Timor – Democratic Republic of East Timor


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF EAST TIMOR. East Timor is located in the eastern part of the Indonesian Archipelago. It occupies a part of the Timor Island and the adjacent islands of the Lesser Sunda Archipelago – Atauru, Yaku, the enclave of Okusi Ambenu in West Timor. The self-name is Timor-Leste.

The territory is approximately 15 thousand square kilometres. The capital is Dili which lies on the northern coast of Timor Island. It is also the main sea port of the country.

The flag is a white star on a black-yellow-red background. Black represents the colonial past, yellow – the struggle for independence, white – hope for a bright future.

The population is 800,000 people. Malays, Papuans, Chinese, etc.

Language – Tetum (Timorese) and Portuguese, also used English and Indonesian.

Currency – no national currency yet, the U.S. dollar is used. A gradual introduction of national coins is planned.

Armed Forces.

Before the country gained its independence in 2002 there were about 5 thousand soldiers from peacekeeping forces of the UN, mainly from Australia, Portugal, Japan and New Zealand. They were later withdrawn from the country. The East Timor Defense Force, consisting of more than 600 soldiers of the Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor (FRELITIN).


East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sandalwood and coffee are all the country has to offer the world community. The average earnings of most people in the capital of East Timor, Dili, is less than 55 cents a day.

At the same time, the country has oil and gas reserves, and dozens of offshore and onshore hydrocarbon deposits have been explored. East Timor’s light oil is of high quality, and some of its fractions can be used directly, almost without refining, as motor fuel. In the total annual income of the country, which amounts to about $ 200 million. Oil and gas revenues make up more than two-thirds of the country’s total annual income.

Life expectancy does not exceed 57 years. Major killer diseases are malaria, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. Child mortality is high – 420 deaths for every 100,000 newborns. Only 37% of people over the age of 15 can read and write.


In the 16th century. Timor began to be the subject of colonial expansion by the Portuguese, who came to its shores in 1515. In 1613 the Dutch also landed in Timor. By the end of the 18th century, Timor-Leste was divided between the Netherlands which received the south-western part and Portugal which took the northeastern part and a small piece of land in the west of the island. During World War II, Timor was occupied by Japan. In 1945, with the formation of the Indonesian Republic, the former Dutch part of Timor became part of it.

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On April 25, 1974, after the overthrow of the fascist regime in Portugal, violent clashes broke out in Timor between the pro-independence groups, the Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor (FRELITIN) and the pro-independence groups, the Popular Democratic Association (APODETI) and the Democratic Union (UDT). Portugal withdrew its administrative authorities, finding itself unable to control the situation.

On November 28, 1975 FRELITIN proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of East Timor. But the very next day, on 29 November 1975, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia signed a document annexing East Timor to Indonesia, and 10 days later the capital and the entire territory of the island were seized by Indonesian troops. During armed clashes between supporters of independence and those advocating East Timor’s incorporation into Indonesia, up to 60,000 people were killed, according to various estimates. East Timor was officially incorporated into Indonesia as its 27th province, despite the fact that the UN has declared Indonesia’s takeover of East Timor illegal. According to the world community, the East Timorese territory was to remain under Portuguese administration.

In December 1975, the UN General Assembly and Security Council called on Indonesia to withdraw its troops from East Timor, but Indonesia retained its troops in the occupied territories under the guise of “volunteers. In 1998, after Indonesian President Suharto was removed from power, Jakarta offered East Timor broad autonomy and a special status, but refused to grant it independence.

On August 30, 1999, a UN-supervised referendum was held in Timor-Leste, with 78.5% of the territory’s residents voting in favor of independence from Indonesia. The vote was accompanied by another burst of violence. Among the dead were several UN observers. As a result, UN troops were sent to East Timor, which were able to establish some semblance of law and order in the country. As a result of the referendum, Indonesia has recognized the independence of East Timor. On 30 October 1999 the last Indonesian troops left the country. So ended the colonial occupation of East Timor, which had lasted almost 450 years.

East Timor in the 21st Century

On 23 February 2000, the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) was established, initially for a period of three months. The purpose of the transition period was to help organize the national government structures, administrative and judicial systems, and prepare for self-government elections. The UN Transitional Administration led the country until 2002.

On August 30, 2001 elections to the Constitutional Assembly were held. On March 22, 2002 the Constitution of the independent state was adopted. Pursuant to it, the Constitutional Assembly was transformed into a national parliament consisting of one chamber. FRELITIN won an overwhelming majority of 55 seats in the parliament.

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On May 20, 2002 East Timor was solemnly proclaimed an independent state at a special ceremony in the capital Dili. Shanan Gusmão became the country’s first president with nearly 90 percent of the electorate voting for him. On September 27, 2002, East Timor became the 191st member of the United Nations.

In the second round of the presidential elections held on May 11, 2007, the 57-year-old Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace Prize winner) won with about 70% of the vote. The EU observation mission confirmed that the elections had been held without violations of world standards.

East Timor

Democratic Republic of East Timor (República Democrática de Timor-Leste)

The East Timor Hymn

Timor-Leste is a country in South-East Asia which occupies part of the island of Timor-Leste and the adjacent islands of the Lesser Sunda Archipelago: Kambing and Jaco. The area is 15,007 square kilometres. East Timor has a population of 1,291,358 people, most of whom are Malay, Papuans and Chinese. The capital and administrative center is Dili.

Until 1975, East Timor was a Portuguese colony, then it was under Indonesian occupation and became part of this country, against the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council. In May 2002, it was officially declared an independent state.

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Video: East Timor


East Timor is a mountainous country. The highest mountains are in the west; in the east they gradually change to a rocky plateau, and in the south to a narrow plain. The climate is hot, equatorial. The highest average annual temperature of +38 ° C is observed in the south, and here the maximum rainfall – 1500 mm. From November to May, the northwestern monsoon dominates. During this time, it rains constantly, rivers overflow, and roads become impassable. From June to November, the southeast monsoon blows in, bringing in the dryer breath of the Australian mainland.

The flora of East Timor is poor compared to the lush vegetation of the other islands of the Indonesian archipelago. Wet tropical forests are found along the coast on a plain surrounded on three sides by mountains, and in mountain gorges, well protected from the Australian dry winds. Large areas are covered by savannahs. The Timorese economy is based on agriculture which is oriented toward the production of export crops, such as coffee, rubber trees, and coconuts. Rice, corn, sorghum, beans, and sugar cane are grown for home consumption. Natural conditions are favorable for the development of cattle breeding. On Timor they breed buffalos, goats, horses. Auxiliary occupations are coastal sea fishing, hunting, forest trades, handicrafts.

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History of East Timor

The history of East Timor began with the appearance of Australoids and Melanesians on the island. By the mid-16th century the island was colonized by the Portuguese. In an 1859 treaty, the island was divided between the Netherlands and Portugal, with the Portuguese taking the eastern part of the island. During World War II, the island was occupied by Japan (from 1942 to 1945), after the war the power of Portugal was restored.

Until 1975 East Timor was a colony of Portugal and was the least developed possession of the most backward of the colonial powers. The economy was based on agriculture, which was conducted by primitive methods and did not meet the food needs of the colony. Export crops such as coffee, rubber, and copra were developed. About 32% of the budget went for military purposes (upkeep of 7,000 soldiers of the colonial army). 9% went on education, 4% on social security. The proportion of illiterates exceeded 90%. After the revolution of April 25th, 1974, a process of decolonization of the Portuguese possessions in Portugal began, which also involved East Timor. Several political parties were formed, the largest of which were UDT (Democratic Union of Timor) for the territory to remain within Portugal as an overseas province, APODETI (Timorese People’s Democratic Association) for the territory to be annexed to Indonesia and Fretilin (Frente Revolucionária do Timor-Leste Independente), the largest political party in the country, which demanded immediate independence. Several other small parties were formed. Negotiations between the Portuguese authorities and political parties on ways to decolonize the territory stalled and then stopped due to the armed confrontation in the colony.

On the night of August 11, 1975, the UDT, supported by local police, staged a coup and some of Fretilin’s leaders and activists were arrested and executed. Fretilin, in turn, relying on Timorese colonial soldiers, took control of the territory, and on November 28, 1975, unilaterally declared the independence of the DRVT (Democratic Republic of East Timor). On November 30, the leaders of APODETI, UDT and two other smaller parties in the Indonesian-occupied part of East Timor issued a joint declaration of annexation of the territory to Indonesia. On the morning of December 7, 1975, an armed invasion by Indonesian troops began, with between 20,000 and 40,000 soldiers at various times. As a result of the military actions, famine and epidemics, about one third of the former colony’s population (over 200 thousand people) were killed. On July 17, 1976 East Timor was included as the 27th province of Indonesia. Measures to Indonesianise the territory began to be implemented, but resistance, including armed resistance, did not cease. There were demonstrations by Timorese students and youth against the new authorities. After the fall of the Suharto regime as a result of mass demonstrations, and under pressure from world opinion, the new Indonesian president, Habibi, was forced to call a referendum on East Timor self-determination. On August 30, 1999, 78.5% of the province’s population voted for independence, which led to a new outbreak of violence in East Timor. Pro-Indonesian police unleashed terror, resulting in tens of thousands of refugees. On September 12, 1999, UN forces were introduced into East Timor, under the protection of which the practical implementation of measures for the establishment of an independent state began. On the night of May 20, 2002, the former Portuguese colony was officially proclaimed an independent state.

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On May 20, 2006, the anniversary of independence from Indonesia, a large part of the DRWT army (593 of 1,433 men) demanded that the rules of the army regulations be relaxed. Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak dismissed the troublemakers and the latter left the barracks with weapons in hand. A general revolt broke out, a war of all against all. The revolt against the titular Tetum tribe was being held back by the peacekeepers of the four countries.

The geography of East Timor

East Timor has a predominantly mountainous terrain with the country’s territory running northeast-southeast through a ridge of heavily dissected boulders (the highest point is Mount Tatamailau, 2,963 m) which plunges dramatically to the northern coast. Small plateaus 500-700 m high are spread in the east. Low accumulative plains stretch along the southern coast. The position of East Timor within the Alpine-Himalayan mobile belt determines the high seismicity and susceptibility of the island to tsunamis. The coast, shelf and especially the bottom of the Timor Sea are rich in oil and gas.

The climate is subequatorial monsoon with dry and wet seasons. The average monthly temperature is 25-27ºC. The annual rainfall is 1,500-2,000 mm (the southern part of the country is the most humid). Small mountain rivers Loes, Lakio, Seikal and Be Lulio flow down from the slopes of the ridge.

Forests occupy one-third of the country: in the north there are deciduous forests, in the south – moist evergreen forests. As a result of deforestation, primary forests are largely replaced by secondary savannahs with acacia groves, eucalyptus, and casuarina. There are mangroves along the northern coast. Sandalwood forests grow in the mountainous and foothill areas.

Population of East Timor

The peoples of East Timor belong to the East Indonesian anthropological type.

The indigenous population does not represent a single ethnic community, but there is a common self-appellation, the Maubere.

The largest group in East Timor is the so called Mestisu, or East Timorese proper, who have lost their tribal identity (191,000 people). They live mostly in towns but also inhabit the western districts and the southern coastal area.

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The remaining East Timorese are subdivided into tribal entities. The majority of the population is made up of the Austronesian-linguistic Timorese, the largest groups are Mambai (165 thousand people, in the central mountains), Kemak (64 thousand), Dawan (58 thousand in the Oecussi enclave), Tetum Terik (45 thousand), Tokode (39 thousand, in the coastal areas in the north-west), Tetum Belu (30 thousand), and Halolin (15 thousand).

The Timoro-Aloro Papuans are Makasai (110 thousand in the northeast), Bunak (62 thousand in the border mountainous areas), Fataluku (Dagoda, 38 thousand in the eastern peninsula), and Makalero (7 thousand).

The native language of the Mestizu is Tetum (Tetum-prasa), spoken as a second language by most of the country’s population.

The majority of the population (Tetum, Mambai, Tokode) speaks Timorese, a branch of the Central Malay-Polynesian zone of the Austronesian languages. The languages of the Bunaki, Makasai and some other tribes belong to the Timoro-Alomi family of Papuan languages.

During the period of Indonesian occupation (1976-99) a policy of integration of East Timor’s population into Indonesians was implemented, and the knowledge of Indonesian (the state language at that time) was widely spread, while Portuguese was forbidden and Tetum Prasa was kept as the language of communication in the whole territory except for the extreme eastern tip of the island and the Oecussi enclave. Since independence in 2002 Tetum Prasa and Portuguese have become the official languages of East Timor. The latter is mostly spoken by the new social elite who returned from exile after the 1999 referendum on independence. The Indonesian language is still widely spoken.

In 1976-99 the country practiced so called transmigration – resettlement to East Timor of predominantly Muslim population from overpopulated islands of Western Indonesia (Java and Madura, Bali, South Sulawesi, etc.). After the declaration of independence, most Muslims returned to Indonesia, now there are a few thousand Indonesians; there is also a small number of Malaysians from Sarawak. In Dili there is a Muslim community of Arab origin (descendants of immigrants of the mid – late XIX century from Hadramaut) numbering about 1 thousand people. Chinese, mostly Hakka from South China, numbering 11 thousand people, mostly Catholic.

After gaining independence, integration processes intensified, and the former tribal identity was suppressed by the national one. East Timorese literature in Tetum Prasa and Portuguese was formed, and distinctive styles in decorative arts and architecture recycled tribal traditions. The symbol of East Timor was the uma lulik, the sacred Fataluku tribal house.

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