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Nun Briefs Parliamentarians On Timor-Leste Crisis

Audio + Images: Diminutive Nun Briefs NZ Parliamentarians On On-going Security/Refugee Crisis In Timor-Leste


By Spike Mountjoy

Click here for audio of Sister Guilhermina Marcal's meeting with MPs yesterday


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Sister Guilhermina Marcal In Parliament's Maori Affairs Select Committee Room Yesterday

Security is still the most pressing problem for Timor-Leste according to nun and refugee camp organiser Sister Guilhermina Marcal currently visiting New Zealand.

Speaking with MPs at Parliament yesterday she said her country still needed international help to get the military and police functioning properly.

Defense Minister Phil Goff, who is hosting Sister Guilhermina in Wellington, assured her New Zealand currently has no plans to withdraw its troops.

Sister Guilhermina opened her Balide Canossian Convent to internally displaced people fleeing violence between soldiers, police, and armed gangs. Sometimes she mediates between the gangs.

“They try to kill each other, burning down houses, and running around against the police," she says.

“As mediator, it’s not easy work to do – very hard. Sometimes I talk to them, they listen to me… sometimes they shout at me, ‘why are you here, why are you keeping the naughty boys at the camp’?”

The convent and grounds in the capital Dili are currently home to around 7000 IDPs (internally displaced persons).

“My place is so small, this space it is not able to accommodate all people," says Sister Guilhermina.


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There are still an estimated 100,000 IDP's in Timor-Leste, roughly 10 per cent of the population. 30,000 of them are in Dili.

Sister Guilhermina and other convent nuns ran the camp by themselves for the first four months.

"At first I thought it might take three days, or a week, so we give up our own rooms, chapel for all of them… and the thing getting longer and longer.

"Hopefully in January refugees go back to their villages. We cannot do more. I myself – really exhausted."

Renewed violence displaced a further 4000 people in August after the formation of a new Government.

Sister Guilhermina says the convent camp has problems with malaria, dengue fever, and diarrhea. She also says 1 in 7 of the IDP's in her camp have HIV or AIDS

New Zealand provides clean water, sanitation, and security for the convent camp.

Sister Guilhermina says employment and education are also pressing problems. “People are crying for peace, but at the same time people are making problems."

An Australian led international force was deployed in June 2006, but sporadic violence persists.

Indonesia ceded control of the area 1999. Timor-Leste became a sovereign nation in 2002. (For more background on East Timor's path to independence circa 1999 see... Timor Crisis Scoop Feature Page)


MORE IMAGES…


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May 2007 - 3 Squadron, FLTLT Marc Bridgman on familiarisation Iroquois flight around Ainaro in Timor Leste


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Dili on polling day. Private Ben Hajdu (of Wanganui) patrols through a village district


Defence Minister, Phil Goff is greeted by children in Timor Leste.

For more background on East Timor's path to independence circa 1999 see... Timor Crisis Scoop Feature Page

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Scoop Audio: Sister Guilhermina Marcal On Timor-Leste.

  • Sister Guilhermina Marcal: Speaking at parliament on 11/12/07 on running a refugee camp in Dili, the security situation there now, and the role of New Zealand. She is introduced by Defence Minister Phil Goff.


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