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(en) Aotearoa/New Zealand, Thr@l, #20 - EAST TIMOR MILITIAS, NGOS, ACTIVISTS AND ANARCHISTS

From worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.thrall.orcon.net.nz/20timor.html)
Date Fri, 23 Nov 2001 02:20:31 -0500 (EST)


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 When the East Timorese voted
 overwhelmingly for independence in
 1999, the reaction of the Indonesian
 state was both prompt and violent.
 Newspapers here carried ‘Anarchy in
 East Timor’ headlines, but the reality
 was government-sponsored
 bloodshed and destruction. 

 The arrival of UN Forces saw a rapid decline in Indonesian
 militia activity and their eventual withdrawal, but the sad irony is
 that UN troops came from countries such as Australia and New
 Zealand, countries that for years had maintained military links
 with Indonesia, training both Indonesian land forces troops and
 airforce pilots. Politicians shed crocodile tears for the East
 Timorese who were slaughtered by the militias, when for years
 people in Australia and Aotearoa had been protesting against
 those politicians support for the Suharto dictatorship and its
 occupation of East Timor. 

 With the majority of East Timor’s infrastructure destroyed as
 Indonesia pulled out, in stepped financial institutions and
 various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). No-one can
 argue that help isn’t needed for the East Timorese, but reports
 have been steadily coming out of the region detailing the
 incompetence of the bureaucracy of some NGOs, as well as
 their general alienation from the population. But not all groups
 who have gone to East Timor have this top-down structure. The
 close proximity to Australia has meant that a number of
 Australian activists have gone there to work at a more
 grass-roots level.

 Bibi Bulak is one such group. The name means “crazy goat” in
 Tetum, the lingua franca of East Timor. Many members of the
 organisation had previously spent the first half travelling
 northwards through the Australian outback with the Earthdream
 soundsystem, putting on parties to raise money and awareness
 for the campaign against uranium mining. Upon reaching
 Darwin about 15 of them made the 600km flight to Dili (the
 capital of East Timor). Once there, they busied themselves
 organising events using their PA gear. Concerts were
 organised, accommodating up to 10,000 people. Whilst free for
 locals to attend, members of NGOs, the UN and Peace-Keeping
 Forces were charged an entry fee with proceeds going to local
 projects. Members of Bibi Bulak also set to work repairing a
 building in Dili to become an arts/music centre. The majority of
 buildings in Dili were destroyed by explosions or fire as the
 militias pulled out.

 What set Bibi Bulak apart from most other groups that have
 gone into East Timor is that they have based themselves in the
 local community, learning to speak Tetum, eating and living with
 local people, whilst most NGOs have kept themselves
 separate. The majority of Bibi Bulak’s work in the first few
 months was to provide entertainment, doing small and large
 shows featuring music and performance such as clowning and
 firedancing. Member Yohan said “we are well received. The
 people are hungry for some fun and music and we’ll be mobbed
 every time we do a show. Even a quick quiet one on the street
 the other night was a little overwhelming”.
                                                     CONTENTS

                                                      postcard from genoa 

                                                  resisiting the capitalist tsunami

                                                      the industrial workers
                                                         of the world in
                                                           aotearoa

                                                    anarchists in east timor 

                                                       international news 

                                                 wellington G8 solidarity protests 

                                                          art report 

                                                     book review: no logo 








                                                               
                                                               
 Once they had become used to the situation in East Timor, the
 group began to move around the countryside. First stop was
 Aileu, a village that was a stronghold of the armed resistance to
 Indonesian rule, about two hours drive up the mountains from
 Dili. Another weekend saw an advance group hiking about
 15km on abandoned roads to a tiny town called Soibada. Their
 equipment truck arrived later, surprising everyone else by being
 able to cross a river and keeping on the rough roads. After a
 show that night, they moved on to perform another two the
 following day. Speaking of the performances, Yohan stated
 “they love it when we make fun of the UN staff, who are so
 removed from the locals in their air-conditioned SUVs. And we
 have an axe to grind – they never give us a ride in the backs of
 their empty utes”.

 In early September 2000, they travelled to Suai to set up their
 sound system, the only adequately-sized one available in East
 Timor, for a service to commemorate the massacre that
 happened there a year earlier. Events included a mass held by
 Bishop Belo, some speeches and 10 hours of performances
 mostly by Timorese groups.

 Even some months after the Indonesian withdrawal some
 elements of the militias were still operating in Dili. A friend of the
 group was attacked by a group of men as she walked home
 alone from the beach at 9am on a Sunday morning. She was
 able to run away and the offenders, known militia members,
 were apprehended. Yohan commented that many of the militia
 members in Dili were coerced into joining the militias by the
 threat of death.

 As some activists returned to Australia, others were arriving.
 The Permaculture Development Institute (PDI) have been
 helping to establish agriculture using local levels of technology,
 as food supplies had been severely disrupted. Being able to
 produce their own food reduces people’s reliance on outside
 institutions such as the International Monetary Fund to help
 ‘resolve’ the situation. Bibi Bulak worked with the PDI, utilising
 the power of performance to address pressing environmental
 issues such as deforestation and landslides. This has been
 very effective as approximately only 30% of the population are
 literate. The UN and various NGOs have had to acknowledge
 their work, and have even been obliged to provide some
 funding or “risk yet another embarrassing example of how the
 real good grass-roots stuff that happens here is outside of or in
 spite of the UN policies” (Yohan).

 Rowan, a member of the syndicalist workers union Industrial
 Workers of the World (IWW) arrived at the Bibi Bulak house in
 Dili in September 2000, laden down with computer gear. He
 represents an IWW initiative called the East Timor Community
 Computer Project. The ETCCP has been distributing computers
 to Timorese NGOs, radical left groups, student groups and
 schools, among others. But it’s not simply a case of dropping off
 computers. Before they can even train Timorese people in
 using them, there are huge infrastructural problems to
 overcome. Rowan stated “the first big problem is the wiring
 standards which are Indonesian. This means in most cases
 there is no ‘earth’ so most computer installations require some
 rewiring done to the building beforehand. Then there is the
                             condition of the buildings,
                             most do not have doors
                             or windows and are thus
                             prone to damp and dust.
                             This is a problem we find
                             hard to fix as we do not
                             have the materials or the
                             money to be able to
                             refurbish at this stage. A
                             distinct lack of interest by
 the movers and shakers also doesn’t help. UNTAET could not
 give a shit about the East Timorese as a whole and their
 bureaucracy is something to be seen – papers everywhere and
 very little assistance in any areas relating to computers and
 training”.

 I asked Rowan how the relationship of grass-roots groups such
 as ETCCP differed from that of other NGOs. He replied “the
 larger NGOs such as TimorAid, World Food Program, USAid
 relate not that much differently than UNTAET staff or Australian
 contractors. The staff in most cases stay very separate to the
 Timorese people. They employ Timorese but do not live
 amongst them and most staff have no grasp of the language.
 There are, of course, exceptions to this rule but in most cases
 people in these NGOs see the East Timorese as ‘poor
 unfortunates’ who ‘need our help’”. 

 Whilst a typical day for Rowan involves studying Tetum,
 repairing and/or installing computers and software, he said that
 being called to eat with locals was an overly regular event. As
 was the power going off, which meant that he was back to
 practising Tetum or doing things around the houses such as
 rewiring or placing river rocks on the dirt to provide a pathway
 when the wet season turned everything to mud. Sometimes it’s
 out on the road for a few days into the districts surrounding Dili
 following up contacts or fixing computers.

 Like Bibi Bulak, one of the most practical ways to support the
 ETCCP is financially. They have organised for containers of
 computer gear to be sent to East Timor, but say “cash is best.
 The more dollars we have the more things we can do, unless
 someone wants to come over and help out. You can live on $50
 Australian a week if you are careful; and the project can get you
 from Darwin to Dili for free!”

 On a somewhat more sombre note Rowan commented that we
 must “keep the issue of East Timor alive in people’s heads. It is
 far from over and we are now seeing the institution of an
 economic colony to replace the military one imposed by
 Indonesia. We are a very small group that have gathered
 together and we need more people with teaching skills, tech
 skills and with their heads in the right place and space!”

 – Ross

 CONTACT AND DONATION DETAILS:

 Bibi Bulak/ Post Restante/ Correios Dili/ East Timor. (Send
 appropriate materials, including magazines and music). 

 email: bibibulak@yahoo.com
 Electronic transfers can be directed to:
 Banco Nacional Ultramarino BNU-Timor
 Account: Bibi Bulak
 US Funds:432718-10-001
 Australian Funds:432718-10-002 

 Bibi Bulak ask that you e-mail them with exact details of any
 transfers, so they can confirm them. Financial records are
 available to donors. Donations will supply their centre in Dili
 with any excess being distributed to similar centres as they
 travel. Remember that the militias stole or burned nearly
 everything of value during September 99s reign of terror.

 East Timor Community Computer Project
 PO Box 756
 Brunswick Lower
 Melbourne
 VIC 3056
 Australia
 e-mail: etccp@solidarity.infoshop.org.au 

 account details for donations:
 ETCCP General Fund
 Commonwealth Bank (Coburg Vic)
 Branch Number: 063122
 Account Number: 10303491



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