On Any Sunday – to the mountains of Timor-Leste and back
This is a guest post by Martin Hardie, a lecturer in law at Deakin University. Martin recently returned to Timor-Leste after an absence of eleven years. This is his story.
Last weekend my old friend, my Timorese ‘boss’ in the days of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the current Secretary of State for Energy Policy (SEPE), Avelino Maria Coelho da Silva, invited me to his traditional land outside of Ossu on the southern slopes of the great mountain range that runs the length of the island of Timor.
I had spent the best part of the previous three weeks with Avelino, first travelling with him to remote villages as he campaigned for the Timorese Socialist Party (PST) in the Parliamentary elections, and then in his office at the Palacio do Governo, in Dili, working on a draft of a law on renewable energy.
It had been eleven years since we had worked together. Eleven years in which after having left Timor we lost and regained contact. Eleven years in which I had consciously or unconsciously abstained from writing about Timor, its politics and its neo colonisation by the global forces who had come in the name of peace and justice. One thing I can say about my time in Timor, from October 1999 until July 2001 was that it changed my worldview forever.
At first anger and depression, but then as I found new tools and re-found old ones, the things that I saw there began to make more sense. One immediate lesson I had learned, of course, was that although the United Nations and their cohort came in the name of peace and justice, their agenda and their affect was a long way removed from the spectacle of their rhetoric.
Back to last weekend … on Sunday morning 15 July, Nuno Corvelo de Andrade Sarmento, a Senior Technical Adviser within the SEPE office and I set off early from Dili for the four or five hour drive via Baucau to Ossu. Other than a few people walking to church the roads were remarkably quiet. This was not as some foreign observers have interpreted it a sign of peace, for Nuno it was a sign of fear and apprehension.
A fear and apprehension brought about by the fact that the party which had won the most seats in the election held a week before was today going to hold a nationally televised conference to discuss with whom they would form a coalition government. Rather than openness and transparency (those buzzwords of the purveyors and importers of western logic) creating the conditions for democracy, the televised conference had put many of the people of the country on edge.
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