American-born mayor says rebuilding starts with patience
Dili's American-born mayor says rebuilding starts with patience
DILI, East Timor, Nov 22 (AFP) - She is the mayor of a burned out city with no banks, no telephone and a spotty electrical supply but Denise Dauphinais remains upbeat.
"It could be worse and in September it looked like it was going to be worse," said Dauphinais, interim district administrator of Dili for the UN transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
In effect, she is the city's acting mayor. So far, she has no civic administration to take charge of.
She does not even have a desk.
"I just got a computer today." Dauphinais, an American said in a recent interview with AFP at the UNTAET compound.
"I don't pretend that we have an administration in place for Dili, what we have is a committee structure to begin a process of dialogue with this community," she said.
Dili was heavily damaged during a September campaign of murder, rape and forced deportation by Indonesian military-backed militias after East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence on August 30.
Dauphinais was in charge of the UN office in Baucau, East Timor's second largest city, before the August ballot. She remained there until pro-Indonesian forces sprayed the building with gunfire forcing all the staff to leave.
Now Dauphinais coordinates two staff members who worked with the Dili Civil Committee, first called the Dili Reconstruction Committee when it was established in October.
Humanitarian aid workers and local East Timorese leaders were together trying to set priorities for electricity and water, transport, and health and sanitation services, she said.
"Everything needs to be done," said Dauphinais. "How do you prioritize? Where is power restored first? This is a tough question. Or water services? Or housing?," she pondered.
"Absolutely every question in civil administration is on the table. That's why you have to have the interraction with the community because it's really about their priorities."
Her job, she said, was to promote that consultation. "Already, (the) system has started to work by encouraging community action."
"A priority was to clean the drainage system. Massive looting and pillaging creates a lot of trash," she said. "So various groups have gotten together to clean the drains with help from the international peacekeeping groups."
Another priority was to open schools. Now, more than 20 are operating in Dili alone, said Dauphanais.
"The community is doing that," she said. "That sense of self-support and determination to get on with things is what got them through the last 23 years. It what has made 98.6 percent of them turn out to vote."
In two other key sectors, East Timorese and international experts were working together to improve the electrical system and traffic flow, she said.
Australian power workers, for example, brought in trucks and equipment to help the local experts.
"We're just providing the support and the things they didn't have before," Dauphanais said.
"It's a difficult situation for everybody but it's not undoable. It's just going to require a lot of patience on all sides. And in my experience with the East Timorese that's one thing they have a lot of."
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