Monday, October 19, 2009

New developments at Balibo

Damien and Rae Kingsbury, and Victorian parliamentarian Judith Graley and her husband Stephen, visited Balibo on 6 October to progress plans for the further development of the Flag House and environs. Judith was in Timor-Leste on a scoping mission to assess the options for a parliamentary delegation visiting Timor-Leste in 2010, to begin an on-going dialogue with the parliement of Timor-Leste.

More locally, on behalf of the Balibo House Trust, Damien signed an MOU with the Flag House committee of management convenor, Rogerio Goncalves, and the following day with the Dili-based NGO Belun, committing all three parties to work together for the future of Balibo around the Flag House project. Belun has placed a worker at the Flag House, who will assist the committee of management with planning and seeking sources of funding. The Trust has also committed to providing capital for the development of varous projects associated with the Flag House.

In recent developments, new computers bought by the Trust have been installed by InfoTimor, and discussions are underway concerning the establishment of a satellite up-link to provide internet access to the Flag House. A new, larger generator was also recently installed, providing adequate reliable power for all the Flag House needs.

Damien Kingsbury took to the Flag House a framed poster from the movie 'Balibo' which had been signed by the cast and director. This is intended to hang above the pictures of the 'Balibo Five' and Roger East in the Flag House front room. InfoTimor has said it will soon take a copy of the movie 'Balibo', dubbed in Tetum, and hold a public screening in the town.

The Trust was also recently approached by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) about establishing an 'Uma Media' (Media House) at the Flag House. This move was supported by the Trust and has received in-principle support from the management committee. ICFJ representative Emmanuel Braz will hold further discussions about the establishment of the Uma Media at the Flag House, including a news and information gathering and distribution network and a small radio station. If the Uma media project goes ahead, the ICFJ will employ a local person to be a full-time worker at the Flag House.

Similar Uma Media have been established elsewhere in Timor-Leste and the proposal looks to be able to add yet another important and exciting element to the work that is going on in conjunction with the Flag House.

Funds were recently raised by a melbourne Rotary branch to help with the refurbishment of the kindergarten, which continues to be in need of repair, especially the fencing and playground. It is hoped work on this project can commence early in 2010.

Discussions also continue with the Ministry of State Administration about the refurbishment of the house in the old Portugese fort for visitors. People coming to Balibo for training from outlying villages often require a place to stay, and it is hoped that the 'Fort House' will be able to provide such accommodation, as well as for visitors and tourists coming from Dili and further afield. There is an in-principle agreement to develop the Fort House, with some technical details now being worked through.

At one level, progress on these projects seems too slow, perhaps more reflecting the impatience and excitement of the those involved. But after something of a lull in developing new projects at the Flag House, there is again significant movement, with 2010 holding the prospect of new, large developments for the Balibo community.