East Timor

   Colony of Portugal from the 16th century to December 1975, with an area of 40,000 square kilometers (18,989 square miles). East Timor is located on the eastern portion of the island of Timor in the Indonesian archipelago. From 1975 to August 1999, when it was forcibly annexed and occupied by Indonesia, until May 2002, when it achieved full independence, East Timor was, in effect, a ward of the United Nations.
   In the 16th century, the Portuguese established trading posts on the island, but for centuries few Portuguese settled there, and the "colony" remained isolated and neglected. After the Dutch won control of Indonesia, there was a territorial dispute with Portugal as to who "owned" what on the island of Timor. In 1859, this question was decided as the Dutch and Portuguese governments formally divided the island into a Dutch portion (west) and the Portuguese colony (east) and established the frontier. From the late 19th century to World War I, Portugal consolidated its control of East Timor by means of military campaigns against the Timorese tribes. In addition to colonial officials, a few Portuguese missionaries and merchants occupied East Timor, but few Portuguese ever settled there.
   East Timor's geographic location close to the north coast of Australia and its sharing of one island in the Dutch colony catapulted it into world affairs early in World War II. To forestall a Japanese invasion of Timor, a joint Dutch-Australian expedition landed on 17 December 1941; the Portuguese authorities neither resisted nor cooperated. In February 1942, when Japanese troops landed in Timor, the small allied force fled to the hills and later was evacuated to Australia. Japan occupied all of Timor and the remainder of the Dutch East Indies until Japan's surrender in September 1945. Portugal soon reassumed control.
   After the Revolution of 25 April 1974, East Timorese nationalist parties hoped for rapid decolonization and independence with Lisbon's cooperation. But on 28 November 1975, before a preoccupied Portugal could work out a formal transfer of power, the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), then in control of the former colony's capital, declared independence, and, on 7 December 1975, Indonesian armed forces swiftly invaded, occupied, and annexed East Timor. In the following years, a tragic loss of life occurred. Portugal refused to recognize Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor and claimed legal sovereignty before the United Nations.
   As Indonesia persistently and brutally suppressed Timorese nationalist resistance, world media attention focused on this still remote island. Several sensational international and Indonesian events altered the status of occupied East Timor, following the continuation of FRETILIN guerrilla resistance. In November 1991, world media disseminated information on the Indonesian forces' slaughter of East Timorese protesters at a cemetery demonstration in the capital of Dili. In 1996, two East Timorese, Bishop Belo and José Ramos Horta, each a symbol of East Timorese resistance and the desire for independence, shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Then, in 1998, in Indonesia, the Suharto regime collapsed and was replaced by a more democratic government, which in January 1999 pledged a free referendum in East Timor. On 30 August 1999, the referendum was held, and nearly 80 percent of the East Timorese voters voted for independence from Indonesia.
   However, Indonesian armed forces and militias reacted brutally, using intimidation, murder, mayhem, and razing of buildings to try to reverse the people's will. Following some weeks of confusion, a United Nations (UN) armed forces, led by Australia, took control of East Timor and declared it a UN protectorate, to last until East Timor was secure from Indonesian aggression and prepared for full independence. East Timor had changed from a Portuguese colony to an Indonesian protectorate/colony to a fledgling nation-in-the-making.
   The status of East Timor as a ward of the UN was made official on 25 October 1999, as the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor began to prepare the country for independence. Appalling conditions prevailed: 70 percent of the country's buildings had been destroyed and nearly half of the population of 800,000 had been driven out of East Timor into uneasy refuge in West Timor, under Indonesian control. A territory without an economy, East Timor lacked police, civil servants, schools, and government records.
   With UN assistance, general elections were held in the spring of 2002; the majority of parliamentary seats were won by FRETILIN, and José "Xanana" Gusmão was elected the first president. On 20 May 2002, East Timor became independent. World luminaries adorned the independence celebrations: UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, and other celebrities attended. But East Timor's travails continued with civil strife and uncertainty.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • East Timor — country occupying the E half of the island of Timor, & nearby islands, including an enclave in West Timor: independent since 2002: 5,794 sq mi (15,007 sq km); pop. 953,000; cap. Dili * * * East Timor Introduction East Timor Background: The… …   Universalium

  • East Timor — country occupying the E half of the island of Timor, & nearby islands, including an enclave in West Timor: independent since 2002: 5,794 sq mi (15,007 sq km); pop. 953,000; cap. Dili …   English World dictionary

  • East Timor — a territory in the south east Indian Ocean, formerly a Portuguese colony, but claimed by Indonesia since 1975. In 1999 the East Timorese population voted to become independent. This led to violence between opposing groups, and the ↑united nations …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • East Timor — Democratic Republic of Timor Leste Repúblika Demokrátika Timór Leste[1] (Tetum) …   Wikipedia

  • East Timor — Repúblika Demokrátika Timór Loro Sa e (Tetum) República Democrática de Timor Leste (port.) Demokratische Republik Timor Leste …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • East Timor — /ist ˈtimɔ/ (say eest teemaw) noun a republic comprising the eastern part of the island of Timor; formerly a Portuguese colony (by treaties of 1860 and 1914); declared independence in 1975 and was immediately invaded by Indonesia; annexed by… …   Australian English dictionary

  • East Timor — noun a former Portuguese colony that was annexed by Indonesia in 1976; voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999 and in May 2002 became an independent nation • Instance Hypernyms: ↑country, ↑state, ↑land • Part Holonyms: ↑Southeast Asia,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • East Timor — Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Timor Leste, republic on the eastern side of the Indonesian Timor island, area that was formerly a Portuguese colony and in May 2002 became an independent nation …   English contemporary dictionary

  • East Timor — noun A country in Oceania on the eastern half of the island of Timor. Official languages: Tetum, Portuguese. Official name: Democratic Republic of Timor Leste …   Wiktionary

  • East Timor — geographical name country SE Asia on E Timor capital Dili area 5763 square miles (14,926 square kilometers), population 747,750 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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