Rebuilding East Timor

Victoria's City of Port Phillip has pledged to assist in rebuilding the East Timor coastal town of Suai. It has entered a five to ten year partnership arrangement with the National Council for East Timorese Resisitance (CNRT) to achieve this.

Council formally launched the 'Friends of Suai' program with a community festival day in March. Already it has held two collection days, 'Treadlies for East Timor' in which bikes were donated and 'Truckload for Timor' in which a Council donated Truck has been filled with donated tools, seeds, clothing and rice.

Council has urged residents, businesses and community groups to get involved in the program. The Australian Army weighed in, loading the truck on a regular run to Darwin and agreeing to transport three shipping containers packed with the Port Phillip donations.

Prior to the launch of the project, Strategic Planner, Steve Dunn and Councillor David Brand travelled to East Timor with a delegation of architects and planners. "Despite watching numerous television news reports, it is impossible to envisage the immense scale of the destruction," Councillor Brand said.

David and Steve spent two days in Suai which is home to 12,000 people, and a centre for a further 50,000 people in the surrounding district of Covalima. David Brand said everyone they spoke to, from Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao to villagers, is conscious of the need to get things right during construction.

"The CNRT is an environmentally aware coalition and is taking traditional timber and thatched housing as the starting point for its rebuilding program," he said. "They are keen to avoid using concrete, corrugated iron and air conditioning."

The East Timorese plan to build on the traditional agrarian economy, but want to explore new ventures like eco tourism a little further down the track. "The City of Port Phillip may be able to provide advice on eco tourism given our experience with planning, preserving heritage and resisting rampant over development," David Brand said.

Steve Dunn said Suai was about 90 percent destroyed with most buildings razed to the ground, no electricity and water contaminated by diesel, rubbish and dead bodies.

"One desperately needed project is to wire up public buildings, schools, a community meeting centre and the church to connect the power grid to the nearby New Zealand Army Base and Medical Centre," he said. "An electrical engineer needs to be sponsored to assess what needs to be done and then an electrician needs to train local people to keep it functioning."

He suggested power companies in Port Phillip might be interested in donating tools and equipment. He said the truck which Port Phillip has sent would be a great boon in removing rubbish which is currently lying around for want of effective means to get rid of it. Other requirements are school supplies, water purifiers, tractors and seeds.

For further information contact Steve Dunn, telephone (03) 9209 6680