The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor, is an island nation in Southeast Asia, consisting of the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecussi-Ambeno, a political exclave of East Timor situated on the western side of the island, surrounded by West Timor.
Formerly controlled by neighbouring Indonesia, which annexed it as a province in 1975, East Timor broke away in 1999 and achieved full independence on May 20, 2002. When East Timor joined the United Nations in 2002, it decided to be officially referred to by its Portuguese name, Timor-Leste, as opposed to its English name.
Main article: History of East Timor
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the area in the 16th century and they established an isolated presence on the island of Timor, while the surrounding islands came under Dutch control. Portuguese Timor declared itself independent on November 28, 1975, but was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later, before such independence could be internationally recognised. Literally the day before, President Ford and Henry Kissinger had been in Jakarta where Ford had told Suharto "we will not press you on this issue". Several US administrations up to and including Clinton continued the arms flow to the dictator. The territory was subsequently declared the 27th province of Indonesia in July 1976 as Timor Timur. However, internationally, its legal status was that of a "non-self governing territory under Portuguese administration".
During the invasion and occupation, an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people were killed. On August 30, 1999, in a United Nations-supervised popular referendum, the East Timorese voted for full independence from Indonesia, but violent clashes, instigated primarily by anti-independence militias (aided by elements of the Indonesian military, see Scorched Earth Operation), broke out soon afterwards. UN peacekeepers led by Australia were brought in to restore order. Independence was internationally recognised on May 20, 2002 and East Timor joined the UN on September 27 of that year.
Main article: Politics of East Timor
Head of state of the East Timorese republic is the president, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and whose role is largely symbolic, though he is able to veto some legislation. Following legislative elections, the president appoints as prime minister the leader of the majority party or majority coalition. As head of government the prime minister presides over the Council of State or cabinet.
The unicameral Timorese parliament is the National Parliament or Parlamento Nacional, whose members are also elected by popular vote to a five-year term. The number of seats can vary from a minimum of 52 to a maximum of 65, though it exceptionally has 88 members at present, due to this being its first term of office. The Timorese constitution was modelled on that of Portugal. The country is still in the process of building its administration and governmental institutions.
Main article: Districts of East Timor
East Timor is subdivided into 13 administrative districts:
Main article: Geography of East Timor
Timor is the Malay word for "Orient" and the island of Timor is part of the Indonesian archipelago and the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. To the north of the mountainous island is found the Banda Sea, to the south the Timor Sea separates the island from Australia, while to the west lies the Savu Sea. The highest point of East Timor is Mount Tatamailau at 2,963 m.
The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The capital, largest city and main port of East Timor is Dili, second-largest is the town of Baucau, which has the only significant airport of the country.
Main article: Economy of East Timor
Prior to and during colonisation Timor was best known for its sandalwood. In late 1999, about 70% of the economic infrastructure of East Timor was laid waste by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias, and 260,000 people fled westward. Over the next three years, however, a massive international programme, manned by 5,000 peacekeepers (8,000 at peak) and 1,300 police officers, led to substantial reconstruction in both urban and rural areas. By mid-2002, all but about 50,000 of the refugees had returned.
The country faces great challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure and the strengthening of the infant civil administration. One promising long-term project is the joint development with Australia of oil and natural gas resources in the southeastern waters off Timor, a location known as the Timor gap. The Government of East Timor is seeking to renegotiate its border with Australia to a point halfway between it and Australia as this would increase the proportion of these resources within its borders. As at May 2004, Australia wanted to maintain the border at the end of its continental shelf. Normally a maritime dispute such as this could be referred to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for an impartial decision, however Australia withdrew from these organisations when it realised that this might occur. Many advocacy groups claimed that Australia deliberately obstructed negotiations because the existing arrangement benefited Australia financially.
Main article: Demographics of East Timor
The East Timorese population, which is collectively known as the Maubere, an originally derogatory name that was turned into a name of pride by the resistance movement, consists of a number of distinct ethnic groups, most of which are of Malay descent and some of older Papuan stock. There is also a small ethnic Chinese minority.
The population is predominantly Roman Catholic (90%), with sizable Muslim (5%) and Protestant (3%) minorities. Smaller Hindu, Buddhist and animist minorities make up the remainder. Currently, their are about 800,000 citizens of East Timor.
Main article: Languages of East Timor
East Timor's two official languages are Tetum, a local Austronesian language, and Portuguese. Indonesian and English are defined as working languages under the Constitution. Another fourteen indigenous languages are spoken.
Main article: Culture of East Timor
The Culture of East Timor reflects numerous cultural influences, including Portuguese, Roman Catholic and Malay, on the indigenous Austronesian cultures in East Timor. Legend tells that a giant crocodile transformed into the island of Timor, Ilha do Crocodilo (Crocodile Island) how it is oftenly called. Like Indonesia, the culture of East Timor is very influenced by this kind of Austronesian legends. But in Timor the Catholic mentality is more widely spread.
The population is mainly Roman Catholic but illiteracy is common. Despite that, some good poetry can be found in Timor. As for Architecture some Portuguese-style buildings can be found. Craftmanship is also very present.
Ergue o seu braço numa luta impotente, Destrói a flor que nasce, Escutou os seus passos que julgou serem multidões, Viu na escuridão vassalos, rendeu-se.
Mas o Homem não sabe chorar, vendeu seu rosto. Mas o Homem não sabe chorar, vendeu suas lágrimas.
E as estátuas também choram, E as pombas também choram, E os heróis também choram, E os homens também choram,
E os crocodilos também.
He raises his arm in an powerless fight, Destroys the new-born flower, Heard his steps but thought they were crouds, He saw in the darkness vassals, he surrendered himself.
But Mankind does not know how to cry, he sold his face. But Mankind does not know how to cry, he sold his tears.
And the statues also cry, And the doves also cry, And heroes also cry, And men also cry,
And crocodiles too.
See also: Music of East Timor
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