Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Well, I finally moved last night. Photos to come very shortly. Noticed my first mosquito bite yesterday evening. If I’ve got a temperature tomorrow or Thursday morning, I’ll be in trouble. Gotta stay positive. I’ll be fine.
The internet access is not great outside of work so I’ve decided I’ll do my internet stuff in the morning. It takes up a fair chunk of time but it is important. I’ll make up for it by doing reading, writing, and other non-internet related stuff from home after office hours.
Shopping for the new place today. The cupboard, and fridge, were very bare. Fruit and yoghurt will be a good start. (and gin and tonic water – will have to drink plenty of it to assist my struggle against malaria). Purely for medicinal purposes only I swear.
Back to work.
Obrigado, Maun Evan
Monday, 20 February 2012
Holiday today. Not a public holiday mind you. Just at the Asia Foundation. Must be an American public holiday, presidents day? Feels weird that the office would be closed for a holiday in another country. Should try that at work next time. I am a US citizen so I’ll take the 4th of July off, have a BBQ and set off some fireworks. Don’t think that will go down too well in Canberra.
So, the office was closed and Jose, who was giving me a lift, had to go to work. Serendipitously, his office is located quite close to the CAVR museum. CAVR – Comissao de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconcilacao – the Accountability, Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to record the human rights violations of the Indonesian occupation, and pursue justice and reconciliation between victims and perpetrators (in a nutshell). I’ll have to go back with my camera but it was a very worthwhile experience. The museum was established in a former prison where people were detained and tortured. The presentation of the history of the occupation is quite detailed and is accompanied with some very vivid photographs. Went into an area which used to contain cells for prisoners. It was very dark, small and unsettling. A very power and slightly frightening experience.
I feel like I am still waiting for things to really kick off. Both for the elections and me being settled here. I hope to move this afternoon. Food’L’Doo has passed the mocha test.
It opens at six in the morning so I think I will get up early enough to grab a coffee here before work. I wonder where my project is going…  I think I’ve done okay for being here two weeks. I have started meeting and interviewing people. Hope to contact some more people this week. Guess I’m just nervous, worrying that I won’t have anything to show after six month. Once I’ve settled into my own place and have my transport organised, I think I will feel better. I’m just waffling.
Research scribblings.
So, back to Mainwaring for a sec. Four elements to his analysis of the institutional strength of party systems. 1. Stability: regularity of elections, 2. Ideological consistency: parties are tied to particular groups that share  - more or less – their worldview. Parties rarely move much from these positions because of the risk it would pose to losing the supporter base. 3. Legitimacy: for the most part, is the political arrangement generally accepted by the populace? What kind of resistance is there to it? 4. Do party organisations matter, or are they dependent on leaders – or the relative power and autonomy of parties in vis a vi the leadership caste.
This will be the third presidential poll: 2002, 2007 and 2012. This will be the second parliamentary poll: 2007 and 2012. The poll in 2001 was for the constitutive assembly, which makes the comparison a little tricky but probably at the end of the day reasonable. Still early days I suppose, and there has been societal and political unrest and violence in the past, so the success or otherwise of the polls this year will be very important in testing the strength and stability of the current political and party system.
The social rootedness of parties and ideological consistency is harder to view. The social basis of the parties can be difficult to identify. FRETLIN have stronger roots in the three most eastern districts – due to historical circumstances – the east formed the base for the resistance. ASDT has roots in certain districts in the centre which are home to the Mambai ethno-linguistic group. Voting trends support these general suppositions.
CNRT is new to the political scene. Derived strongly from the force of personality of its leader, Xanana Gusmao. Probably drew much of its support from dissatisfaction of FRETILIN in 2006. CNRT, like FRETILIN drew on imagery, symbols and its brand name which goes back to the resistance. In some ways they share and compete over a group of voters that looked to support the organ that achieved independence. From memory, FRETILN took 58 percent of the vote in 2001. Between them, CNRT and FRETILN took about – hmmm, 39 of 65 seats in 2007. My maths is terrible but my rough calculations indicate that would equal about 60 per cent of the vote. Pretty close.
The question of the influence and role of the Church is interesting. While the vast majority of Timorese are Catholic, at least nominally, this has not translated into a noticeable political movement that pushes for the interests of an active Catholic constituency. Perhaps there has been a drop in the importance of Catholicism in the spiritual lives of Timorese? Or they don’t see their faith being a focal point to mobilise around? During the occupation, the increase in faith is easily to understand. Now, perhaps, its role and significance is somewhat diminished. How deeply Catholicism penetrated the lives of the population is also something to consider. Regardless, the Church in itself still seems to be a strong institution with influence. It has mobilised to defend its interests before, like in 2005 with FRETILIN’s attempt to secularise the school system. Most parties do support the separation of church and state, but their respective visions in regard to this would probably differ. There are one or two small parties but they have not attracted any noticeable support in the polls.
What are the primary points of the debate and what positions are taken concerning them? How are the debated and what appeals are made to the electorate?
Questions of gender? Representation of women, but does it result in greater participation and recognition? What issues do they want to raise? What changes? One third of the party list must be female but it must go beyond symbolism.
The legitimacy of the current political arrangement seems to be trending in the positive. The biggest organisation that does not accept the Republic as it stands is CPD RDTL. I don’t know how much support they have. The major point I think is if groups who lose out in the elections accept it… FRETILIN supporters in the east did not accept the president’s decision in 2007 to appoint a CNRT led government, even though FRETILN won more seats.  Of course, FRETILIN could not form a coalition to form government, the president didn’t really have an alternative. Even small groups within a party, like veterans just for examples sake, that did not like the result… will they accept it?
Finally, parties vs. leaders. This question may be harder to answer. At least until 2017. A transition of leadership will probably occur then. The same old faces will be here in 2012, for the most part. FRETILIN, though it is dominated by Alkatiri, Lu Olo and the Maputo faction, seems to be a real party. It is highly centralised and organised. I suspect it will remain solid and viable after a change of leadership. CNRT is hard to read. It is dominated and run by XG. With more time and experience, it could develop into a real party, if it isn’t already. All of this is based on anecdotal evidence, observations and a few journal articles. It doesn’t have a lot of substance to it yet. The other parties, I am less sure of. Perhaps PD is a real party, but the others are very dependent on leaders and personality politics. This is an area of research that needs more effort and attention.
Maun Evan

Sunday, 19 February 2012
Almost gave the visiting Austraining representative a heart attack last night. He gave me a lift home and the further we got out of the centre of Dili, the more anxious he got. They have expectations about the accommodation we take residence in and this place would not make the grade. He knew I was moving in a couple of days so he left it along with little comment. Additionally, since I was not given a security briefing when I arrived, I was not aware of where they would allow people to stay. He has seen the new place and is satisfied with it.
My current residence isn’t that far out, but for Dili I guess it is. One taxi driver refused to drive out this far. Several taxis I’ve travelled in have massive cracks in their windshields, which, I’ve been told, are the results of rocks being thrown/slung at the taxis. From an Austraining perspective, they have their rationale and concerns about accommodation, which I appreciate. And given the events of 2006, it’s probably fair enough. And given it’s an election year, they are extra sensitive about conditions on the ground and the safety of their volunteers. It’s once things to have read about what happened here, another thing entirely to live here. The atmosphere seems quite relaxed, but being an outsider on my first trip here, I need to be careful and not be complacent. Having said that, I don’t want to be overly cautious and untrusting. It’s a balance I’ll have to sort out. Probably best to be err on the side of caution I suppose.
It feels like there are two sides to Dili. Well, different worlds or paradigm. Life before 8, and life after it. New rules apply. Most of the city shuts down at 8, and things start to get busy and active along the beach road – where all the bars and restaurants operate. Austraining regulations stipulate that there is to be no traveling after 8.30 except if it is in a vehicle. From my conversations with people from overseas, mainly from the volunteers I’ve met, things can get quite hairy after this time. Fortunately there is a special night taxi service available and most people are happy to give lifts in their cars for other at night time. Understand why house parties are so popular. Most bars close at 3 so no partying till dawn. It feels like there is a colonial feel to this arrangement, as by far most people out are from overseas. It is a strange feeling that I am not really comfortable with, and will explore some more in my time here. I am conscious of my quite privileged position here, financially etc, and the asymmetrical nature of the power relationships between most of the local population and the foreign contingent in Dili is palpable. I’m not sure where this is going or what I’m getting at, but I wanted to write about this briefly, even though it’s in an incohate manner.
Week and a half till the presidential elections officially start. Of course, the unofficial campaign has been going on for some time now. Want to make sure I am reasonably prepared for it.
Anything I see flying around in the air is a mosquito. Doesn’t matter how big or small, everything is a mozzie. The Aussie volunteers here are dropping like flies. Seems like on every week is back to Darwin. Feel like I should take a number at this rate. Anytime I feel something move on me, I think it’s a mozzie. Gotta get over it somehow. Two weeks and no sickness yet (knock on wood), just feeling tired from the heat. It’s so warm. Oh gee. Rainy season? Yeah, an hour here, and hour there, maybe once three times a week. Just enough to get my washing wet (again). What a whinger I am.
That’s enough. Catchya later.
Maun Evan

Saturday, 18 February

Purchased my scooter today. On the way to Food’L’Do, drove past the cavalcade of the President, Jose Ramos Horta. Pretty unspectacular, a small security detail behind the rather strange vehicle he is seen driving around in. It’s a small blue coloured car, mostly opened aired, very low to the ground. Hard to miss. I met him in 2006, must have been before the crisis, when he was Foreign Minister. He came to ANU and I made an effort to introduce myself in Tetun. Recall he was impressed, can’t imagine he would remember the moment of course.
Food’L’Do is a great little place. Best coffee I’ve had here so far – must check out RnR as well apparently. Had a cooper’s pale ale; so good. Great fent ood too.
Few thoughts have been buzzing around regarding my research. Have to mention first that I finally got a security briefing – of a very informal nature – yesterday. Guy from Austraining caught me up with a whole bunch of stuff. It’s their job to worry and of course will be concerned about the potential for unrest during the elections. I was aware of the potential for trouble but they’ve now got me paranoid that it will actually happen. Their concerns aren’t based on anything concrete happening now, it’s just been developed from previous experience. I guess anything is possible and I’ve got a pretty good idea what to do if there are any problems. Austraining seem pretty organised and they will keep me in the loop on a regular basis for stuff going on.
Further adding to my paranoia is the Dengue outbreak. They’ve even got ads running on TV about it. Very sensible of course. But I just keep hearing about it and people keep on going to hospital or getting sent to Darwin with it. Yikes.
Back to research issues. My supervisor reminded me that this is just phase one of my fieldwork. I intend to make another trip later next year. While following the elections for the next six months is not to be missed, I won’t get all my data now. Sometimes I feel that I need to get everything and understand the whole story ASAP – or ever. Not going to happen. Forget about it.
I still don’t know for sure who I will meet and interview. I’ll just do my best. No way to predict it and I will just have to work with who I can access. I have research questions but during the course of an interview, all sorts of new stuff comes up. It’s frustrating and exciting at the same time. New avenues of exploration require even more – I’m aware my current project is already too big - work and they may not go anywhere. But in this early phase I think it’s worth taking a broader view for a little while. Six months is long enough, assuming it all goes smoothly here, to get probably enough material to write a thesis. But maybe not the thesis I want to write. A second trip will be necessary if this it too happen.
Talking and networking is a long term commitment. Relationships with people here need time to really build and for trust to develop. As much as I want to dive in the deep end, I need to probably take things more slowly and gradually accrue a network of people who I can talk to about the questions I’m interested in. This blog is such a ramble, excuse me for indulging in a rather scrappy writing style.
Word of mouth and oral traditions seem to be very important here. I think a focus on stories and narrative analysis will be a major presence in my research considerations. I’m also trying to keep up a regular database of articles in newspapers here.
I’m moving into a new place on Monday/Tuesday. It’s kinda south and up a hill. Beautiful view. The study overlooks the beach and city. I think I will do a lot of work from home – it will be cooler in the house. Not getting a TV, at least not at this stage. Photos to follow shortly. I’ve got a spare bedroom, and a comfy couch, if anyone wants to visit.
Right, better finish my coffee and make like a tree. Wearing out my welcome, more people want to take a seat. Will want to talk more about some theoretical ideas/concepts. Just read thick description by Geertz, gonna need another read, it’s kinda dense. Testing the institutional strength of parties here might also be an option, Scott Mainwaring wrote a piece that could be useful.
I’m outta here, until next time.
Cheers, Maun Evan

No comments:

Post a Comment