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East Timor Independence
East Timor Independence?
. Introduction …………………………………………………………….. 3
. Ethnological origin, demography and policy …………………………. 3
. Before and after the arrival of the Europeans ……………………….. 6
. Japanese occupation during World War II ……………………………7
. The Portuguese colonial empire ……………………………………….. 8
. Indonesian invasion …………………………………………………….. 10
. Introduction to Indonesia ………………………………………………. 12
. Independence of Indonesia and Sukarno ……………………………… 13
. Formation of East-Timorese political associations …………………… 17
. The parties ………………………………………………………………. 18
. Australian support ………………………………………………………. 21
. USA admits Timorese right to self-determination …………………….. 23
. Indonesia admits independence …………………………………………. 23
. Agreement Between the Republic of Indonesia and the Portugese
Republic on the Question of East Timor ……………………………….. 24
. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………… 26
It is not easy to write with feigned calm and dispassion about the
events that have been unfolding in East Timor. Horror and shame are
compounded by the fact that the crimes are so familiar and could so easily
have been halted by the international community a long time ago.
Timor, the Malay word for "Orient", is an island of the Malay
Archipelago, the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sundas, lying
between parallels 8 deg. 17' and 10 deg. 22' of south latitude and
meridians 123 deg. 25' and 127 deg. 19' of latitude east from Greenwich. It
is bathed by the Indian Ocean (Timor Sea) at South, and Pacific Ocean
(Banda Sea) at North and has an oblong configuration in the direction of
southwest -- northeast. The island is surrounded by the Roti and Saval
islands through the Roti Strait, by the Lomblem, Pantar and Ombai islands
across the Ombai Strait and by Kissar isle to the northeast. Southwards,
Australia dists about 500 km, and 1000 km separates the southwest point of
Timor from Java.
The total area of Timor is of 32 350 sq km, measuring the maximums of
470 km in length and 110 km in width. About 480 km wide, and a surface of
450 000 sq km, the Timor Sea which is divided between the two territories,
opening west into the Indian Ocean and east into the Arafura Sea, part of
the Pacific Ocean.
The territory of the island -- East Timor-- of which Portugal was
recognized administrative power by United Nations, occupies an estimated
area of almost 19 000 km, and comprises the eastern half of the island,
with 265 km in length and 92 km of maximum width and an area of 16 384 km
and the enclave of Ocussi-Ambeno that dists 70 km from Batugadi, with 2 461
sq km and a coastline 48 km long. Still part of East Timor is the island of
Ataero (or Pulo-Cambing) with 144 sq km, just 23 km northwards of the
capital Dili and the tiny isle of Jaco with 8 sq km, being the oriental
extreme of East Timor just ahead of Tutuala.
Ethnological origin, demography and policy.
There are 12 ethnic groups in East Timor each of which has its own
language: 9 Austronesian language groups - Tetum, Mambai, Tokodede, Kemak,
Galoli, Idate, Waima'a, Naueti; and 3 Papuan language groups - Bunak,
Makasae, Fatuluku. The Tetum live in two separate geographic areas within
East Timor. A simplified version of the Tetum language was utilised in Dili
by the Portuguese as a lingua franca. This language has spread throughout
East Timor so that Tetum, in its original or simplified form, came to be
spoken by about 60% of the population. Though widespread, it is not
understood by all.
One of the first references to the natives of East Timor is expressed
in the description that in 1514 the Portuguese Rui de Brito sent to king D.
Manuel. In our free transcription, he wrote in these terms: “Timor is an
island beyond Java, has plenty sandalwood, plenty honey, plenty wax, hasn't
junks for navigating, is a big island of kaffirs.”
The `kaffir' is meant to refer to the “black and of troubled hair”.
Timorese what, not being untrue, was an imprecise observation as the type
was to be found only in some regions, specially in Ocussi, and generically
in West Timor.
From the antrophological point of view, the island arouses the upmost
scientific interest such is the heterogeneity of it's people.
For centuries the East Timorese had been farmers, living in scattered
hamlets and eating what they grew. Only a few coastal East Timorese were
fishermen. Trading and shop keeping had for generations been in the hands
of the Chinese. East Timor is extremely mountainous, so the majority of
East Timorese had always lived in isolation, far from towns and foreign
influences, tied to their fields and animistic practices. In spite of
centuries of Catholic missionary work by the Portuguese, in 1975 animists
still numbered as much as 72 % of the population. The local Timorese kings
still played an important part in their lives and allegiances, whilst
interference from Portuguese administrators and military was almost non-
In the period between World War 2 and the 1975 Indonesian invasion, a
number of East Timorese managed to gain an education in the colony's few
schools. Some were mestizos, of Timorese and Portuguese parentage, others
were Timorese from traditional ruling families, but the majority were
native Timorese who gained their education through the Catholic minor
seminary. The emergence of this small educated elite in the 1960s and 1970s
ensured that, when the Portuguese left East Timor in 1975, these people
with schooling, and nationalist aspirations, became the territory's
Politically, socially and ethnologically Timorese differ amongst
themselves in groups. There is the division in independent sucos
(kingdoms), the distinction between the Atoni tribes of the Servian
kingdom, in West Timor, and the Belos of the Portuguese territory, groups
such as the Firacos, ethnic designation adopted by the Timorese in between
Baucau and Luca, or the Caladi which are the inhabitants of the central
crest , Malays and non-Malays, so many "sucos" and more than twenty
languages and dialects, the contribution of the exogamy, of parties
irreconcilable. In conclusion, that is the expression of a relative absence
of bio-ethnic unity of the populations.
The history of a People and their Culture voted to banishment from
their motherland, the eastern half of an island, former Portuguese colony
is the much unknown. Timor lies in South East Asia enclosed in world's
largest archipelago. That is Indonesia, which gave it's name to the
Republic constituted after the dutch withdrawl. Since the beginning,
Indonesian governments have experienced resistance coming from independist
movements of various islands which claim ethnical and cultural diveristy
from the predominant Javanese type. Nonetheless they were continuously
silenced thus unable to internationalize the situation to a stage that
would force foreign intervention. When it became inevitable, in that single
exception of the western half of New Guinea, the autodetermination of the
papuans in favour of an integration in Indonesia was observed as an
Indonesian orchestrated act, and remembered until today as the darkest
episode in the history of UN.
Indonesia couldn't either afford the regional instability that the
prospect of a small nation rising in between the empire would arouse .This
solitary piece of territory and it's inhabitants had to be sacrificed for a
Portugal which's vast colonial possessions had once made the country
great, with times had become responsible for it's retardment. The drawling
of the situation was put to an end with a successful coup d'etat, in April
'74, which engaged a national revolution ceasing dictatorship and commited
to decolonization. Meanwhile, if East Timor, due to distance and expense,
was already the most forgotten colony, less attention it was given towards
the definition of it's future as the longed changes in the metropolis
didn't avoid internal deviations and contradictions. It brought instability
to the government of the country and the urgence to lay the basis of
For Indonesia however, the solution was announced: annexation by any
terms. As it couldn't be done without cover-up, the Indonesian accounted
the "ignorance" of Timor's closest neighbor, Australia, offering access to
the Timor Gap for oil. The maintenance of economic and institutional
relations was (is) too important. Necessary non-interference from
superpower USA was also naturally reached. Having the Americans weakened
their position in South East Asia after Vietnam, Indonesia was regarded as
the last great bastion of anti-communism in the region, essentially in
those years for reasons of military strategy as we'll see ahead. Thus
friendly relations were very important to preserve.
So, in name of political, economical and military goals, with two
major countries making it possible for the pretender of East Timor, and
before the impotence of Administrative Power Portugal, Indonesia invaded in
December '75, interrupting a process of decolonization in course. The
action was promptly condemned by the United Nations. Although in face of
International Law, and of the most elementary human rights, Indonesia is
regularly criticized by the International Community, East Timor remains
still insignificant to put at stake superior governmental interests.
As the case of East Timor becomes more of a serious arrow nailed in
the flank of Indonesia's diplomacy, Jakarta multiplies efforts to gain
votes amongst countries who normally vote against in the sessions of UN,
the mediator of the discussions between Portugal and Indonesia (without
Timorese representation) to avoid further embarrassments that have resulted
uncomfortable for its economic relations, and desirable leading role
amongst the Non-Aligned Movement, the same that combated colonialism.
Nevertheless the same policy persists for Timor. As if once the
annexation has been carried out it urges by all means to prove the
righteousness of such action.
For the last 19 years, an excess of 200 000 Timorese have been killed
by the Indonesians. The Resistance arms itself with the weapons captured
from the enemy. Women, the aged and the children are concentrated in camps
where they do forced labour and many starve to death. Suspects are
tortured, spanking and sexual abuse are constant, many women have been
sterilized. Family members are deliberately aparted. Transmigration
programs project the definite dissolution of the Maubere People.
Before and after the arrival of the Europeans
Previous to the European interference in the indigenous scheme of
life, the island of Timor was inhabited by barbarian people that couldn't
write but used iron and was already agricultural. Industry was limited to
the fabrication of cotton cloths with which they covered themselves and the
commerce reduced to the trade of wax and sandalwood for certain products
that brought to Timor makasare, malays and javanese.
Much before the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch, Timor was part of the
commercial nets politically centered east of Java, after in the Celebes,
and linked by trade to China and India. In documents published during the
Ming dynasty, in 1436, the commercial value of Timor is put in relief and
described as a place where “the mountains are covered by trees of
sandalwood producing the country nothing else”. One of the first Portuguese
to visit the island, Duarte Barbosa, wrote in 1518: “there's an abundance
of sandalwood, white, to which the Muslims in India and Persia give great
value and where much of it is used”.
Other products were exported such as honey, wax and slaves, but trade
relied mainly on sandalwood.
Japanese occupation during World War II
During the Second World War, Portugal declared a policy of neutrality.
Dutch and Australian troops nonetheless disembarked at East Timor in
disrespect of Portuguese sovereignty. But the real menace came with the
Japanese invasion, three months later, in February of 1942. The island
became a stage of war between Japanese and the allieds. Timorese were seen
as secondary actors when in truth, after crossing a period of rebellion
against Portuguese rule, were they the more sacrificed during the
resistance until 1945.
In spite of Portugal's policy of neutrality, the Australian and Dutch
troops entered in Timor. It was the first of two foreigner military
invasions. In Lisbon, Oliveira de Salazar denounced the allied disembark as
an invasion of a neutral territory. Shortly after arrived the Japanese.
It's not to admire that J. Santos Carvalho saw in these actions an attitude
of depreciation towards the sovereignty of Portugal. When the allied forces
arrived at Dili in December the 17th of 1941, he says that governor
Ferreira de Carvalho, without means to retaliate by arms ordered the
national flag to be hoisted in all public partitions and buildings of the
colony. To further mark his position of neutrality he confined himself to
his residence and, by free determination, wished to be considered prisoner.
The population of the capital went to live in the interior, mainly in
Aileu, Liquie and Maubara. Some of the few Portuguese that remained in Dili
pursued nevertheless with their usual lives, socializing with the forces
stationed in Timor. They were given instructions by the local government to
maintain a correct attitude but to show no familiarity neither to
collaborate. An atmosphere of normality gain form, and some families were
prepared to go back. It is even reported that an agreement signed by
English and Portuguese governments defined that the allied troops would
retire as soon as arrived a contingent of Portuguese forces from Maputo
What happened instead was the Japanese invasion of Dili, in February
of 1942. During January they had managed to occupy Malaysia (except
Singapore), the Philippines (but not Bataan), Borneo and the Celebes,
Birmania, New Guinea and the Salmon islands. Following general L. M.
Chassin - “at the end of the second month of an hyperbolic invasion , the
Japanese tide extended itself irresistibly beyond paralyzed and impotent
adversaries.” In the middle of February they invaded Sumatra occupying
Palembang, soon after Singapore is attacked and many Englishmen are made
prisoners. Java was surrounded and on the 20th, Bali and Timor were taken.
After a weak resistance , the Dutch troops abandoned by the Javanese
soldiers -- which were in majority --, escaped to the interior leaving
behind armament. Dili was then violently sacked by the Japanese, who found
the city almost uninhabited.
The Portuguese colonial empire
Up to the final years of dictatorship in Portugal, in spite of the
condemnation of UN and the start of the guerrilla warfare in the African
colonies of Angola, Guinea and Mozambique, the Portuguese Colonial Empire
was defended by the government as an heritage of the glorious past and
motive of national pride. However, the crescent expenses of it's
maintenance begun to reflect increasingly on the economy and social tissue
of the metropolis, what provoked crescent discontentment of the population,
finally leading to the Revolution of '74 that installed democracy and gave
independence to the colonies. East Timor was invaded by Indonesia precisely
in the course of decolonization.
During dictatorship, the colonies continued to be dedicated
considerable interest. For the nationalist ideology that characterized the
regime, the vast regions of the World under Portuguese sovereignty were to
be seen as the justification of a necessary conscience of greatness and
pride to be Portuguese.
The expression "Portuguese Colonial Empire" would be generalized and
even met official formalization. Colonial patrimony was considered as the
remaining spoils of the Portuguese conquests of the glorious period of
These notions were mystified but also expressed in Law as in 1930
Oliveira de Salazar (at the time minister of Finances and, for some time of
the Colonies) published the Colonial Act. It stated some fundamental
principles for the overseas territorial administration and proclaimed that
it was “of the organic essence of the Portuguese nation to possess and
colonize overseas territories and to civilize indigenous populations there
comprised”. The overseas dimension of Portugal was however soon put at
stake after World War II. The converging interest of the two victorious
superpowers on the re-distribution of World regions productors of raw
materials contributed for an international agreement on the legal right for
all peoples to their own government. Stated as a fundamental principle of
the UN Charter, anti-colonialism gave thrust to the independist movements
of the colonies, and in matter of time unavoidably accepted by the great
colonial nations: England, France, Netherlands, Belgium. Yet such countries
relied on mechanisms of economical domination that would last, assuring
that political independence wouldn't substantially affect the structure of
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