It would be a mistake to help the Timorese and expect gratitude, says Rita Mary Hayes SGS. They deserve our assistance because of what we have done to them and not done for them, reports Rita Mary Hayes in the bulletin of the National Office for the Participation of Women's Participation.
Let me state clearly that this reflection is simply that, and is based on my experience in a rural mountain district in Timor Leste. I have no access to Government policies or proposed decisions; no contacts with people of influence and ‘in the know’.
As with most countries, Timor Leste is complex: in its history, in its various ethnic groups and languages and in its social composition and aspirations. This year marks the tenth anniversary of independence gained from Indonesian occupation and is also the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Portuguese colonisers.
The first democratically elected government in 2002 inherited a country in an unimaginable state of devastation: in theaftermathof1999 there was barely a building left standing and not burnt out; there was not an animal of any kind not even a bird to be seen.
The first Easter is a life-long memory as people prayed, rejoiced and rendered thanks for their deliverance. At night, the streets were flooded with families walking and laughing and greeting everyone, simply because they could, as there were no militia, no curfew, no patrolling soldiers brutalising citizens at will. Most people were living under blue tarpaulins provided by the UNHCR and eating UN-donated emergency rations.
Soon little kiosks opened and open-air markets were selling vegetables that the people had grown in the cleared land in the districts and often in the deep water-filled drains in Dili. The Rupiah was still the prevailing currency but the Aussie and the American dollars were also traded throughout Dili.
The change to the American dollar solely, brought a steep increase in the cost of living and, together with the decision to make Portuguese, as well as Tetun, an official language, were early indicators that this little nation had difficult times ahead.
FULL STORY Being just neighbours (NOPW)