Brief History of East Timor
East Timor/Timor island is located in Southeastern Asia, and a few hundred miles of northwest of Australia - Darwin, Northern Territory. If you look up in the world map, it is located in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago.
The Timor Island was divided into two parts by Portuguese and Dutch colonial powers – with the Portuguese being the colonial government of East Timor and the Dutch for West Timor. When Indonesia became independent in 1945, they declared all the Dutch colonies, as a result West Timor was also part of Indonesia and still remains part of Indonesia until now.
According to various sources, the Portuguese arrived in East Timor or Timor Island in 1520. Prior to that East Timor/Timor Island was an independent nation ruled by different kingdoms. The new comers managed to persuade the kingdoms and ruled them for 500 years. Although they allowed the Timorese to maintain their cultures and traditions during that period, the Portuguese made very little progress in East Timor compared to other colonial powers.
The Portuguese colonial rule in East Timor finally ended when military coup d' etat occur in Lisbon in 1974. The new administration proposed that all colonies should be allowed to exercise self-determination. As a results of this, the East Timorese formed four political parties with different goals.
Four Political Parties in 1974
- UDT - Uniao Democratico Timorense (United Democratic of Timor) wanted a slow process of independence.
- FRETILIN - Frente Revolucionario de Timor Leste Independencia (The Revolutionary Front of Independence of East Timor) wanted immediate independence.
- APODETI - Associao Popular Democratico Timorense (Popular Association of Democratic Timor) wanted East Timor to be part of Indonesia.
- KOTA - Klibur Oan Timor Asuwain (Association of Timorese Heroes or Sons of Mountain Warriors) is a conservative political party in East Timor.
Because of the suspicion that Fretilin was communist and wanted to establish a communist state in East Timor, UDT attempted a coup (Golpe) on 11 August 1975. The fighting between the two parties broke out on 20 August 1975, which lasted just for a few weeks and finally with the support of the indigenous East Timorese soldiers, FRETILIN took control of East Timor and declared independence on 28 November 1975 with its first president Francisco Xavier do Amaral and first prime minister Nicolau Lobato. Nicolau Lobato - First Prime Minister of East Timor. UDT leaders and their supporters took refuge on the border between West Timor and East Timor. After FRETILIN declared independence, UDT and APODETI greeted FRETILIN's declaration by signing a petition called Balibo Petition to invite Indonesia to invade East Timor. So the Indonesian invasion started from there. Eventually Indonesia launched the invasion on 7 December 1975 and incorporated East Timor into Indonesia on 17 July 1976.
Indonesia occupied East Timor from 1976 to 1999. When the Suharto regime fell in 1998, his successor BJ Habibie encouraged that East Timor to begin the process of special autonomy or self-determination. After a very long process negotiation between Portugal and Indonesia, finally the two countries reached an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations for the first time in history to allow East Timorese to vote in a UN-sponsored referendum which was held on 30 August 1999 to decide the future of their homeland. When the UN announced the result, 78.5% voted for independence and rejected special autonomy offered by the Indonesian government.
Indonesia had planned to destroy East Timor to the ground if the majority of the population voted for independence. So immediately after the results were announced, through its militias, Indonesia destroyed the infrastructure of East Timor and forced the population to flee to West Timor. Everyone fled East Timor including journalists, UN staff, and other non government organisations. Thousands of East Timorese were killed and they burned East Timor to the ground. Once they had destroyed everything finally under international community pressure, the Indonesian government allowed in a multinational peacekeeping force under the command of Australia, and Indonesian soldiers left East Timor after 25 years of occupation.
The United Nations administered East Timor for two and a half years. During this period, they helped the East Timorese established a viable infrastructure and government. On 20 May 2002, East Timor declared its independence for the second time in history. The first President was Xanana Gusmao and the first Prime Minister was Mari Alkatiri.
Sadly, after four years of independence, once again East Timorese fought one another. The fighting started because the Timorese government had sacked 500 soldiers after going on strike to protest alleged discrimination in the military. And for the second time East Timor government asked for international help to stabilise the situation. Australia and New Zealand government sent in about 1,300 troops as well as the United Nations.
It has been two years since 2006, but the problem is still unresolved and on February 2008 the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado with his soldiers attacked the President and the Prime Minister's residence where the President was shot several times which nearly killed him.
Learn Tetun - East Timor Phrasebook
If you want to learn baisc Tetum we recommend you to purchase this book.
Easy-to-use tips for pronunciation and grammar, useful suggestions for health needs and emergencies, sustainable travel section and best phrases for finding accommodation.
East Timor Travel Guide
A guide to the local cuisine, detailed maps and transport information - how to get there and how to get around.
This book is the work of two authors, 49 days of in-country research, and hundreds of kilometres of back-country research.