|TIMOR-LESTE COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Timor-Leste within the continent of Asia
Map of Timor-Leste
Flag Description of Timor-Leste: red, with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) superimposed on a slightly longer yellow arrowhead that extends to the center of the flag; a white star - pointing to the upper hoist-side corner of the flag - is in the center of the black triangle; yellow denotes the colonialism in Timor-Leste's past; black represents the obscurantism that needs to be overcome; red stands for the national liberation struggle; the white star symbolizes peace and serves as a guiding light
Official name Repúblika Demokrátika Timor Lorosa’e (Tetum); República Democrática de Timor-Leste (Portuguese) (Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste)1
Form of government republic with one legislative house (National Parliament )
Head of state President: José Ramos-Horta
Head of government Prime Minister: Xanana Gusmão
Official languages Portuguese; Tetum2
Official religion none
Monetary unit dollar (U.S.$)
Population (2013 est.) 1,172,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 5,773
Total area (sq km) 14,954
- Urban: (2010) 29.6%
- Rural: (2010) 70.4%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 65.3 years
- Female: (2012) 68.3 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2005) 54%
- Female: (2005) 45%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 3,580
1Per U.S. Board on Geographic Names: conventional short-form name is East Timor, conventional long-form name is Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
2Indonesian and English are “working” languages.
Background of Timor-Leste
A country occupying the eastern half of the island of Timor, the small nearby islands of Atauro (Kambing) and Jaco, and the enclave of Ambeno surrounding the town of Pante Makasar on the northwestern coast of Timor. It is bounded by the Timor Sea to the southeast, the Wetar Strait to the north, the Ombai Strait to the northwest, and western Timor (part of the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur) to the southwest. Dili is the capital and largest city.
The eastern part of Timor is rugged, with the mountains rising to 9,721 feet (2,963 metres) at Mount Tatamailau (Tata Mailau) in the centre of a high plateau. The area has a dry tropical climate and moderate rainfall. Hilly areas are covered with sandalwood; scrub and grass grow in the lowlands, together with coconut palms and eucalyptus trees. There are hot springs and numerous mountain streams. Wildlife includes the cuscus (a species of marsupial), monkeys, deer, civet cats, snakes, and crocodiles. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy; chief products include copra, hides, coffee, cotton, rice, wheat, tobacco, wool, potatoes, and corn (maize), as well as pearls and sandalwood. Soap, perfumes, processed food, chemicals, and machine goods are produced, and coffee is processed. Crafts include pottery, wood and ivory carving, plaiting, coir production, and basket making. Roads run parallel to the northeastern coast and link Maubara, Manatuto, Tutuala, and Dili. Most of the people are of Papuan, Malayan, and Polynesian origin and are predominantly Christian. About 40 different Papuan and Malayan languages or dialects are spoken, dominated by Tetum; Portuguese is spoken by a small fraction of the population.
The Ambeno area has valuable sandalwood forests, coconut groves, and rice plantations. Its chief town, Pante Makasar, is a port and has an airport. The hilly offshore island of Atauro, which also has an airport, has a population occupied mainly in fishing. The currency is the U.S. dollar.
The Portuguese first settled on Timor in 1520, and the Spanish arrived in 1522. The Dutch took possession of the western portion of the island in 1613. The British governed the island in 1812–15. The Dutch and the Portuguese fought for supremacy over Timor; Portuguese sovereignty over the island’s eastern half was settled by treaties in 1860 and 1893, although the latter became effective only in 1914. Japanese forces occupied Timor during World War II. East Timor province, including the Ambeno enclave, thereafter remained in Portuguese possession until 1975, when one of the major political parties there, Fretilin (Frente Revolucionária de Timor Leste Independente [Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor]), gained control of much of the territory and declared its independence (November) as the Democratic Republic of East Timor. The area was subsequently invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces (in early December) and in 1976 was declared by Indonesia to be an integral part of Indonesia as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor).
Over the next two decades tens of thousands of East Timorese died (some observers claim as many as 200,000 perished) resisting the Indonesian occupation and annexation or as a result of famine and disease. In response to mounting international pressure, the Indonesian government authorized a referendum there (Aug. 30, 1999) to determine the future of East Timor. Almost four-fifths of the voters supported independence, and the Indonesian parliament rescinded Indonesia’s annexation of the territory. East Timor was returned to its preannexation status of independence, but as a non-self-governing territory under UN supervision. However, the transfer of power was accompanied by violence perpetrated by anti-independence militants. Hundreds were killed, and thousands fled to the western half of the island; refugees subsequently began returning home.
In April 2002 Xanana Gusmão, leader of one of the former opposition groups, was elected East Timor’s first president. The territory achieved full status as a sovereign state shortly thereafter. Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta was elected president in May 2007, succeeding Gusmão, but tensions within the country remained high. In February 2008 President Ramos-Horta was seriously injured when he was shot by militant forces in an attempted assassination.
Geography of Timor-Leste
Location: Southeast Asia, on the southernmost edge of the Indonesian archipelago, northwest of Australia.
Area: 14,874 km² (5,742 sq. mi.)
Highest point: Foho Tatamailau 2,963 m
Climate: Tropical; hot, semi-arid; rainy and dry seasons
Demography of Timor-Leste
Population: 1 million (2010 census)
Religion: Catholic 96 %.
Languages: Portuguese, Tetum (official); English, Bahasa Indonesia (working languages).
Economy of Timor Leste
Natural resources: Gold, petroleum, natural gas, manganese, marble.
Agriculture products: Coffee, rice, corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, mangoes, bananas, vanilla.
Industries: Printing, soap manufacturing, handicrafts, woven cloth.
Exports partners: Indonesia 100% (2005)
Exports - commodities: Coffee, sandalwood, marble; note - potential for oil and vanilla exports.
Currency: US dollar (USD)
Government of Timor Leste
- Semi-Presidencialist Republic
The Head of State is the President of the Republic, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The President guarantees the respect for the Constitution and for State Institutions, and when necessary, can act as a mediator for conflit resolution. He can also exercise the right to veto legislation put forth by the government and approved by the National Parliament.
Following legislative elections, the president appoints as prime minister the leader of the majority party or majority coalition. As Head of State the President also presides over the Council of State and the Superior Council of Defense and Security.
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. All legal political parties can run to the legislative elections, organizing to that effect their list of candidates to the National Parliament. The Government is the Executive body of the State and is responsible for the development and implementation of the Government Program for the 5 year term. The Head of the Government is the Prime-Minister.
- East Timor�s or Timor-Leste's constitution took effect when the territory officially became independent in May 2002. It provides for a democratic republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. All citizens aged 18 and older have the right to vote.
The president of East Timor is directly elected to serve a five-year term and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. Under the constitution, the president is the symbol of East Timorese independence and the guarantor of the smooth functioning of the republic�s democratic institutions. The president is the supreme commander of the defense forces.
Xanana Gusmao: The President
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (born June 20, 1946), born José Alexandre Gusmão, is the inaugural President of the small nation of East Timor in Southeast Asia.
Gusmão was born to school-teacher parents in Manaututo in what was then Portuguese Timor, and attended a Jesuit high school just outside of Dili. After leaving high-school at the age of sixteen (for financial reasons), he worked a variety of unskilled jobs, although he continued his education at evening college. In 1965, at the age of 19, he met Emilia Batista, who was later to become his wife.
In 1966 Gusmão obtained a position with the public service, which allowed him to continue his education. This was interrupted in 1968 when Gusmão was recruited in the Portuguese army for national service.
He served for three years, rising to the rank of corporal. During this time he married Emilia Batista, by whom he had two children, his son Eugenio, and daughter Zenilda.
1971 was a turning point for Gusmão. He completed his national service, his son was born, and he became involved with a nationalist organisation headed by José Ramos Horta. For the next three years he was actively involved in peaceful protests at the colonial system.
It was in 1974 that a left-wing coup in Portugal resulted in the beginning of decolonisation for Portuguese Timor, and shortly afterwards the Governor Mário Lemos Pires announced plans to grant the colony independence. Plans were drawn up to hold general elections with a view to independence in 1978.
During most of 1975 a bitter internal struggle occurred between two rival factions in Portuguese Timor. Gusmão became deeply involved with the Fretilin faction, and as a result he was arrested and imprisoned by the rival faction the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) in mid-1975.
By late 1975 the Fretilin faction had gained control of Portuguese Timor and Gusmão was released. He was given the position of Press Secretary within the Fretilin organisation. On November 28, 1975, Fretilin declared the independence of Portuguese Timor as "The Democratic Republic of East Timor", and Gusmão was responsible for filming the ceremony.
Nine days later Indonesia invaded East Timor. At the time Gusmão was visiting friends outside of Dili and he witnessed the invasion from the hills. For the next few days he searched for his family.
During the early 1990s Gusmão became heavily involved in diplomacy and media management, and was instrumental in alerting the world to the massacre that occurred in Santa Cruz on November 12, 1991. Gusmão was interviewed by many major media channels and obtained worldwide attention.
As a result of his high profile, Gusmão became a prime target of the Indonesian government. A campaign for his capture was finally successful in November 1992. In May, 1993, Gusmão was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Indonesian Government. He was denied the right to a defence. Although not released until late 1999, Gusmão successfully led the resistance from within prison. During this time he was regularly visited by United Nations representatives, and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela.
On August 30, 1999, a referendum was held in East Timor and an overwhelming majority voted for independence. The Indonesian military commenced a campaign of terror as a result, with terrible consequences. Although the Indonesian government denied ordering this offensive, they were widely condemned for failing to prevent it. As a result of overwhelming diplomatic pressure from the United Nations, and particularly the United States and Australia, an Australian-led UN-peackeeping force entered East Timor, and Gusmão was finally released. Upon his return to Dili, he began a campaign of reconciliation and rebuilding.
Gusmão was appointed to a senior role in the UN administration that governed East Timor until 2002. During this time he continually campaigned for unity and peace within East Timor, and was generally regarded as the de facto leader of the emerging nation. Elections were held in late 2001 and Gusmão was comfortably elected leader. As a result he became the first President of East Timor when it became formally independent on May 20, 2002.
Gusmão has published an autobiography with selected writings entitled To Resist is to Win.
Culture of Timor-Leste
Culturally speaking, one of the most remarkable facts about the Timorese is their ethno-cultural heterogeneity. This is evident in the various languages and dialects as well as differences in material goods, most notably in regional architecture. The Timorese people have a rich oral tradition in which mythology and legend play an important role in passing on knowledge about the pre-colonial period and the later evolution of the kingdoms. There is also a long tradition of animist spiritualism in Timor which remains highly influential today, despite exposure to major powerful religions and the Timorese people�s growing allegiance to the Catholic Church.
Neither Hinduism nor the Islam had
influence in the Timorese beliefs. That
achievement was reserved to the Christian
When the Portuguese first disembarked in Timor, the inhabitants were identified as animists. In 1522, Pigafetta referred to the Timorese as �gentiles�, and wrote that �when they go cut sandalwood, it was told to us that the demon appears in various forms and tells them to ask for something that they need�. Later, in 1559 the priest Baltazar Dias states in a letter that the Timorese �are the beastliest people that exist in these parts. Nothing do they adore, neither have [they] idols. Everything what the Portuguese tell them, they do it.�. This indicates that the expansion of the Islamic religion from Malaysia in the 15th century hadn't reached Timor (although it is said that the Sultan of Ternate, Cachil Aeiro, should have subjected the island). Gigrometr
While the Malays, Chinese, Japanese and others frequented Timor and surrounding islands before the arrival of the Portuguese, colonisation and religious conversion (eg to Islam) was not their purpose nor was it permitted by the local Chiefs (Liurais). For instance, just like the early years of Portuguese contact, the Muslims appeared to have lived on the island only for the short period of time needed to cut and load the highly prized sandalwood trees. In the words of the captain of Malacca in 1518 to King D. Manuel, the Timorese also �had natural aversion to the Muslims�.
Animist religion in Timor-Leste revolves around the spirits of the dead who are both feared and worshipped. These spirits are materialized through stones, animals, wells, streams or objects endowed with mysterious magical powers that can be either good or evil. In Timor these are called �Luliks�, which means sacred and intangible.
Efforts to promote spiritual conversion to Christian Catholicism were introduced into Timor through Portuguese colonisation. However, the influence of the Catholic Church really took hold and began to strengthen only after the Indonesian invasion. This is partly because the Church, particularly the Diocese of Dili, gained the respect and prestige of the people during this period because they often came to the defense of Timorese lives. Today more than 90% of Timorese identify Catholicism as their religion. Nevertheless, animist beliefs remain strong in Timor-Leste and only a minority of local Christians (serani in Tetum) can be considered as having no animist beliefs. For a few Timorese, animism remains their main spiritual religion which informs their cultural practices and outlook on life.
History of Timor-Leste
The Island of Timor is currently divided in two parts: the West is part of the Republic of Indonesia with provincial capital in Kupang; while the East, whose capital is Dili since its independence, had been a Portuguese territory since the 16th century. When the first traders and missionaries reached the coast of Timor in 1515, the island was organized in small states, ruled by two kingdoms, Sorbian and Belos, who practiced animism. Islam, a religion that is still prevalent in Indonesia, has never reached Timor. Even Buddhism, extensively practiced in Java, especially in the 13th century, did not prevail.
During the third quarter of the 16th century, the first Portuguese Dominican priests arrived in Timor and started developing a progressive religious influence, even as the Portuguese domination was still being settled. Culture developed in an opposite direction to that of today's Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra and of the coasts of Kalimantan and Sulawesi, where Islam was the dominant religion.
In 1651, the Dutch invaded Kupang in the Western end of the Island of Timor, and took control of half of its territory. In 1859, the Dutch concluded a treaty with Portugal to determine the border between the Portuguese Timor (present-day Timor-Leste) and the Dutch Timor (Western Timor). Upon Indonesian independence in 1945, Western Timor was integrated into its territory.
Timor-Leste during the Second World War
During the Second World War, the Allies (Australians and Dutch), aware of the strategic position of Timor, established positions in the territory and got involved in bitter fighting with the Japanese forces. Some tens of thousands of Timorese lost their lives while fighting side-by-side with the Allies. In 1945, the Portuguese administration was restored in Timor-Leste.
Right to Self-Determination
Between 1945 and June 1974, the Indonesian Government, in compliance with International Law, affirmed at the United Nations and to the outside world that it had no territorial ambitions towards East Timor. Based on Resolution 1514 (XV) from December 14, 1960, Timor-Leste was considered by the United Nations a non-autonomous territory under Portuguese administration. From 1962 until 1973, the UN General Assembly approved successive resolutions, recognizing Timor-Leste’s right to self-determination, as well as of the other two existing Portuguese colonies. In Portugal, Salazar’s regime (and, afterward, Marcelo Caetano’s) refused to recognize that right, stating that Timor-Leste was a Portuguese province equal to any other.
Revolution in Portugal
The April Revolution (April 25, 1974), which restored democracy in Portugal, consecrated the respect for the right to self-determination of the Portuguese colonies. In order to promote the exercise of that right, on May 13, a Committee for the Self-determination of East Timor was installed in Dili. The Portuguese Government authorized the creation of political parties, and as a result, partisan organizations emerged in Timor-Leste: the UDT (Timorese Democratic Union) called for "Timor’s integration in a Portuguese-speaking community"; the ASDT (Timorese Social-Democratic Association), which would later change its name to FRETILIN (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor), supported the right to independence; and the APODETI (Popular Democratic Association of Timor) suggested “integration with autonomy within the Indonesian community”.
In 1975, with the dissolution of the Portuguese colonial empire, local liberation movements increased. In May 1975, the authorities in Lisbon presented a project to the main Timorese parties and, after hearing them, a law was published on July 11 that foresaw the nomination of a Portuguese High Commissioner. This same law expected the election of a People’s Assembly in October of the same year, in order to establish a political status. The diploma foresaw a three-year transitional period.
A local program of progressive decolonization was already taking place since January 1975. As part of this program, elections were held in the Lautem district for regional administrative leadership. The result of the first popular consultation made clear APODETI’s lack of support and the Timorese people’s refusal to accept integration by democratic means. Long before those regional elections were held, it was quite obvious for any independent observer visiting the territory that the overwhelming majority of the Timorese rejected integration into Indonesia. Cultural differences were one of the main reasons.
Declaration of Independence
On November 28, 1975, FRETILIN together with the Prime Minister Xavier do Amaral, unilaterally declared the Independence of Timor-Leste. Nicolau Lobato, who later became the first leader of the Armed Resistance, was appointed as the Prime Minister of the new independent country. The declaration of independence led to a civil war.
On the pretext of protecting its citizens in Timorese territory, Indonesia invaded the eastern part of the island and declared the island as its 27th province, renaming it Timor Timur. Indonesia was given the tacit support of the American Government, which saw FRETILIN as a Marxist organization.
After the occupation of the territory by Indonesia, the Timorese Resistance progressively consolidated itself, initially under the leadership of FRETILIN. To support FALINTIL (Armed Forces of National Liberation of Timor-Leste), established on August 20, 1975, a Clandestine Front was created at an internal level, and a Diplomatic Front externally. Afterward, under Xanana Gusmão’s leadership, a policy of National Unity was launched, unifying the efforts of the Timorese political sectors and proceeding with the non-politization of the Resistance’s structures, turning CRRN (Council of National Resistance) into CNRM (Maubere Resistance National Council), which later became known as CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance).The latter lead the process until Timor-Leste’s independence, already under the auspices of the United Nations. (For more information on the Timorese Resistance, visit the website of AMRT – East-Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum - amrtimor.org).
About one third of the country’s population, more than 250 thousand people, died during the war. The Portuguese language was forbidden, and the use of Tetun was discouraged by the pro-Indonesia government by strongly criticizing the press. This same government also limited the access of international observers to the territory until the forced resignation of Suharto in 1998.
Popular consultation – Yes to Independence
In 1996, José Ramos Horta and the bishop of Dili, D. Ximenes Belo, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their dedication to the defense of human rights and independence of Timor-Leste. In 1998, with Suharto’s resignation and the end of the "Indonesian economic miracle”, B.J.Habibie was immediately sworn in as President. He later announced that he was willing to hold a referendum on autonomy (with integration into Indonesia) or independence for East Timor. The referendum took place on August 30, 1999, with the participation of more than 90%. 78,5% of the East Timorese favored independence and rejected the autonomy suggested by Indonesia.
Nevertheless, pro-Indonesia militias went on a rampage, assaulting UNAMET headquarters (the observers of the United Nations) and forcing Bishop Ximenes Belo to flee to Australia, while Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão took refuge in the British embassy in Jakarta. The wave of murders continued, promoted by the anti-independence militias and supported by members of the Indonesian army dissatisfied with the referendum results.
The images stirred protests all over the world at Indonesian, US and British embassies, and even at the United Nations, demanding a hasty intervention to put an end to the murders. There had never been so many popular demonstrations in Portugal, from the North to the South, since April 25, 1974. For the first time, the Internet was strongly used for broadcasting pro-Timor campaigns and encouraging a harsh UN intervention.
Intervention of the United Nations
Finally, on September 18, one contingency force of “blue berets” (an international military force) was deployed to East Timor, consisting initially of 2500 men, later extended to 8000, including Australians, British, French, Italians, Malaysians, North Americans, Brazilians and Argentineans, among others. The peacekeeping mission, led by Brazilian Sérgio Vieira de Mello, aimed at disarming the militias and supporting the transition process and the country’s reconstruction.
Restoration of Independence
Portugal and many other countries organized campaigns in order to collect donations, provisions and books. The situation was slowly taken under control with the progressive disarming of the militias and the beginning of the reconstruction of houses, schools and other infrastructures. Xanana Gusmão returned to the country, as well as other Timorese who had gone into exile, including many with university education. Elections were held for a Constituent Assembly that became responsible for drafting Timor-Leste’s Constitution. This document came into force on May 20, 2002, on the same day the country was given its sovereignty. This day is now known as Restoration of Independence Day.
East Timor (Timor-Leste) Area: 14,604 sq km (5,639 sq mi) Population 797,000 Capital: Dili Chief of state: President (from May 20) Xanana Gusmão Head of government: Prime Minister (from May 20) Mari ...>>>Read On<<<
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