Community Radio Comes to Ainaro: The Voice of Tatamailau
by Inga and Tom Foley
"Bringing the voice of the people from the darkness into the light: Radio Comunidade Lian Tatamailau 98.1 FM," read the small, hand-painted mural on the side of the temporary studio for Ainaro's new community radio station. ("Lian" means voice and "Tatamailau" is another name for Mount Ramelau, East Timor's highest mountain. Mount Ramelau, which is visible from Ainaro town on a clear day, is important to Timor's history, culture and indigenous religions.) The mural would not have looked out of place in Madison -- indeed, the enthusiasm for locally-controlled media also reminded us of our home, some 10,000 miles away.
Ainaro's community radio station is currently housed inside the barbed-wire district police compound near the town's center. A tiny building serves as both the station's office and on-air studio. The signal is beamed to the community from a transmitter a half-mile away.
Nappoleao Xavier is Radio Comunidade Lian Tatamailau's station engineer. He told us that the station had just returned to the air, after a storm damaged their antenna. Mr. Xavier said that the station, although relatively new, already enjoyed broad community support. "We now reach most of the district," he told us. "When we go off the air, people show up on our doorstep. They've walked a long way just to ask us what went wrong!"
Mr. Xavier introduced us to Albina Famos, the station operator. As a recording of East Timorese music played, Ms. Famos said, "Now, we only broadcast from 9 am to 1 pm. We plan on broadcasting into the evening when more volunteers are trained. We already have programs about community issues, news and, of course, music."
Station engineer Leonardo de Araujo described their plans for the future. "We would like to repair or replace the building, to house all of our operations at one place, near the transmitter. That way, we will have enough room for our studio and an office, with a good roof to keep our equipment dry and safe."
The Madison-Ainaro Sister-City Alliance provided Radio Comunidade Lian Tatamailau with a grant covering one-third of the cost of relocating the station to proper facilities. The station's crew suggested that future Madison delegations could provide technical training assistance for staff and volunteers, facilitate local music exchanges between Madison and Ainaro, and/or provide solar or hand-crank radios, to be used as volunteer recruitment tools. We also discussed what a sister-station relationship between Radio Comunidade Lian Tatamailau and Madison's community radio station, WORT 89.9 fm, might look like.
During our first delegation to Ainaro in 2002, many residents of this isolated mountain region told us that they felt cut off from events in East Timor's capital, Dili, and even from neighboring Maubisse, the bustling headquarters for the region's coffee production. Radio Comunidade Lian Tatamailau has since become the district's only media outlet. Its importance cannot be overstated. Luckily, the station is led by three very capable and committed young adults. We hope to continue to support their efforts, to air the voices of the people in the shadow of Mount Ramelau.
Badgers in the Land of the Crocodile
by Inga Foley
Our trip to East Timor started with a bus ride. We flew out of Chicago and after 23 hours in the air and quite a few waiting on the ground, we were flying over islands speckled across the sea. I had never been so close to the equator. As soon as you step out of the plane, you know you're not in Wisconsin anymore. The humidity strikes you first, then the heat of the sun.
We arrived in Dili, the capital of East Timor, and were met at the airport by Yohan, a friend and former Madisonian. He has been teaching drama at Arte Moris ("Living Art" in Tetum, East Timor's lingua franca), a free art school. After all the horrible things that the East Timorese have seen, making art can be a powerful healing experience.
Ainaro is about 45 miles from Dili, through rolling hills and valleys, across mountain passes, hairpin turns and breathtaking precipices. The country is remarkably different from one place to the next. We drove by coconut trees, pine trees, citrus, mangoes, paw paw and coffee plants.
After five hours, we came to Ainaro. Driving into the town, we saw an Indonesian statue, then a playground with broken equipment and a basketball court. For a while, the United Nations was helping people start little stores, or kiosks; we saw many of these as well.
But it is the church that dominates the view of Ainaro. We were welcomed warmly by Father Tobias, the local priest, and Brother Domingo, the seminary school's headmaster. We gave the school an electric bass that Tom had made; Brother Domingo had asked for one during Madison's last delegation to Ainaro, in 2002.
We also met with Valentin Soares, the director of Centro Comunidade Ainaro. The community center is a joint effort by local women's, youth and church groups. Valentin told us about the Center's classes for pre-schoolers. In the future, they would like to offer vocational skills classes for adults. The Center also has a few computers, but their Internet access is very limited, due to the cost. In Ainaro, Internet access costs a dollar a minute - about a day's wage for those lucky enough to have steady jobs.
Our last Ainaro meeting was with the district government's agriculture director (see article below). Agriculture is key to Ainaro's economic development, and just about every family has at least a small vegetable garden. The director talked about community educational efforts, encouraging raised beds and composting. They also emphasize sustainable crops like trees for fruit production and for "living fences."
After returning to Dili, we met with Dr. Dan Murphy, an Iowa native who has worked in East Timor since 1998. He told us how hard it is for people in Ainaro to get medical aid. The local hospital was destroyed after the 1999 referendum, and there are still no regular clinics in the area. Medical care in all of East Timor is difficult; they still have to fly people to other countries for advanced care like heart surgery. But, as Dr. Dan points out, good nutrition and education go a long way. In addition to running the only free clinic in Dili, Dr. Dan has supported health education projects in villages across the country.
Although East Timor is one of the world's poorest nations, I feel hopeful about its future. The East Timorese are very kind, intelligent and committed to their country. While it was very different from Wisconsin, I felt at home and was sad as I left Dili, watching Timor fade back into the sea.
Help Us Help Ainaro
During the brutal U.S.-supported occupation of East Timor, the people of Madison were among the earliest and most active proponents of Timorese human rights and self-determination.
For the past three years, Madison has stood in solidarity with the people of Ainaro, as they've struggled to heal, rebuild and -- for the first time ever -- meaningfully engage their new democratic government. We've provided support to local medical clinics, schools, women's income-generating programs, community radio, the community center, and sustainable agriculture efforts.
Please help us continue this work. No donation is too large or too small!
Mail your donation to ETAN/Madison, c/o Diane Farsetta, 1217 Spaight Street, Madison, WI 53703. For more information, call 608-244-4563, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agricultural Assistance in Ainaro Bears Fruit
by Tom Foley
Ainaro's population, like most of East Timor's, relies on a staple diet of rice, potatoes and dried corn. This is supplemented with homegrown seasonal vegetables like peppers, squash and tomatoes. There are many microclimates, so both tropical and temperate crops are grown. In addition, many households raise chickens; a few have cattle.
In Dili's marketplaces, we found locally-grown seeds for:
East Timor's soil is rocky and susceptible to erosion. Wood is the main source of fuel for cooking; extensive logging contributes to the erosion problem. In response, reforestation has been incorporated into many agricultural efforts.
In Ainaro, we met with Komar Mendonca, of the local farmers' cooperative. He said that trees, as well as passion fruit vines, are very useful for food and for stopping erosion, especially in Ainaro's valleys. He appreciated the heavy mattocks (pickaxes) and shovels that we brought for the farmers' cooperative.
Natalia de Orleans, Ainaro district's agricultural administrator (pictured at left), encouraged the Madison-Ainaro Sister-City Alliance to continue our support of agricultural and reforestation efforts. She described the district's ongoing reforestation program, which uses poly bags to start tree seeds. The poly bag method has increased propagation rates considerably, and it saves water and soil.
We worked with Orleans to distribute to Ainaro farmers dozens of Timorese-produced illustrated books on raised bed gardening and permaculture that we had purchased in Dili. She also helped us arrange scholarships for local farmers to attend a national sustainable agriculture conference in Dili. Orleans suggested that the Madison-Ainaro Sister-City Alliance could continue our agricultural support by providing more seeds and tools.
One of Ainaro's parish priests, Father Arbino, also helped us distribute the illustrated permaculture books. He suggested that our group's future projects include support for agricultural initiatives and vocational/technical training.
Action Alert: Genocide and (In)Justice
In November, Indonesia exonerated the only official it had convicted for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
The acquittal of Abilio Osorio Soares, the former Indonesian-appointed governor of East Timor, is part of a three-year shadow play in which Indonesia has pretended to prosecute eighteen people for the destruction of East Timor in 1999. In reality, everyone except one Timorese militia leader has been acquitted. Many of those responsible for rape, torture, murder and forced displacement have been promoted within Indonesia's security forces.
The victims of Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor deserve justice. It is time for the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute all those who designed, directed and carried out serious crimes against the East Timorese since the Indonesian invasion in 1975.
Please contact UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who once said that "impunity must not prevail" when it comes to war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor. Urge him to create a Commission of Experts to evaluate the seriously flawed justice process in Indonesia and the very limited process in East Timor, and to recommend an international tribunal if the Commission agrees that these processes do not meet international standards.
Fax: 212-963-7055 (you can send a free fax from www.etan.org/action/fax/faxsg.htm)
Write: Secretary-General Kofi Annan / United Nations / New York, NY 10017
Action Alert: Exploiting the Tsunami
To make matters worse, the Pentagon and the Indonesian government are using the tragic tsunami which struck Aceh to call for U.S. support Ð including weapons and training -- for Indonesia's brutal military. While in Jakarta recently, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said we should build "newer US and Indonesian defence relations." Indonesia's Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said "We look forward to improving our military to military relations in the next couple of years." With Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Wolfowitz argues that links would help build democracy in Indonesia. History shows the opposite.
Even amidst the tsunami tragedy, there are many reports of abuse of humanitarian assistance by the Indonesian military, including withholding food and other relief from civilians.
Phone or fax your Representative and Senators. Tell them to use their voice and vote in Congress to: