Today was what I expected, the anti-climax to the Report.
Lots of positive commentary has been spread around Dili about it. The man in charge of the Independent Commission of Inquiry is a one-time visiting professor at my University, where I was lucky to meet him. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is widely respected in Brazil for his Center for the Study of Violence at USP Universidade de São Paulo. He’s also known for being the Secretary General’s Envoy to Burma.
The report assigns more specific blame than expected. Alkatiri and Xanana get reprimanded, and the report suggests there needs to be further investigation of Alkatiri’s role in the arming of civilians with Police weapons.
Docogirl was telling me some of the details.
The ex-ministry of the Interior came into work on April 28, the day of the rioting in front of the Palace, wearing a flak jacket, shouting “Kill them all!” This Ex-Minister was apparently nearly executed in more than one African country for his stupid behavior.
The Police Commissioner abandoned the Chain of Command at a key point in the crisis, precipitating a split among the PNTL, which was probably in some way responsible for the most horrendous event of the crisis, the massacre of unarmed PNTL by the military.
The military and the police began moving weapons to separate strategic points in East Timor in mid-May, days before the divisive Fretilin Congress. This fact is quite shocking. Timor came very close to the brink of civil war.
Here is my read:
- The FDTL (Army) split into two when the Petitioners were fired in March
- Then following the violence at Taci Tolu in late April, the PNTL, the police split into two, one part fusing operationally with the remaining FDTL command, and one part remaining under “police” command, but often becoming “rogue” police
- The ex-Ministry of the Interior is probably guilty of arming a shady paramilitary police force in early May, with the involvement of an extremely unreliable character named “Rai Los” (based in Liquiça)
- Also in May, the FDTL command armed civilians, including ex-FALINTIL guerrillas, fearing that the two extra-governmental forces of the Petitioners and the mysterious “Rai Los” would come together against the “Government”
- Two of the bloodiest incidents, Taci Tolu (May 23) and Fatu Ahi (May 24) were likely somewhat “staged” or provoked by shadowy factions, and the truth of this will never be known
- The shooting of the PNTL on May 25, in my opinion, is still far from being understood
The Petitioners come off as provoking conflict by exaggerating claims of an April 28 “massacre” at Taci Tolu, and while mentioned as aggressors at Taci Tolu, none are named as directly indicated in causing violence. The question of the “guilt” of the Petitioners in the crisis seems key to understanding the report.
The UN seems unwilling to entirely destroy Xanana’s credibility nor the Petitioners. Alkatiri comes off ok, the Report calls for further investigation but assigns no criminal responsibility, and the ex-PM knows he can fight allegations against him in court.
Now the feeling is of relief. A relief that the report is out, it seems tough, fair and rigorous.
Tonight I went to My Fali Fastfood for an egg and cheese sandwich and French fries for dinner. I decided it would make an amazing ethnographic site. All kinds of “internationals” and Timorese came through. An ex-colleague from UNICEF, a Timorese young woman, who I recognized but did not recognize me.
The ethnography of fastfood in Timor.
I was stunned to see, just as I was about to leave, the Indonesian owners of the nice Warung restaurant next to my house, coming in for fried chicken! I joked, I guess you guys can’t eat rice and vegetables all day everyday either. We traded niceties, but their English was bad and my Indonesia even worse.
I’ve been listening to choppers all night over head.