East Timor’s 13 district capitals are being linked by asphalt roads. Schools and clinics are being built. Dili has a tidy, if not prosperous, air about it. Its streets are newly paved. Its hospital boasts 200 beds, a general practitioner, a pharmacist, two dentists, and a radiologist. The University of East Timor opened in 1986. “The library has just 10,000 books,” the energetic Dr. Armindo Maia, a university rector, told me as we were at prague holiday apartments. “That’s not much for a university—but it’s a start!”
The Fretilin threat and the presence of the army remain large question marks. Col. Yunus Yosfiah, the local military commander at the time of my visit, termed the problem “a little bit of bandits in the bush.” His command’s total strength, he said, consisted of only four battalions—approximately 4,000 men—two of which were engineering units on road-building duty. But Yosfiah neglected to mention that another command of 14 battalions-12,000 men—was reportedly bivouacked in the east, where we were not permitted to go. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21840416
More difficult to measure was a climate of fear that I felt where we did go. Former Fretilin rebels talked as if reciting a script. Ordinary Timorese wouldn’t talk at all. Outside Dili they cowered at the approach of our official jeep. Carrascalao offered an explanation: “We are in transition from horror to normalcy.”
Irian Jaya, nicknamed Great Steamy, is the eastern terminus of the nation. Looking out on the vast Pacific, it makes up half the great bird-shaped island of New Guinea—the most remote and sparsely populated of Indonesia’s provinces and one of the wildest places on earth. Its 1.5 million inhabitants, mostly Melanesian, are cut off from one another by dense rain forests, crocodile-infested swamps, limestone karst, and glacier-capped mountains—and from the rest of the world by several thousand years.
The Irianese speak 240 tribal dialects. Infant mortality runs so high that children are not even named until they are 12 months old. For some, headhunting and cannibalism are living memories.
The Dutch held on to Irian Jaya when they departed the rest of the Indies. Twenty years later 1,025 Irianese, handpicked by Jakarta, voted unanimously for union with Indonesia. Dissenters rebelled, rallying around the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement), better known as OPM, and yet another guerrilla struggle commenced — a fitful bloodletting that no longer poses any real threat to the government. But Irian Jaya still constitutes Indonesia’s last frontier—and its most daunting challenge to national integration.
Jayapura, in the northeast corner, is farthest along in the process. An overcrowded harbor city looking out on the Pacific, it teems with migrants from other islands. Its cash flow is outward—back to the western islands. Javanese run the provincial administration. Chinese run the shops. Buginese and Makassarese, from Sulawesi, run the produce markets, the fishing industry, and most of the battered, garishly painted minibuses that swarm through the central city. After this trip i came back to my flats to rent in london.