David Dare Parker: A Return to East Timor
My work in Indonesia is a perfect example of the type of project I like to take on, stories within stories that come together to form a body of work. During the past decade I have covered the Indonesian Archipelago's extremes of poverty and wealth, corruption, tensions, the ethnic and cultural diversity of its people and historic events, such as the fall of the Suharto regime after 32 years in power and the re-birth of a nation with East Timor voting for its independence.
I had not been back to East Timor since covering the violence there in 1999. The people of East Timor had then shown extraordinary courage in voting to break away from Indonesia, despite the violence and arson brought upon them by rampaging pro-Jakarta Militia and rogue elements within the Indonesian military.
On my return in June 2006 it was as if nothing had changed. Dili's buildings were once again on fire and well over a 100,000 displaced people were taking shelter within make-shift refugee camps to escape the violence. In January 2006 a group of soldiers had been sacked by then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri after they had protested about regional discrimination and Government corruption. This would eventually inspire junior officers in the East Timorese defence forces (F-FDTL) to break with the army command, taking their weapons with them. A gun battle between rebel soldiers, led by Major Alfredo Reinado, and the F-FDTL would throw East Timor into chaos.
The country looked as if it was on the brink of civil war, as people from the East of the country, (considered to be loyal to Alkatiri's Fretilin Government), were attacked by hostile gangs from the West. Properties were destroyed and families forced to flee for their lives. Despite claiming that allegations of corruption levelled against him were nothing more than a coup attempt by forces hostile to Fretilin, the pressure of being blamed for East Timor's troubles forced Alkatiri to resign.
Departing Indonesian forces and local Militia's burn. Dili East Timor September 1999. Independence supporters prepare for an expected pro-Jakarta Milita Attack near Hera. Dili East Timor September 1999. The bodies of two men, Yeronimo Yoaquim Galucho and Malicoli, murdered by Pro-autonmony Militia lie inside a building adorned with an image of Christ. An Australian soldier takes cover as Dili burns. East Timor September 1999. East Timorese return to the burnt out remains of their homes only to find rogue elements with the departing Indonesian Military burning nearby buildings. East Timor September 1999. Australian troops, members of Interfet, disarm and arrest members of the Aitarak Militia. Dili East Timor September 21, 1999. The remains of ten independence supporters, killed by Militia and rogue Indonesian forces, are found in the back of a burnt out pickup truck. Tacitolu September Aitarak Militia members mourn the death of Placidio Ximenes at the Tropical Hotel. Ximenes was killed in a clash between Pro-autonomy Militias and Pro-Independence supporters. Dili East Timor 1999. East Timorese firefighters, the Bombeiros, attempt to put out a major fire lit by fueding gangs. Acts of arson across Dili have become a continual occurrence. 03/06/06 East Timor. A youth shoots rocks through the windows of deserted buildings from the bridge in Dili's Comoro area. There is some confusion in Dili as to whether the violence between young men is because of ethnic tension or just localised gang rivalry. 03/06/06 East Timor A man sifts through the ruins of his neighbourhood in Calico, near the Old Market area of Dili, as continual violence, looting and arson disrupt Dili. There is some confusion in Dili as to whether the violence is the result of ethnic tensions, or localised gang violence. A clash between Easterners ( Lorosae) and Westerners (Loromonu) at Comora. Dili East Timor 04/06/06. The bridge area in the Comoro area of Dili, a hot point for clashes between rival gangs, Easterners ( Lorosae) and the Westerners (Loromonu). Much of the violence is tat for tat revenge for the lotting and burning of homes. 05/06/06 East Timor. Mobs of desperate people loot a warehouse in Dili, stealing agricultural machinery, bags of grain and fertilizer. East Timor 06/06/06. Some 2,000 protesters are stopped briefly at a military roadblock as they head for Dili to show their suipport for Xanana Gusmao, and demand the removal of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Escorted by international peacekeepers some 2,000 protesters in trucks, buses and on motorbikes shouted “bring down Alkatiri” and voiced support for President Xanana Gusmao as they entered Dili. Gusmao asked them to return to their own places and called for an end to the violence. East Timor 06/06/06. A man is arrested after a number of houses are burnt to the ground and a local man brutally attacked by a rival gang. The arrested man was found with two vicious, handmade darts in his possession. Violence continues to plague Dili as continual clashes erupt between Easterners ( Lorosae) and Westerners (Loromonu) in Dili. East Timor 08/06/06. A man called Julio is arrested by Malaysian peacekeepers after a number of houses are burnt to the ground and a local man brutally attacked by a rival gang. The arrested man was found with two vicous, handmade darts in his possession. Violence continues to plague Dili as continual clashes erupt between Easterners ( Lorosae) and Westerners (Loromonu) in Dili. East Timor 08/06/06. Australian peacekeeprs provide security for East Timorese firefighters, the Bombeiros, attempt to put out a major fire lit by fueding gangs in Calico, near the Old Market area, as continual violence, looting and arson disrupt Dili. Acts of arson across Dili have become a continual occurrence. East Timor 07/06/06. Major Alfredo Reinado at a press conference in Maubisse, East Timor, 11 June 2006. Rebel leaders Major Alfredo Reinado and Manuel Tilman announce they are planning a conference to seek ways of modifying East Timor's constitution to allow greater power for President Xanana Gusmao. Current Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri “does not have the confidence of the people” said Tilman. “Time is the most dangerous weapon” said Reinado.
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