Subject: RT: Displaced Timorese await signals from "big people"
Displaced Timorese await signals from "big people"
By Jerry Norton
DILI, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Standing amidst the jam-packed tents and smoke from wood cooking fires of a displaced persons camp, Rosa Soares says she is waiting for East Timor's leaders to reconcile before she'll feel safe about returning home.
The 29-year-old mother of two, pregnant with another child, is one of more than 100,000 East Timorese still in camps some four months after a dispute over sacked soldiers spiraled into widespread violence in which more than 20 died.
An international military and police force of around 2,500 began arriving at the end of May to restore order to this tiny young nation, but widespread looting and arson continued for weeks, and have yet to completely disappear.
While some of the displaced have gone home, others are reluctant.
"We're waiting for the big people to embrace each other and to sit down together and talk among themselves and then we'll feel safe," Soares told Reuters at the Don Bosco camp, located in a complex of Catholic institutions.
About 90 percent of East Timorese are Catholic, a legacy of hundreds of years of Portuguese rule that ended in 1975, and a number of the nearly 60 camps in the Dili area are on church grounds largely left alone by those responsible for the violence.
The roots of the turbulence are complex, but much of it relates to differences between the eastern and western regions of East Timor, which became a full-fledged country in 2002 after nearly 25 years of Indonesian occupation and an interim period of United Nations administration.
"If we went back home we're afraid of what people would do at night. Probably we're going to be dead, we're going to be killed," said Soares.
"Even among the big people there's a separation between the people from the west and the east," she added.
The man whose policies many blame for sparking the violence, Mari Alkatiri, stepped down as prime minister on June 26 under pressure from President Xanana Gusmao, but partisan accusations still fly in parliament and the process of bringing those involved in the disorder to justice has far to go.
Meanwhile, those in the camps say night remains a dangerous time in many parts of Dili and nearby villages.
"Outside of camp at night there are people throwing rocks at each other and chasing each other," said Martino Doutel, 30, wearing shorts, a green t-shirt and sandals in the tropical heat.
Some in the camps have no homes to return to. Madelena Carvalho, 28, shares a tent with her four children, her husband and mother. Her house in Baru village was burned and looted.
"Even though we go back home we can't rely on anything. Everything is destroyed, our animals. The only thing we can rely on is to stay here," she said.
Adriano de Jesus, a coordinator for the camp, said: "the government has a plan to rebuild all the houses but it's still under process... so we do not know when it will start."
He said the camp once housed more than 14,000 and the number was now 9,000, but it was unclear when the remainder might leave.
"Nowadays the main concern is about the security. If the people think that there is security stabilised, they will go home," said de Jesus, 35, a Catholic brother who ran a vocational training centre at Don Bosco before the crisis.
He too thinks the country's leaders must set an example.
"They themselves have to reconcile because they are the ones who created this problem, and now they're insisting the people to dialogue."