|Subject: Dilor and Umalolu Update
DILOR AND UMATOLU UPDATE 13-7-2000 Endie van Binsbergen Member of Dutch Free East Timor Foundation in East Timor
Yesterday I visited Umatolu and Dilor. The road from Viqueque up till Buikarin is completely damaged by landslides, due to the last rain-season and the floods. Not only covered with heaps of earth and mud, but also several huge gaps in the road leaving less than a meter to cross, looking down into the deep ravine.
I traveled with Antonio, my friend from HTO (local NGO), on a motorbike and we had to get off and push the bike out of the mud or balance on the narrow crossings several times. After Buikarin the road got better, although not easy going on most parts. Anyway, we made it.
We talked to the head of the school, Antoni Sarmento. He was the owner of the schoolhouse that was burned by militias last year during the 23rd of august "incident", when several villagers were severely injured, including the village head who has not returned ever since he left that day to the hospital. Antoni Sarmento told us that he himself had fled the village during the attack, and hid with his children in Trans Area until the end of October. He thinks he was attacked because he organized the youths in the village for all kinds of activities and that the warlord Raimundo suspected him of organizing them into an anti-militia guard. (I was one of the IFET observers in the area at that time, we spoke to the injured village head and two other wounded persons; we also saw the burned house.)
Antoni Sarmento is running the school with 311 children and 10 teachers. 6 classes, sharing 4 classrooms in what's left of the school building that has been heavily damaged: Broken windows, doors gone, blackboards down on the floor, all furniture burned, toilets wrecked, no water at all. Due to the isolated position of the village (damaged road), distribution has not been sufficiently so far. The school has hardly got any teaching material such as books or maps and is running out of chalk, pens and paper. The teachers did not receive any salary for April and May yet. Children were sitting on the floor as I watched them doing their final test on scraps of paper.
We walked around Umatolu with Mr. Sarmento and he showed us the house of Raimundo, which was burned out and completely empty, except for two parts of machinery. The teacher told us that these were parts of his machine for cleaning the corn. The militias stole it from him and Raimundo kept it in his house. He didn't even bother to take it with the rest of his belongings when he left the village and set fire to his own house. Now, the machine is useless.
Across the street we saw a concrete foundation with a half-burned fence. This used to be the house of Portu, one of the militia leaders, who also set fire to his own house as he left to Beacu to catch the boat to West Timor. But the militias did not only burn their own houses; the image of Umatulo is that of a damaged village, and hungry people.
Umatolu, eleven months after the referendum: As if the militias and the floods had not done enough damage yet, rats have eaten stored food and crops in the field and formed a severe plague. The road will be repaired soon now - somebody at UNTAET told me this-, so hopefully starting half of August trucks with food and school-supplies will be on their way.
Even before entering Dilor, we could see the familiar blue plastic shelters from a distance. Just another burned village. We spoke to the catechist, frater Andre, who made a deeply worried impression. He told us that 740 people live in Dilor now, before the referendum the number was 1256. People have died, fled or are still missing. Maybe they simply moved, but the frater is not sure. As we asked him what his concerns for Dilor are, he opened his book again, read and said he had five points:
1) The destroyed houses, people need more shelter material
2) Transportation, the road needs to be repaired so that trucks and busses will we running again
3) The orphans and the widows need to be taken care of
4) The school needs material, like chalk, paper, pens, books and blackboards
5) The number of teachers: All 36 teachers from the villages of Umatolu, Ahik, Dilor and Lalini have done the UNTAET-test of qualification, but only 9 passed it. Who will teach the children now, and who will pay the teachers if UNTAET considers them under-qualified?
While we were talking, coffee was brought to the table by a 5 or 6 year old girl. We were glad that we had not eaten our cookies from the Viqueque market yet, so we had something to share, too. We also got out the cigarettes and some more people joined the conversation. For a moment, the tense atmosphere was gone and the kids got all the attention.
Frater Andre said that he had so much more to talk about, but that he found it really hard. He then told us that almost all the young girls in the village had problems. The old lady, who had quietly listened to our conversation, now stood up and walked into the house, as she was crying. I knew I did not need to ask the question, but I did. I asked him what kind of problems the girls were having. It took a while; he was obviously looking for the words. He then said: "Almost all the young girls in this village had things done to them, by men. By militias." He walked into his house and came back with some tobacco. Again he said that he had a lot of things to talk about. Maybe some other time, if we would meet again. I promised him that we would meet again soon.
I have reported both his story and that of the teacher in Umatolu to Timor Aid and UNTAET. If anyone readingthis article has reactions or suggestions, please let me know.
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