September 2, 2009
'Kangaroo Country'

'Kangaroo Country'

Like it or not.. when you say you’re Australian to a Dili local, the response is often a friendly – ‘Ahhh .. Kangaroo Country’. So when Governor-General Quentin Bryce delivered three corrugated iron sculptured kangaroos for East Timor’s Presidential Palace garden, it seemed the ideal gift.

Questions to President Jose Ramos-Horta were banned during the stage-managed picture opportunity alongside Ms Bryce. Normally one keen to wear out batteries in a radio microphone, the President has been careful not to get into a stoush over his decision to oppose an International Justice Commission into human rights crimes committed during Indonesian occupation and the violence which followed the 1999 Independence vote.

Jose Ramos-Horta believes the past is the past and building a positive relationship with Indonesia is now more important. At the official ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the Independence vote, switching between Portuguese and English – the President was keen to make his position clear: (ENGLISH) “.. there will be no criminal inquiry into past human rights abuses”. There is no questioning of Mr Ramos-Horta’s sacrifices for East Timor – three brother’s and a sister murdered by Indonesian backed forces and an attempt on his own life, but his no justice inquiry is at odds with some Timorese.

'Justice For The Dead'

'Justice For The Dead'

Displaying that Independence doesn’t mean freedom – less than three hours after the President’s Official speech a protest outside Dili’s main hotel, the Hotel Timor by two dozen people opposed to the President’s ‘no’ decision was swiftly broken up by truckloads of ‘Special Police’. Call ‘Unit Taskforce’ .. 20 officers torn up banners reading ‘No Impunity For Timor War Crimes – Justice Now’ and took away three ringleaders.

As we drove back to out hotel with the video footage of the police action, a protester said: ‘He .. (President) is betraying the mothers of East Timor’.

With unemployment as high as 70 percent across East Timor and most living on less than 50 cents a day – job building infrastructure projects are the obvious way to pull the population out of poverty.



But, the decision not to pursue prosecutions against people who committed atrocities during the 24-year fight for freedom, threatens to undermine the leaps in security since the 2006 gang violence, death of Alfredo Reinaldo and assassination attempt on Jose Ramos-Horta.   

In a sign the President has won the first round in this fight, it was the Indonesian pop star Kris Dyanti who headlined the outdoor concert celebrating 10 years since the Independence vote. It odd choice considering the past, but maybe not as silly as three kangaroos in Presidential Palace garden.



April 30, 2009


When I first heard the term ‘Caveat Emptor’ (Buyer Beware) in a business class – I thought ‘cool’ Latin, but having just purchased a second hand Jeep I understand its meaning, in plan English.

         Okay – the 1992 Jeep 4×4 Sport was a bargain. Advertised on ‘Craigslist’ saying it required a new alternator – after a test-drive the Jeep’s owner Daniel Holzman accepted my 12 hundred dollar offer. I returned late the next afternoon, paid his Dad (John) the cash and off I drove into the darkness.

         I got two miles up the road when without warning the radio died, all the lights in the dashboard went out and the engine started to ‘skip’-‘chug’ and ‘stumble’ (It ran great during a test drive the day before).

         Aware I wasn’t going to get far – I started to drive North, hoping to make it to the safer streets of Santa Monica where I could crash park my wounded vehicle. My journey ended 30 blocks later outside an industrial complex at the corner of Olympic and 20th Street.

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

Immediately I called Daniel’s father John to explain what had happened. He said quote: ‘Oh .. no .. I can’t believe that. My son wouldn’t sell you a dud – let me speak to him. I don’t want you out of pocket on this .. I want to make this right!’

         In the darkness, I arranged a tow truck then telephoned Daniel Holzman who is working as a chef in New York. ‘Oh ..’ he said .. ‘my Dad did say the lights looked a little dim when you drove off!’ Daniel offered to take the car back – but I liked the car. Then came the statement of truth (Daniel) ‘I thought you would have at least made it home!’ We came to a verbal agreement to reimburse me for the

The Dints Show Character!

The Dints Show Character!

towing and taxi fare home.

         Carlo’s the tow truck driver arrived an hour later and we dropped the Jeep off at Pep Boys workshop. The repairs came to $500.

The next day I left a message on Daniel’s cell phone, telling him I was now on the road and gave a breakdown of the costs for towing and a taxi. He never called me back. So I telephoned John, his Dad. ‘Oh … I’m not taking money out of my pocket’, he said. ‘It’s an issue between you and Daniel’.

Feeling I had been ‘Somali Pirated’ after recounting down the phone line his commitments made two days before, I slipped into LA mode – ‘something along the lines of how was he going to sleep tonight with a crooked back!’

I didn’t pursue the issue after that. I could use the cash, but any funds reimbursed would have had been tainted – sometimes it’s best just to walk away.

But for what’s worth, I did learn a practical lesson no lecturer could ever teach – Buyer Beware or ‘Caveat Emptor’ for those who speak Latin.