Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Democratic Republic of East Timor; a Country in Southeast Asia

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the Flag
East Timor i/ˌiːst ˈtiːmɔr/ or Timor-Leste /tiˈmɔr ˈlɛʃteɪ/, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (Urdu: مشرقی تیمور) (Arabic: تيمور الشرقي), is a country in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The country's size is about 15,410 km2 (5,400 sq mi). 

East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until Portugal's decolonization of the country. In late 1975, East Timor declared its independence but later that year was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia's 27th province the following year. In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory, and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002. After independence, East Timor became a member of the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. It is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines. 

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Coat of Arms
East Timor has a lower-middle-income economy. About 37.4% of the country's population lives below the international poverty line which means living on less than U.S. $1.25 per day and about 50% of the population is illiterate. It continues to suffer the aftereffects of a decades-long struggle for independence against Indonesian occupation, which severely damaged the country's infrastructure and killed at least a hundred thousand people. The country is placed 134th on the Human Development Index (HDI). Nonetheless it is expected to have the sixth largest percentage growth in GDP in the world for 2013. 


"Timor" derives from timur, the word for "east" in Indonesian and Malay, which became Timor in Portuguese and entered English as Portuguese Timor. Leste is the Portuguese word for "east", resulting in "Timor-Leste" (East-East). Lorosa'e (lit "rising sun") is the word for "east" in Tetum, for Timór Lorosa'e. 

The Island of New Guinea
The official names under the Constitution are República Democrática de Timor-Leste in Portuguese and Repúblika Demokrátika Timor-Leste in Tetum. 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) official short form in English and all other languages is Timor-Leste (codes: TLS & TL), which has been adopted by the United Nations, the European Union, and the national standards organisations of France (AFNOR), the United States of America (ANSI), United Kingdom (BSI), Germany (DIN) and Sweden (SIS). 


It is believed that descendants from at least three waves of migration still live in East Timor. The first were related to the principal Australoid indigenous groups of New Guinea and Australia, and arrived before 40,000 years ago. Around 3000 BC, Austronesians migrated to Timor, and are thought to be associated with the development of agriculture on the island. Thirdly, proto-Malays arrived from south China and north Indochina. 

Portuguese Commander with Local Troops in East Timor
Before colonialism Timor was included in Chinese and Indian trading networks, being in the 14th century an exporter of aromatic sandalwood, slaves, honey and wax. It was the relative abundance of sandalwood in Timor that attracted European explorers to the island in the early 16th century. During that time, European explorers reported that the island had a number of small chiefdoms or princedoms. The Portuguese established outposts in Timor and Maluku. Effective European occupation of a small part of the territory began in 1769, when the city of Dili was founded and the colony of Portuguese Timor declared. A definitive border between the Dutch colonised western half of the island and the Portuguese colonised eastern half of the island was established by the Permanent Court of Arbitration of 1914, and it remains the international boundary between the successor states East Timor and Indonesia. For the Portuguese, East Timor remained little more than a neglected trading post until the late nineteenth century, with minimal investment in infrastructure, health, and education. Sandalwood remained the main export crop with coffee exports becoming significant in the mid-nineteenth century. In places where Portuguese rule was asserted, it tended to be brutal and exploitative.

Timorese Democratic Union- Flag
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a faltering home economy prompted the Portuguese to extract greater wealth from its colonies, which was met with East Timorese resistance. During World War II, the Japanese occupied Dili, and the mountainous interior became the scene of a guerrilla campaign, known as the Battle of Timor. Waged by Allied forces and East Timorese volunteers against the Japanese, the struggle resulted in the deaths of between 40,000 and 70,000 East Timorese. Following the end of the war, Portuguese control was reinstated. 

The decolonization process instigated by the 1974 Portuguese revolution saw Portugal effectively abandon the colony of East Timor. A civil war between supporters of East Timorese political parties, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) and the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), broke out in 1975 as the UDT attempted a coup that Fretilin resisted with the help of local Portuguese military. Independence was unilaterally declared on November 28, 1975. The Indonesian government was fearful of an independent communist state within the Indonesian archipelago, and at the height of the Cold War, Western governments were supportive of Indonesia's position. The Indonesian military launched a full-scale invasion of East Timor in December 1975. Indonesia declared East Timor its 27th province on July 17, 1976 (Timor Timur). The UN Security Council opposed the invasion, and the territory's nominal status in the UN remained "non-self-governing territory under Portuguese administration". 

Demonstration of Independence of East Timor in Aurstialia
Indonesia's occupation of East Timor was marked by violence and brutality. A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a minimum bound of 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 "excess" deaths from hunger and illness. The East Timorese guerrilla force, Falintil, fought a campaign against the Indonesian forces from 1975 to 1999. The 1991 Dili Massacre was a turning point for the independence cause internationally, and an East Timor solidarity movement grew in Portugal, Australia, and the United States. 

Following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal allowed for a UN-supervised popular referendum in August 1999. The resulting clear vote for independence was met with a punitive campaign of violence by East Timorese pro-integration militia with the support of elements of the Indonesian military. An Australian-led, international peacekeeping force for East Timor (INTERFET), was sent (with Indonesian permission) until order was restored. The administration of East Timor was taken over by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in October 1999. The INTERFET deployment ended in February 2000 with the transfer of military command to the UN. By May 2002, over 205,000 refugees had returned, and East Timorese independence was formalised on 20 May 2002 with Xanana Gusmão sworn in as the country's first President. East Timor became a member of the UN on 27 September 2002. 

Map of East Timor
The following year, Gusmão declined another presidential term and in the build-up to the April 2007 presidential elections there were renewed outbreaks of violence. José Ramos-Horta was elected President in the May 2007 election. Ramos-Horta was critically injured in an attempted assassination in February 2008. Prime Minister Gusmão also faced gunfire separately but escaped unharmed. Australian reinforcements were immediately sent to help keep order. 

In 2006, the United Nations sent in security forces to restore order when unrest and factional fighting forced 15 percent of the population (155,000 people) to flee their homes. In March 2011, the UN handed-off operational control of the police force to the East Timor authorities. The United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission on December 31, 2012. 


Located in Southeast Asia, the island of Timor is part of the Maritime Southeast Asia, and is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. To the north of the island are the Ombai Strait, Wetar Strait and the greater Banda Sea. The Timor Sea separates the island from Australia to the south, and the Indonesian Province of East Nusa Tenggara lies to East Timor's west. 

Old town Baucau, East Timor
Much of the country is mountainous, and its highest is Tatamailau (also known as Mount Ramelau) at 2,963 meters (9,721 ft).The climate is tropical and generally hot and humid. It is characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The capital, largest city and main port is Dili, and the second-largest city is the eastern town of Baucau. East Timor lies between latitudes 8° and 10°S, and longitudes 124° and 128°E. 

The easternmost area of East Timor consists of the Paitchau Range and the Lake Ira Lalaro area, which contains the county's first conservation area, the Nino Konis Santana National Park. It contains the last remaining tropical dry forested area within the country. It hosts a number of unique plant and animal species and is sparsely populated. The northern coast is characterised by a number of coral reef systems that have been determined to be at risk. 

National Parliament of East Timor in Dili
Government and Politics

The head of state of East Timor is the President of East Timor, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. Although the role is largely symbolic, the president does have veto power over certain types of legislation. Following elections, the president appoints the leader of the majority party or majority coalition as the Prime Minister of East Timor. As head of government, the prime minister presides over the Council of State or cabinet. 

The unicameral East Timorese parliament is the National Parliament or Parlamento Nacional, whose members are elected by popular vote to a five-year term. The number of seats can vary from a minimum of fifty-two to a maximum of sixty-five. The East Timorese constitution was modeled on that of Portugal. The country is still in the process of building its administration and governmental institutions. Government departments include the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (police), East Timor Ministry for State and Internal Administration, Civil Aviation Division of Timor Leste and Immigration Department of Timor Leste. 

Viqueque Rice Fields, East Timor
Administrative Divisions 

East Timor is divided into thirteen administrative districts. The districts are subdivided into 65 subdistricts, 442 sucos (villages) and 2,225 aldeias (hamlets). The districts are as following;
  1. Oecusse 
  2. Liquiçá 
  3. Dili 
  4. Manatuto 
  5. Baucau 
  6. Lautém 
  7. Bobonaro 
  8. Ermera 
  9. Aileu 
  10. Viqueque 
  11. Cova Lima 
  12. Ainaro 
  13. Manufahi
F-FDTL Soldiers
Foreign Relations and Military East Timor sought membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2007, and a formal application was submitted in March 2011. Indonesia supports East Timor's bid to join ASEAN. 

The Timor Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL) is the military body responsible for the defence of East Timor. The F-FDTL was established in February 2001 and comprised two small infantry battalions, a small naval component and several supporting units. 

The F-FDTL's primary role is to protect East Timor from external threats. It also has an internal security role, which overlaps with that of the National Police of East Timor (Policia Nacional de Timor Leste, PNTL). This overlap has led to tensions between the services, which have been exacerbated by poor morale and lack of discipline within the F-FDTL. 

12 National Police of East Timor

The F-FDTL's problems came to a head in 2006 when almost half the force was dismissed following protests over discrimination and poor conditions. The dismissal contributed to a general collapse of both the F-FDTL and PNTL in May and forced the government to request foreign peacekeepers to restore security. The F-FDTL is being rebuilt with foreign assistance and has drawn up a long-term force development plan. 


East Timor has a market economy that used to depend upon exports of a few commodities such as coffee, marble, oil and sandalwood. East Timor's economy grew by about 10% in 2011, and at a similar rate in 2012. 

Timor now has revenue from offshore oil and gas reserves, but little of it has gone to develop villages, which still rely on subsistence farming. Nearly half the population lives in extreme poverty. Widespread corruption, unchecked by a weak judicial system, is a considerable drag on the economy. 

East Timor Export Tree Map, 2010
The Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund was established in 2005, and by 2011 it had reached a worth of US$8.7 billion. East Timor is labelled by the International Monetary Fund as the "most oil-dependent economy in the world". The Petroleum Fund pays for nearly all of the government's annual budget, which has increased from $70 million in 2004 to $1.3 billion in 2011, with a $1.8 billion proposal for 2012. 

The economy is dependent on government spending and, to a lesser extent, assistance from international donors. Private sector development has lagged due to human capital shortages, infrastructure weakness, an incomplete legal system, and an inefficient regulatory environment. After petroleum, the second largest export is coffee, which generates about $10 million a year. Starbucks is a major purchaser of East Timorese coffee. 

Agriculture in East Timor
According to data gathered in the 2010 census, 87.7% of urban and 18.9% of rural households have electricity, for an overall average of 36.7%. 

The agriculture sector employs 80% of the active population. In 2009, about 67,000 households grew coffee in East Timor, with a large proportion being poor. Currently, the gross margins are about $120 per hectare, with returns per labor-day of about $3.70. There are 11,000 household growing mungbeans as of 2009, most of them subsistence farmers. 

The country was ranked 169th overall and last in the East Asia and Pacific region by the Doing Business 2013 report by the World Bank. The country fared particularly poorly in the 'registering property', 'enforcing contracts' and 'resolving insolvency' categories, ranking last worldwide in all three. 

Market in Lospalos, East Timor
The Portuguese colonial administration granted concessions to Oceanic Exploration Corporation to develop petroleum and natural gas deposits in the waters southeast of Timor. However, this was curtailed by the Indonesian invasion in 1976. The resources were divided between Indonesia and Australia with the Timor Gap Treaty in 1989. East Timor inherited no permanent maritime boundaries when it attained independence. A provisional agreement (the Timor Sea Treaty, signed when East Timor became independent on 20 May 2002) defined a Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) and awarded 90% of revenues from existing projects in that area to East Timor and 10% to Australia. A 2005 agreement between the governments of East Timor and Australia mandated that both countries put aside their dispute over maritime boundaries and that East Timor would receive 50% of the revenues from the resource exploitation in the area (estimated at A$26 billion, or about US$20 billion over the lifetime of the project) from the Greater Sunrise development. 

Man in the Traditional dress, East Timor
In 2007, a bad harvest led to deaths in several parts of East Timor. In November 2007, eleven subdistricts still needed food supplied by international aid. 

There are no patent laws in East Timor. 


The population of East Timor is about 1,143,667. The population is especially concentrated in the area around Dili. 

The word Maubere (de), formerly used by the Portuguese to refer to native East Timorese and often employed as synonymous with the illiterate and uneducated, was adopted by Fretilin as a term of pride. They consist of a number of distinct ethnic groups, most of whom are of mixed Malayo-Polynesian and Melanesian/Papuan descent. The largest Malayo-Polynesian ethnic groups are the Tetum (100,000), primarily in the north coast and around Dili; the Mambae (80,000), in the central mountains; the Tukudede (63,170), in the area around Maubara and Liquiçá; the Galoli (50,000), between the tribes of Mambae and Makasae; the Kemak (50,000) in north-central Timor island; and the Baikeno (20,000), in the area around Pante Macassar. 

Lospalos, East Timor
The main tribes of predominantly Papuan origin include the Bunak (50,000), in the central interior of Timor island; the Fataluku (30,000), at the eastern tip of the island near Lospalos; and the Makasae, toward the eastern end of the island. As a result of interracial marriage which was common during the Portuguese era, there is a population of people of mixed East Timorese and Portuguese origin, known in Portuguese as mestiços. There is a small Chinese minority, most of whom are Hakka. Many Chinese left in the mid-1970s. 


According to the 2010 census, 96.9% of the population is Catholic, 2.2% is Protestant or Evangelical, 0.3% is Muslim, while 0.5% practise some other or no religion. In rural areas, Catholicism is practised along with local traditions. The number of churches has grown from 100 in 1974 to over 800 in 1994. 

Balide church, Dili, East Timor
The principles of freedom of religion and separation of state and church are enshrined in the section 45, comma 1 of the East Timorese constitution. Upon independence, East Timor became one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia (along with the Philippines), although nearby parts of eastern Indonesia also have Catholic majorities, including West Timor and Flores. 

The Roman Catholic Church divides East Timor into three dioceses: the Diocese of Díli, the Diocese of Baucau and the Diocese of Maliana. Church membership grew considerably under Indonesian rule, as Indonesia's state ideology Pancasila does not recognise traditional beliefs and requires all citizens to believe in God. The constitution acknowledges "the participation of the Catholic Church in the process of national liberation" of East Timor. 

Major language groups in East Timor

East Timor's two official languages are Portuguese and Tetum. Tetum belongs to the Austronesian family of languages spoken throughout Southeast Asia. 

The 2010 census found that the most commonly spoken mother tongues were Tetum Prasa (mother tongue for 36.6% of the population), Mambai (12.5%), Makasai (9.7%), Tetum Terik (6.0%), Baikenu (5.9%), Kemak (5.9%), Bunak (5.3%), Tokodede (3.7%), Fataluku (3.6%). Other indigenous languages largely accounted for the remaining 10.9%, while Portuguese was spoken natively by just under 600 people. 

Under Indonesian rule the use of Portuguese was banned, and only Indonesian was allowed to be used in government offices, schools and public business. During the Indonesian occupation, Tetum and Portuguese were important unifying elements for the East Timorese people in opposing Javanese culture. It was adopted as one of the two official languages for this reason and as a link to nations in other parts of the world. It is now being taught and promoted with the help of Brazil, Portugal, and the Latin Union. 

Flag of CPLP
Indonesian and English are defined as working languages under the Constitution in the Final and Transitional Provisions, without setting a final date. Aside from Tetum, Ethnologue lists the following indigenous languages: Adabe, Baikeno, Bunak, Fataluku, Galoli, Habun, Idaté, Kairui-Midiki, Kemak, Lakalei, Makasae, Makuv'a, Mambae, Nauete, Tukudede, Waima'a. It is estimated that English is understood by 31.4% of the population. 23.5% speak, read and write Portuguese, which is up significantly from less than 5% in the 2006 UN Development Report. 

East Timor is a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), also known as the Lusophone Commonwealth, and a member of the Latin Union. 

Sacred house (Lee teinu) in Lospalos
According to the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are six endangered languages in East Timor: Adabe, Habu, Kairui-Midiki, Maku'a, Naueti, Waima'a. 


The culture of East Timor reflects numerous influences, including Portuguese, Roman Catholic, and Indonesian, on the indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian cultures of Timor. 

East Timorese culture is heavily influenced by Austronesian legends. For example, East Timorese creation myth has it that an aging crocodile transformed into the island of Timor as part of a debt repayment to a young boy who had helped the crocodile when it was sick. As a result of that transformation, the island is shaped like a crocodile and the boy's descendants are the native East Timorese who inhabit the island. 

The phrase "leaving the crocodile" refers to the pained exile of East Timorese from their island. 

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão is a Poet
There is also a strong tradition of poetry in the country. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, for example, is a distinguished poet. Architecturely, Portuguese-style buildings can be found, along with the traditional totem houses of the eastern region. These are known as uma lulik (sacred houses) in Tetum, and lee teinu (houses with legs) in Fataluku. Craftsmanship is also widespread, as is the weaving of traditional scarves or tais. 

An extensive collection of Timorese audiovisual material is held at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. These holdings have been identified in a document titled The NFSA Timor-Leste Collection Profile, which features catalogue entries and essays for a total of 795 NFSA-held moving image, recorded sound and documentation works that have captured the history and culture of Timor-Leste since the early 20th century. The NFSA is working with the Timor-Leste government to ensure that all of this material can be used and accessed by the people of that country. In 2013 the first East Timorese feature film, Beatriz's War, was released. 

Sports Sports organisations joined by East Timor include the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the International Badminton Federation (IBF), joined the Union Cycliste Internationale, the International Weightlifting Federation, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), and East Timor's national football team joined FIFA. East Timorese athletes competed in the 2003 Southeast Asian Games held 2003. In the 2003 ASEAN Paralympics Games, East Timor won a bronze medal. In the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, East Timorese athletes participated in athletics, weightlifting and boxing. East Timor won three medals in Arnis at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. East Timor competed in the first Lusophony Games, and in October 2008, the country earned its first international points in a FIFA match with a 2–2 draw against Cambodia.
Education The adult literacy rate in 2010 was 58.3%, up from just 37.6% in 2001. Illiteracy is higher among women. Illiteracy was at 95% at the end of Portuguese rule. In 2006, 10%–30% of primary-school age children did not attend school. The country has the National University of East Timor. Since the departure of the Portuguese, schools have increased from 50 to more than 800. There are also four colleges. Since independence, both Indonesian and Tetum have lost ground as mediums of instruction: while in 2001 only 8.4% of primary school and 6.8% of secondary school students attended a Portuguese-medium school, by 2005 this had increased to 81.6% for primary and 46.3% for secondary schools. Indonesian formerly played a considerable role in education, being used by 73.7% of all secondary school students as a medium of instruction, but by 2005 it was used by most schools only in Baucau, Manatuto, as well as the capital district.
Health Life expectancy at birth was at 60.7 in 2007. The fertility rate is at six births per woman. Healthy life expectancy at birth was at 55 years in 2007. Government expenditure on health was at US$150 (PPP) per person in 2006. Many people in East Timor lack safe drinking water. There were two hospitals and 14 village healthcare facilities in 1974. By 1994 there were 11 hospitals and 330 healthcare centres. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for East Timor is 370. This is compared with 928.6 in 2008 and 1016.3 in 1990. The under-5 mortality rate per 1,000 births is 60 and the neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 27. In Timor-Leste, the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 8 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women is 1 in 44. Because of a Cuban-East Timorese doctor-training programme initiated 2003, by 2015 East Timor will have more doctors per capita than any other country in south-east Asia.

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