Subject: Bagpipes call Dili back to life

The Australian October 13, 1999

Pipes call Dili back to life


THE bagpipes became an instrument of peace and reconstruction for the people of Dili yesterday as four pipers from the Australian Army's 3rd Battalion blew up a storm to celebrate the reopening of the capital's central market.

Destroyed by Indonesian soldiers and militia thugs during the violence that followed the August 30 autonomy ballot, the market was rebuilt by the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineers Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. They removed 100 truckloads of rubbish from the devastated site.

The opening ceremony began with a combined rendition of Rose of Annandale and Lord Lovett's Lament and ended with a rousing performance of Waltzing Matilda and Scotland the Brave.

The East Timorese, who turned out in their thousands to welcome the restoration of the city's main trading place, had never heard anything like it -- and judging by their response, they would like to hear more.

As stallholders tried to interest poor locals, cashed-up soldiers and UN officials in their wares -- potatoes, Indonesian military rations, whisky and even local beer at $6 a can -- Australian and Gurkha troops provided entertainment in the form of games and face-painting using camouflage paste.

Sapper Ian Goode from Preston in Melbourne, who helped build the timber-and-iron stalls and repair the facade on the main entry, described the opening as a great occasion.

"We didn't have a lot of time to do a great job, but it's better than nothing," he said.

"Kids are the litmus test for something like this, and there are plenty of them here. They go for lollies no matter where they're from."

Local democracy leader Joaquim Saldanha thanked all those involved in the construction effort, including the commanding officer of the 3rd Combat Engineers, Steve Day, who made his opening speech in Indonesian.

Lieutenant-Colonel Day said the market was more than just a place to sell goods.

"It brings people together and gives them a place to meet and talk," he said.

Meeting and talking are fine, but the most popular activity yesterday was a game of blindfold organised by the Gurkhas. People with little to be happy about in recent weeks cheered and laughed as their friends and neighbours made spectacles of themselves trying to hit an apple with a stick while wearing a blindfold.

Things are gradually returning to a version of normal in this destroyed city, and the market opening, especially to the strains of some old Scottish and one Aussie-Scots favourite, will long be remembered.

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