguese times. Although now abandoned and much in need of repair, it could just about meet the requirements. The problem is that the UNAMET team later discovers that, about 2 weeks ago, it was the scene of the killing of 10 young people. The story is still being told around the city, and has just been included among the crimes in Viqueque that the UN is listing. A wakeful night, and an enormous list of atrocities were the only things that the UN got out of this city of 30,000 inhabitants."
"Its a moonlit night, and the Bay of Dili fills the horizon. It is ten oclock when BP finally gets back to the entrance of the Hotel Makhota. His brown checked trousers and blue shirt have lost all sign of the impeccably ironed creases they had when he started out. The blue UN armband is still on his arm. BP is still smiling. Nothing he had seen over the 500 or so kms. had surprised him. Hes been familiar with the region for so long, and known about the atrocities for so long, that he is used to living with poverty and with suffering. But now, he says, I am working for my people and do not have to go around hiding, adding that There was an Indonesian who called me Mr.. . "