A quiet feeling

Ten years ago at this time, I was going to the expanse outside Dili called Tasi Tolu, to see East Timor’s flag raised publicly for the first time on the territory since 1975.

May 21, 2002, the next day, I wrote

I just wanted to share this moment of joy. Today I woke up in an Independent East Timor. Four years ago, East Timor’s plight represented for me the plainest example of the callousness, cynicism and injustice of the media, of politicians, of the mystical “international community”… it was a source of a sort of bitter personal awakening for me at age 18.

Now I can say, that while living in East Timor for 9 months has only deepened for me the complexity of the words “justice” and “independence,” I can see today as the truly emotional and unforgettable day that it is. […]

And no matter how bogged down any independent country becomes in irritating and mundane politics, I can verify that this moment of Independence: to believe and know in your heart that you are no longer subject to an aggressive foreign occupier, is too profound to describe.

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Men of Timor

High-ranking Portuguese politician Miguel Relvas visited Dili last week. Relvas’ grandfather José Miranda Relvas was held in Timor as a prisoner during World War II, and his father was apparently born there.

The Portuguese narrative of the War apparently continues to be one of heroic victimization. Relvas was quoted as saying  “Our territorial sovereignty was violated and Portuguese there heroically maintained their position, preserving our values and defending our flag.” Sounds like the colonial koolaid has still not run out! Continue reading

Tumults and brinks

I feel an unavoidable heaviness triggered by the unrest. I remember reading the ICG’s blog entry of July 9

Concerns that the formation of a new coalition government might give rise to violence, as occurred following the 2007 elections, now look misplaced

And thinking, well that’s a bit premature. In 2007, the tumult came after the announcement of the coalition. 

Who knows what will happen this afternoon. As I have mentioned before, Timor has an eerie way of going “to the brink” and stopping.

If there is any pattern in relation to urban/political violence in Timor, to start, it is that the international community (and English-speaking media) always seems somehow completely taken aback, as though it was completely blind-sided. Continue reading

Lords of the land, lords of the sea

I really do not want to have to write about politics and conflict. Certain things must be said about these elections, just that I am not going to be the one to say them.

So instead, how about the amazing and FREE work of Swedish scholar Hans Hagerdal? He just published his new massive book “Lords of the land, lords of the sea” as an open access work. This is VERY exciting. (Thanks to one of my 11 readers for the tip-off.)

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RIP Avó Xavier

I cannot really summon the mental space to write as I would like to about the passing of Avó Xavier.

He was simultaneously an important historical figure and a down-to-earth man. I believe I met him first as an election observer, chatted to him once in a lobby event on child rights (!!), interviewed him as a researcher on late Portuguese colonialism, and lastly, I ran into him wearing shorts when I was on the way to Turiscai.

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Unfacebooked, or a telcoms monopoly as seen from space

I’ve written before about Timorese interest in Facebook.

But with the continuing telcoms monopoly, Timorese people simply remain offline.

Below is a section of MIT grad student’s rendering of the “unFacebooked” world. Indonesia, including West Papua, is super connected. And Timor… increasingly has electricity (yellow dots) but no Facebook (dark green).

(The Facebook friendship map is dated December 2010. Let’s hope with the introduction of 3G the situation is no longer so bleak.)