Completion of My Visit to the 13 Municipalities of Timor-Leste (Part 3)

By: VZ from Dili, Timor-Leste.

Passing by Balibo, Balibo post-administrative, Bobonaro, 2013

10. Maliana- Bobonaro Municipality

I first time came to Maliana city in 2013 for a field and the beautiful view of the municipality was my bonus to enjoy. Today, Bobonaro is the municipality though it was formerly one of the district. The word is a Portuguese modified word of the Tetun language word Bobonaru (or Buburnaru), which means “tall eucalypt”. Geographically, the municipality located at the southwest of the country and has the Savu Sea to the north of Bobonaro, the municipality of Liquiçá to the northeast, Ermera to the east, Ainaro to the southeast, and Cova-Lima to the south. To the west lies the Indonesian province Nusa Tenggara Timur. Batugade is where the portal of the border with Indonesia is located and many Timorese usually travel to West Timor through this border. Sometimes, dolphins appeared around the beach of Batugade. Bekais, Kemak and Bunak are main dialects with Indonesia and Tetun are widely understood. Agriculture activity is productive sector in this municipality which is known for its high local rice plantation and also the local restaurant also serve the local rice to its consumers which is quite unique thing in this municipality. Entering the municipality, I was intrigued to see Balibo, a spot area where the incident of killing of Australian journalists group happened during early Indonesian occupation 1975 and the incident is popularly known as Balibo Five. Other popular spot to visit is Natural Hot Spring in Marobo (which I did not able to make) and Maliana also has interesting cultural local context to discover. It took four to five hours trip to reach Maliana from Dili with car or public bus.

Railaco street, Ermera., 2018

11. Ermera- Ermera Municipality

Ermera is one of the closer municipality to Dili located in the west-central part of the country. It is regarded as the coffee producer municipality in Timor-Leste due to its major production and plantation of coffee which has been available in Ermera since Portuguese time. My first touch with this municipality was on my field trip to Railaco and Gleno, two post administrative to reach before entering the Ermera city. Departing from Dili, one has to pass by Liquica municipality before reaching Ermera. The word Ermera according local folktale means ‘red water’ in Mambae language. It is one of land-locked municipalities in East Timor with Aileu. It borders Liquiçá to the north, Dili to the northeast, Alieu to the east, Ainaro to the southeast, and Bobonaro to the west. Mambae is the main dialect with Tetun and Indonesia are widely understood. The road today is curvy and well paved from Tibar to Gleno. One can definitely made a one day trip to Gleno and enjoy the lush green trees along the way and seeing the coffee plantations when passing by the Railaco street. Ermera has 5 post administrative such as Ermera, Atsabe, Hatulia, Letefoho and Railaco. There are many unexposed tourism site in Ermera and local cultures and traditions are also interesting to discover. It took 1 to 2 hour day trip with car or public bus from Dili to Ermera.

Maubara beach, Liquica, 2015

12. Liquiça – Liquiça Municipality

As one of the closest municipality to Dili, Liquiça has become the one popular destination to visit for a one day trip from Dili. It is located on the northern coast of East Timor, and borders the municipalities of Dili  to the east, Aileu to the Southeast, Ermera to the south, and Bobonaro to the southwest. To the northwest with Savu Sea. What I noticed most about this municipality is the beaches and its black sand along the way from Dili. The popular beaches in this municipality is Maubara beach with the former Portuguese Fort, the Black Rock beach and Lauhata beach. Maubara has many significant historical documentaries since Portuguese time and during 1999 crisis to be explored and retold by the local people. Aipelu prison is one of popular spot to see the remarks of Portuguese presence in the past. Some people loves to do diving in its beaches. Along with beaches, one can also purchase souvenirs from the local vendors in Maubara. Tokodede is the main dialect with Indonesia and Tetum language are widely understood. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to reach Liquiça from Dili with personal vehicle or public one. The municipality has three post administrative: Bazartete, Maubara and Liquiça.

Pante Makassar beach. Oecusse, 2018

13. Oecusse – Administrative Region of Oecusse Ambeno

Oecusse is an enclave of Timor Leste located in Nusa Tenggara Timur province in Indonesia. As a coastal exclave, it located in the western part of the island of Timor. Oecusse is also popular with name Oecusse-Ambeno which are the names of the two original kingdoms existed before the colonial period. Oecusse also became the historical remarks of first Portuguese presence to Timor-Leste for sandalwood trade and this add more significant historical documentary for this municipality to be explored. The local cultural context also owns a unique patterns that add diversity to Timorese cultural heritage. When came here for the first time, what caught my eyes most was the beautiful sparkling blue beaches, the sharp-look mountains and its serenity in the city. Today one can travel to Oecusse by land and pass by Indonesian border in Atambua, by sea with Ferry (costs $8 USD per person) and by air with ZEEMS flight that cost $65 to $75 USD per seat from Dili. Oecusse today becomes the special administrtaion region in Timor-Leste and infrastructure are actively developed in the city of Pante Makassar. The municipality has 4 post administratives; Pante Makassar, Nitibe, Oesilo and Passabe. Baikenu is the local main dialect with Indonesian and Tetun language are widely understood.

There are still a lot to tell about how beautiful, unique and interesting from each of this municipalities.Somehow, mostly the road conditions today are under construction especially to eastern zone thus add difficulty to do a road trip to some of these municipalities. However, I believe there will be time when the conditions change and more exploration could be carried out to each of this municipalities.

Completion of My Visit to the 13 Municipalities of Timor-Leste (Part 2)

By: VZ from Dili, Timor-Leste.

A day at an old chapel, Ainaro villa, Ainaro, 2017

7. Ainaro – Ainaro Municipality

The word Ainaro is a derivative from the Mambae expression ai naru means ‘tall tree’. Ainaro municipality located in southwest part of the country, generally regarded as the coldest municipality in Timor-Leste due to it is located uphill and close to mount Ramelau, the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste. Ainaro is also known for its fertile land that actively produce vegetables, beans, flowers and coffee production by its farmers. My first time visit to Ainaro in 2018 last was realized during my return trip from Covalima to Dili. Along the way is full of green scenery view, landscape full of green hills, mountainous views, grass field and serene house along the street in Ainaro villa town. The city also has many Portuguese and Indonesian historical building remarks. Mambae is also one of main dialect spoken widely with Tetun and Indonesian language are widely understood. The municipalities also has interesting pattern of cultural traditions and historical places to explore especially as it becomes one of historical shelter during Timor-Leste resistant combatants during struggle of independence. The municipality has 4 post-administrative which are Ainaro vila, Hato-udo, Hato-builico and Maubisse. It took 3 to 4 hours to reach Ainaro from Dili and one has to pass by Aileu municipality beforehand.

Dom Boaventura Statue in Luak, Manufahi, 2017

8. Same -Manufahi Municipality

I first time visited this municipality in 2017 on a field trip and mesmerized by the beautiful scenery along the way there. Curvy roads, high steep hills, serene city, fresh cold air. Same is the capital of the municipality and the municipality name Manufahi according to local tales was modified version of the original word in Mambae ‘Maun Fahe‘ means brothers went apart according to local tale that once upon a time there were 5 brother who have to parting ways from their home. What fascinated me most about Same city is the story of Don Boaventura, a local king and regarded by most as hero for his resistance movement during The Great Rebelllion in 1910-1912 against Portuguese colonialism. The statue of Dom Boaventura located in a village named Luak, 20 minutes away from Same city. The city has interesting cultural and historical context to explore with local people. Mambae is also one of main dialect spoken widely with Tetun and Indonesian language are widely understood. The municipality has 4 post-administrative which are Same, Fatuberliu, Alas and Turiscai. It took around 8 to reach Same city from Dili and one will pass by Aileu municipality and Maubisse post-administrative of Aileu beforehand.

The chapel of Black September massacre in Suai, Covalima, 2018

9. Suai – Covalima Municipality

On my first visit to Suai city, I was very excited and intrigued to figure out the city and in particular to see the local chapel where the 1999 Black September massacre happened. It was one of the horrific story of massacre happened to Timorese civilians during the announcement of result of East Timor referendum in 1999. On my arrival, I rushed to see this place first and accompanied by a local guide from the hotel I stayed in. It is an old rustic chapel and some of the windows have been broken but inside was still functional to be used by local people to held catholic church activities. It was in this church that during the civil unrest, local people came to evacuate to this chapel that located uphill guided by four priests (three Timorese and one Indonesia priest) trying to protect them but local the militias came and shooting the civilians including the priests and burnt the chapel. Though the chapel was then renovated, its rustic look and serenity inside tells a lot of untold memories. Suai is one of post-administrative of Covalima Municipality and this municipality located in southwest part of the country.

The municipality borders the Timor Sea to the south, the municipality of Bobonaro to the north, Ainaro to the east, and the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur to the west. Suai city located in coastal area and the weather is hot during the dry season. However, the Suai Loro beach was nearby and is beautiful to visit with precaution not to bath at the beach or go closer as there are warning of crocodile existence around the water. The sea around Suai is southern sea regarded by Timorese as Tasi Mane means male sea due its loud and resonance sea). The municipality has interesting cultural diversities in its tradition, local arts and beliefs.

The municipality has 6 post-administratives consisted of Fatululic, Fatumean, Fohorem, Zumalai, Maucatar, Suai, and Tilomar.  Tetun Terik, Kemak and Bunak are main dialect while Tetun and Indonesia are also widely uunderstood. Cova Lima municipality also regarded as the furthest municipality to reach from Dili as one has to pass by the curvy road of Aileu and Ainaro to reach Suai city during eight to nine hours trip with car or public trasnport from Dili. Nowaday, one can reach Suai city with ZEEMS flight (a CESSNA type plane) which costs $ 41 to $51 USD flies once a day from Monday to Saturday from Dili with duration of around 35 minutes. Suai has got a new airport build and planned to accommodate the petroleum and gas mining research and activity there. 

On the Euphoria of the Upcoming Timor-Leste Presidential Election

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Election in Timor-Leste Photo: http://timoragora.blogspot.co.id

In the latest week, Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste is having a tense of the pre-election syndrome as on Monday, March 20, the presidential election will be held throughout the territory and citizens with eligible status as voters will participate in the election in each residential sucos/villages at the municipalities. According to data from STAE (The Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration) Timor-Leste, for 2017, there is total of 747, 583 voters and out of this total, 746,252 are national voters while 1,332 voters are abroad from Australia and Portugal. Obviously, this long weekend will be full of people moving to the districts and district public transportation mode like buses will be busy for sure.

Since my first participation as the voter in 2006, I have experienced the same situation occurred during every Election Day. People consisted of men and women from young to older age, will stand in a long queue for some minute even hours under the hot sun rays for their turn just to get inside to the vertical-square-shaped election box. As to vote is the civil right of every citizen in a democratic country, it is inside that election box that people will vote and determine the fate of the candidate leaders who competing for the position of the president. With a puncture or pen marked on the candidate’s picture, these voters will decide with their whole consciousness on the candidate they choose to rule the country. As Timor-Leste is a republic democratic country, hence the election is to align with the concept of democracy that leaders are chosen by the people to rule the people for the good of the people.

Since the CNE (National Commission of Election) Timor-Leste officially announced 8 candidates of the president, the euphoria of the campaign becomes quite intense featuring the major parties and the enthusiastic supporters held convoy along the streets while the banners featuring the promotional messages for the candidates are displayed all around the city of Dili. Some of these 8 candidates sponsored by political parties whereas others came as independent candidates. While these candidates are busy on their campaign and self-promotion on various means of media, there have been many rumors, predictions and assumptions spread from mouth to mouth that the candidate A may win absolutely over the other candidates or there may be a second round of election if the first round winner has insufficient votes less than 50%. Here, the hot discussion about the quality of each candidate keeps going on in the social media, online and hardcopy newspapers and in the daily interaction among the people all around the country.

Despite all these, there are also some people raise their concerns on how eligible these candidates are for their electability and what vision and mission they have to create a better change for Timor-Leste after elected. Until this day, many Timorese still has the concern on the Long-life Pension law, which seen as an over-benefitting entitlement, corruption keeps increasing explicitly while sectors of the economy, education, health, justice and agriculture still need huge improvement. Meanwhile, generally most of the campaigns are full of hypnotizing cliché promises and with the candidates tried to expose their charm as impressive as possible.

However, there is one of the most intrigued splashed rumors said this upcoming election already has the winner and the election is just a superficial formality.  This is, however, sounds annoying because if there is already a winner without people have to vote, and that everything has been plotted, then there is no point for people to drag their feet going to the vote center and vote. Nonetheless, hope that this rumor is just an inconsequential thought and this third Timor-Leste presidential election could successfully run well in peace and stability in the territory.

Until this week, friction occurred between the supporters of party A and Party B on the main road of Dili although did not cause huge damage. This is a pity part of the pre-election syndrome as the supporters are not politically mature enough to respect the political difference of other people. These, however, emphasize the importance of understanding and applying the content of civic education in order to respect each other.

While everywhere people start to have a concern about what will happen after the election, as a citizen, my only hope is that, the election could run well competently and fairly and that people as the voters are fully conscious and aware of the choice they made for the future president of Timor-Leste.

Dili, 17 March 2017