NATION

Timorese Hold Fond Memories of Fijian Peacekeepers

Rosi Doviverata was among seven Pacific Islands journalists who were invited to Timor Leste for events there including a development conference Timorese people still hold fond memories of Fijian peacekeepers
01 Jun 2017 11:00
Timorese Hold Fond Memories of Fijian Peacekeepers
From left: FBC’s Elenoa Turagaiviu, Benito Quintao, Fiji Sun managing editor - Digital Rosi Doviverata and Department of Information’s Brenda Caucau in Timor Leste.

Rosi Doviverata was among seven Pacific Islands journalists who were invited to Timor Leste for events there including a development conference

Timorese people still hold fond memories of Fijian peacekeepers who served on the island under the International Force East Timor (INTERFET).

185 soldiers, including eight officers, left Fiji in October, 2000 to help bring peace and stability.

INTERFET was the United Nations-mandated multinational force formed to address the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation on the island.

East Timor had declared independence from Portugal on November 28, 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later.

It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). The Timorese resisted.

An unsuccessful Indonesia campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, where an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people died.

Most Fijian peacekeepers were based in Suai, a small town, known as the capital of the Cova Lima District. Suai is located Southwest of the country. It only takes 20 minutes to get to the border to Indonesia.

Our peacekeepers were billeted at what is now the nearly completed Suai International Airport.

Benito Quintao, a Suai native was surprised to hear “Bula” as we hopped on to his courtesy truck. He was one of 10 drivers at the Suai Airport tasked to drive 10 foreign journalists and camera people around the area.

“My friend from Fiji. His name Rambo.”

In broken English, Mr Quintao said he and Rambo were close.

“We always meet for “kakana, tapioca and grog.”

He reminisced the iTaukei farewell song Isa Lei they often sang.

As we drove past the dusty roads of Suai, a Kabu ni Delai Kade number blasted from the car speakers.

“Rambo like this song,” Mr Quintao said.

While in Suai, Mr Quintao helped out the Fijian peacekeepers whenever he could.

Some Timorese even talked about the high cost of ‘dalo’ when the Fijians were around.

In Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital, Fijian peacekeepers were described as big burly men and big eaters.

Fiji served with troops from Ireland, New Zealand and France in Suai.

 

So who is this Fijian Rambo?

He is Nacani Buludrau – a former body guard of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. He is now with the 3FIR at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

 

What is currently happening in Suai?

Suai is is part of the Timor-Leste government’s Tasi Mane project. The goal is to bring petroleum development to Timor-Leste’s shores and to provide direct economic dividends from the petroleum industry activities.

At the moment, there is lack of infrastructure and capabilities including human resources.

 

Current projects:

n             An international airport will open later this year. It can also cater for at least 5 heli pads used for oil and gas exploration

n             Clearing of virgin forest to build a four lane road and bridges to connect with other districts. Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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