Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three Days in the East Part Two

Event #2

Okay. Back to where I was last night. I digressed a bit but I will talk about the rest of my trip I promise.
I was incredibly exhausted and dehydrated. They fed us well at the first location, in fact, they fed everyone really well. Put on a huge feed for everyone who turned up. So much meat, never seen so much, couldn’t do that on a regular basis. Despite this, I was struggling and it was pretty warm too. I thought we were finished for the day but no, surprise, there was another event. I could feel a headache coming on and the event was outside, with limited shade. These events tend to go on and on. Trouble. Only so much water could do for me, and my ibuprofen was in my bag; locked in the car. I would have to persevere. 

We stopped near a building that had a stage setup on in front of it, with a large space for people to congregate in front of it. A TMR poster adorned part of the stage. Other noticeable images/symbols were a FRETILN flag and national Timor-Leste flag. A crowd had already assembled in front of the stage, as well as around the outside of the quadrant:

I didn’t catch it on camera, but several lines of veterans in military dress had arranged themselves in a form of honour guard style formation. I caught term marching in though:

The presence of veterans was extremely obvious, particularly with them carrying around weapons, such as machetes.

I was able to compare the general gist of the speech, and much it seemed to resemble what he had previously said during the first event. I felt, however, that there was an increased emphasis on veterans. Veterans are one of his big priorities, at least according to the speech he delivered at the second event. Being the former leader of FALINTIL accords him a special status among veterans – at least some of them anyway. Veterans are divided and some are aligned with FRETILIN. Again, this theme of loyalty to individuals versus loyalty to organisations or fronts is very interesting. TMR was their commander for some of the time and this carries a lot of weight when it is translated politically.

TMR knew his audience and seemed to have his speech geared so they heard things they liked. The precise details went passed me but TMR spoke a lot about veterans rights, including the pension. He spoke about discrimination against veterans, too. He was working very hard to court their vote and it seemed to resonate with those who attended.

Also in attendance were some interesting looking local special police in charge of security (the guys to the left, dark uniforms). Goodness knows what they could actually do if things went South:

Here's a couple nice shots of the surrounding environment. You might notice the sawah or wet rice cultivation. There isn't a lot of that in Timor-Leste, the climate and soil, from what I understand, doesn't suit that style of rice cultivation in a lot of areas. Very different from my experience in Indonesia, Java in particular:

Final note on Event # 2

Some celebrities were present: Antonio Aitahan Matak, from CPD-RDTL, an organisation that doesn't recognise the constitution of the current state, the one introduced in 2002. It only recognises the constitution promulgated in 1975, with the declaration of independence on 28 November, 1975. This is a whole other issue, but it is interesting Antonio and his organisation are participating in the presidential race. The other is L7 or L-Sete, from the political party, UNDERTIM. These two characters are serious players, and have strong relationships with veterans. The older man in the military fatigues is an old school veteran, famous I think, but I didn’t catch many details. TMR mentioned, or joked, about this guy in relation to Angola.

By the end of this event, I was totally out of it. I was so sick, what a brutal headache. Only sleep could cure it. We were supposed to be put up in a room in a church in Quelicai. Of course, things never go according to plan. (It's an amazing church BTW, absolutely stunning building). Again, no one knew what was going on, and of course we just had to keep waiting. All well and good, but I was dying with this headache, just wanted to sleep. So finally, finally, the give up on the church, and Mana A. and myself are driven to crash at a local family, somehow they know someone in the TMR campaign.

So, cool, the plan was to go with the campaign convey to Los Palos early the next day. Right, we can do that. Just get us up and we will get on board and rock on. Again, no one knew what was going on, what time I asked, hmmm, got three different answers. 4am, 5am, 6am. What? Come on. The last time we heard was 4am, sure whatever, I knew what that mean, 6am, with a 7am departure. Cool, I'll sleep and set the alarm. If they want to leave earlier, they will wake us up, right?

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