MICK LE-COCQ: home from Timor-Leste (East Timor) with tales to tell.



MICK Le-Cocq and other Western Australian Rotarians found themselves working with former freedom fighters  in Timor Leste over the past month.

“Leo” (Leopoldina Guterres, the headmistress we met in  Rockingham last year) and Father Emmanuel fought the Indonesian invaders until they were “bombed out of the mountains,” Mick told last Wednesday’s Palm Beach Rotary Club meeting.


The Rotarians’ water supply mission got off to a slow start.  Materials were on the wharf and supposed to be released but time ticked by without the bureaucratic okay.  Eventually the work party bought the necessary hardware “from the Chinaman”.
Mick said they travelled from Dili to Bacau, which took about two hours, and stopped there at the East Timor Roofing company,  a previous aid effort set up by eastern states Rotarians to provide jobs and training. That enterprise’s management is to be handed over to the Catholic priests, but Mick has misgivings about that.
Travelling on from Bacau, it took one and a half hours to cover 17-18km to Laga, and from Laga to Baguia the road was even worse.
En route, the work party fixed leaking pipes and  a bore for nuns. 
They then supplied water from a slowly trickling spring ⎯ at a rate of one litre a minute  ⎯  to the house of the Buibela mayor (or “cheffy”).  He wept tears of joy when the water came through.   The cheffy had first asked the Portuguese and then the Indonesians for water when he moved back into the mountains in 1991.  He also asked the East Timorese government. (Indonesia relinquished control in 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination. East Timor became the  21st century’s first new sovereign state on May 20, 2002.)
 “Within two years of us (volunteers) rocking up, they got their one litre a minute water and supplied eight families of seven to 10 people,” Mick said.
The work party sent water from another stream, at a rate of six litres a minute, down the hill to the Buibela Primary School (one of Leo’s schools) so toilets could finally be flushed.  The government built the school and toilets but gave it no water supply, Mick remarked.
The  work party also gave water to another five schools and Mick promised a full report on their efforts and adventures at a later meeting.