History of East Timor

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East Timor is a country in Southeast Asia, officially known as Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. The country comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor and the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco. The first inhabitants are thought to be descendant of Australoid and Melanesian peoples. The Portuguese began to trade with Timor by the early 16th century and colonized it throughout the mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty for which Portugal ceded the western half of the island. Imperial Japan occupied East Timor during World War II, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese surrender.

East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975, but was invaded by neighboring Indonesia nine days later. This invasion was supported by the United States. The country was later incorporated as the province of Indonesia afterwards. During the subsequent two-decade occupation, a campaign of pacification ensued. Although Indonesia did make substantial investment in infrastructures during its occupation in East Timor,[1] the dissatisfaction remain widespread. Between 1975 and 1999, there were an estimated about 102,800 conflict-related deaths (approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness), the majority of which occurred during the Indonesian occupation.

On 30 August 1999, in a UN-sponsored referendum, an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Immediately following the referendum, anti-independence Timorese militias — organised and supported by the Indonesian military — commenced a punitive scorched-earth campaign. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure was destroyed during this punitive attack. On 20 September 1999, the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. Following a United Nations-administered transition period, East Timor was internationally recognised as an independent nation on 20 May 2002.

Pre-colonial history[edit]

Main article: Pre-colonial Timor

The island of Timor was populated as part of the human migrations that have shaped Australasia more generally. It is believed that survivors from three waves of migration still live in the country. The first is described by anthropologists as people of the Veddo-Australoid type, who arrived from the north and west at least 42,000 years ago. In 2011 evidence was uncovered, at the Jerimalai cave site, showing that these early settlers had high-level maritime skills at this time, and by implication the technology needed to make ocean crossings to reach Australia and other islands, as they were catching and consuming large numbers of big deep sea fish such as tuna.[2] This is the earliest evidence of advanced deep sea fishing technology found anywhere in the world. These excavations also discovered world’s earliest recorded fish hook from a later time at 11,000 years old.

Around 3000 BC, a second migration brought Melanesians. The earlier Veddo-Australoid peoples withdrew at this time to the mountainous interior. Finally, proto-Malays arrived from south China and north Indochina. Hakka traders are among those descended from this final group.[3] Timorese origin myths tell of ancestors that sailed around the eastern end of Timor arriving on land in the south. Some stories recount Timorese ancestors journeying from Malay Peninsula or the Minangkabau Highlands of Sumatra.[4]

The later Timorese were not seafarers, rather they were land focussed peoples who did not make contact with other islands and peoples by sea. Timor was part of a region of small islands with small populations of similarly land-focussed peoples that now make up eastern Indonesia. Contact with the outside world was via networks of foreign seafaring traders from as far as China and India that served the archipelago. The earliest historical record about Timor island is 14th century Nagarakretagama, Canto 14, that identify Timur as an island within Majapahit's realm. Outside products brought to the region included metal goods, rice, fine textiles, and coins exchanged for local spices, sandalwood, deer horn, bees' wax, and slaves.[4]

Early European explorers report that the island had a number of small chiefdoms or princedoms in the early 16th century. One of the most significant is the Wehali kingdom in central Timor, to which the Tetum, Bunaq and Kemak ethnic groups were aligned.[5]

Portuguese rule[edit]

Main article: Portuguese Timor

The first Europeans to arrive in the area were the Portuguese, who landed near modern Pante Macassar. These Portuguese were traders that arrived between 1509 and 1511. However, it was only in 1556 a group of Dominican friars established their missionary work in the area. By the seventeenth century the village of Lifau - known today as Oecussi enclave - became the centre of Portuguese activities. At this time, Portuguese began to convert the Timorese to Catholicism. Since 1642, military expedition led by the Portuguese Francisco Fernandes took place. The aim of this expedition was to weaken the power of the Timor kings and even as this expedition was comprised by the Topasses, the 'Black Portuguese', it succeeded to extend the Portuguese influence into the interior of the country. In 1702 the territory officially became a Portuguese colony, known as Portuguese Timor, when Lisbon sent its first governor, with Lifau as its capital. Portuguese control over the territory was tenuous particularly in the mountainous interior. Dominican friars, the occasional Dutch raid, and the Timorese themselves provided opposition to the Portuguese. The control of colonial administrators, largely restricted to Dili, had to rely on traditional tribal chieftains for control and influence.[6]

For the Portuguese, East Timor remained little more than a neglected trading post until the late nineteenth century. Investment in infrastructure, health, and education was minimal. The island was seen as a way to exile those who the government in Lisbon saw as "problems" - these included political prisoners as well as ordinary criminals. Portuguese ruled through a traditional system of liurai (local chiefs). 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. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a faltering home economy prompted the Portuguese to extract greater wealth from its colonies.[6]

The capital was moved from Lifau to Dili in 1769, due to attacks from the Topasses, an independent-minded Eurasian group. Meanwhile, the Dutch were colonizing the rest of the island and the surrounding archipelago that is now Indonesia. The border between Portuguese Timor and the Dutch East Indies was formally decided in 1859 with the Treaty of Lisbon. Portugal received the eastern half, together with the north coast pocket of Oecussi. In 1910–12, the East Timorese rebelled against Portugal. Troops from Mozambique and naval gunfire were brought in to suppress the rebels. The definitive border was drawn by The Hague in 1914,[7] and it remains the international boundary between the modern states of East Timor and Indonesia.

Although Portugal was neutral during World War II, in December 1941, Portuguese Timor was occupied by Australian and Dutch forces, which were expecting a Japanese invasion. This Australian military intervention dragged Portuguese Timor into the Pacific War but it also slowed the Japanese expansion. When the Japanese did occupy Timor, in February 1942, a 400-strong Dutch-Australian force and large numbers of Timorese volunteers engaged them in a one-year guerilla campaign. After the allied evacuation in February 1943 the East Timorese continued fighting the Japanese, with comparatively little collaboration with the enemy taking place. This assistance cost the civilian population dearly: Japanese forces burned many villages and seized food supplies. The Japanese occupation resulted in the deaths of 40,000–70,000 Timorese.

Portuguese Timor was handed back to Portugal after the war, but Portugal continued to neglect the colony. Very little investment was made in infrastructure, education and healthcare. The colony was declared an 'Overseas Province' of the Portuguese Republic in 1955. Locally, authority rested with the Portuguese Governor and the Legislative Council, as well as local chiefs or liurai. Only a small minority of Timorese were educated, and even fewer went on to university in Portugal (there were no universities in the territory until 2000).

During this time, Indonesia did not express any interest in Portuguese Timor, despite the anti-colonial rhetoric of President Sukarno. This was partly as Indonesia was preoccupied with gaining control of West Irian, now called Papua, which had been retained by the Netherlands after Indonesian independence. In fact, at the United Nations, Indonesian diplomats stressed that their country did not seek control over any territory outside the former Netherlands East Indies, explicitly mentioning Portuguese Timor.

Decolonisation, coup, and independence[edit]

The decolonisation 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, Fretilin and the UDT, broke out in 1975 as UDT attempted a coup which Fretilin resisted with the help of local Portuguese military.[8]

One of the first acts of the new government in Lisbon was to appoint a new Governor for the colony on 18 November 1974, in the form of Mário Lemos Pires, who would ultimately be, as events were to prove, the last Governor of Portuguese Timor.[citation needed]

One of his first decrees made upon his arrival in Dili was to legalise political parties in preparation for elections to a Constituent Assembly in 1976. Three main political parties were formed:

  • The União Democrática Timorense (Timorese Democratic Union or UDT), was supported by the traditional elites, initially argued for a continued association with Lisbon, or as they put it in Tetum, mate bandera hum — 'in the shadow of the [Portuguese] flag', but later adopted a 'gradualist' approach to independence. One of its leaders, Mário Viegas Carrascalão, one of the few Timorese to have been educated at university in Portugal, later became Indonesian Governor of East Timor during the 1980s and early 1990s, although with the demise of Indonesian rule, he would change to supporting independence.
  • The Associação Social Democrática Timorense (Timorese Social Democratic Association ASDT) supported a rapid movement to independence. It later changed its name to Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor or Fretilin). Fretilin was criticised by many in Australia and Indonesia as being Marxist, its name sounding reminiscent of FRELIMO in Mozambique but it was more influenced by African nationalists like Amílcar Cabral in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) and Cape Verde.
  • The Associação Popular Democrática Timorense (Timorese Popular Democratic Association or "Apodeti") supported integration with Indonesia, as an autonomous province, but had little grassroots support. One of its leaders, Abílio Osório Soares, later served as the last Indonesian-appointed Governor of East Timor. Apodeti drew support from a few liurai in the border region, some of whom had collaborated with the Japanese during the Second World War. It also had some support in the small Muslim minority, although Marí Alkatiri, a Muslim, was a prominent Fretilin leader, and became Prime Minister in 2002.

Other smaller parties included Klibur Oan Timur Asuwain or KOTA whose name translated from the Tetum language as 'Sons of the Mountain Warriors', which sought to create a form of monarchy involving the local liurai, and the Partido Trabalhista or Labour Party, but neither had any significant support. They would, however, collaborate with Indonesia. The Associação Democrática para a Integração de Timor-Leste na Austrália (ADITLA), advocated integration with Australia, but folded after the Australian government emphatically ruled out the idea.

Parties compete, foreign powers take interest[edit]

Developments in Portuguese Timor during 1974 and 1975 were watched closely by Indonesia and Australia. Suharto's "New Order", which had effectively eliminated Indonesia's Communist Party PKI in 1965, was alarmed by what it saw as the increasingly left-leaning Fretilin, and by the prospect of a small independent leftist state in the midst of the archipelago inspiring separatism in parts of the sourrounding archipelago.

Australia's Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, had developed a close working relationship with the Indonesian leader, and also followed events with concern. At a meeting in the Javanese town of Wonosobo in 1974, he told Suharto that an independent Portuguese Timor would be 'an unviable state, and a potential threat to the stability of the region'. While recognising the need for an act of self-determination, he considered integration with Indonesia to be in Portuguese Timor's best interests.

In local elections on 13 March 1975, Fretilin and UDT emerged as the largest parties, having previously formed an alliance to campaign for independence.

Indonesian military intelligence, known as BAKIN, began attempting to cause divisions between the pro-independence parties, and promote the support of Apodeti. This was known as Operasi Komodo or 'Operation Komodo' after the giant Komodo lizard found in the eastern Indonesian island of the same name. Many Indonesian military figures held meetings with UDT leaders, who made it plain that Jakarta would not tolerate a Fretilin-led administration in an independent East Timor. The coalition between Fretilin and UDT later broke up.

During the course of 1975, Portugal became increasingly detached from political developments in its colony, becoming embroiled in civil unrest and political crises, and more concerned with decolonisation in its African colonies of Angola and Mozambique than with Portuguese Timor.[citation needed] Many local leaders saw independence as unrealistic, and were open to discussions with Jakarta over Portuguese Timor's incorporation into the Indonesian state.[citation needed]

The Coup[edit]

On 11 August 1975, the UDT mounted a coup, in a bid to halt the increasing popularity of Fretilin. Governor Pires fled to the offshore island of Atauro, north of the capital, Dili, from where he later attempted to broker an agreement between the two sides. He was urged by Fretilin to return and resume the decolonisation process, but he insisted that he was awaiting instructions from the government in Lisbon, now increasingly uninterested.

Indonesia sought to portray the conflict as a civil war, which had plunged Portuguese Timor into chaos, but after only a month, aid and relief agencies from Australia and elsewhere visited the territory, and reported that the situation was stable. Nevertheless, many UDT supporters had fled across the border into Indonesian Timor, where they were coerced into supporting integration with Indonesia. In October 1975, in the border town of Balibo, two Australian television crews (the "Balibo Five") reporting on the conflict were killed by Indonesian forces, after they witnessed Indonesian incursions into Portuguese Timor.

Break from Portugal[edit]

While Fretilin had sought the return of the Portuguese Governor, pointedly flying the Portuguese flag from government offices, the deteriorating situation meant that it had to make an appeal to the world for international support, independently of Portugal.

On 28 November 1975, Fretilin made a unilateral declaration of independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (Republica Democrática de Timor-Leste in Portuguese). This was not recognised by either Portugal, Indonesia, or Australia; however, the new state received formal diplomatic recognition from six countries, namely Albania, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Fretilin's Francisco Xavier do Amaral became the first President, while Fretilin leader Nicolau dos Reis Lobato was Prime Minister.

Indonesia's response was to have UDT, Apodeti, KOTA and Trabalhista leaders sign a declaration calling for integration with Indonesia called the Balibo Declaration, although it was drafted by Indonesian intelligence and signed in Bali, Indonesia not Balibo, Portuguese Timor. Xanana Gusmão, now the country's Prime Minister, described this as the 'Balibohong Declaration', a pun on the Indonesian word for 'lie'.

East Timor solidarity movement[edit]

An international East Timor solidarity movement arose in response to the 1975 invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and the occupation that followed. The movement was supported by churches, human rights groups, and peace campaigners, but developed its own organizations and infrastructure in many countries. Many demonstrations and vigils backed legislative actions to cut off military supplies to Indonesia. The movement was most extensive in neighboring Australia, in Portugal, and the former Portuguese colonies in Africa, but had significant force in the United States, Canada and Europe.

José Ramos-Horta, current President of East Timor, stated in a 2007 interview that the solidarity movement "was instrumental. They were like our peaceful foot soldiers, and fought many battles for us."

Indonesian invasion and annexation[edit]

The Indonesian invasion of East Timor began on 7 December 1975. Indonesian forces launched a massive air and sea invasion, known as Operasi Seroja, or 'Operation Komodo', almost entirely using US-supplied equipment even if Kissinger feared this would be revealed to the public.[9] Moreover, according to declassified documents released by the National Security Archive (NSA) in December 2001, USA gave its agreement to Indonesia for the invasion. In fact, when the Indonesian president Suharto asked the understanding of taking rapid drastic action in East Timor to the American president, President Ford replied, "We will understand and not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have." Australian government did not react to this invasion. The reason may be the existence of oil found in the waters between Indonesia and Australia. This lack of action resulted in massive protests by Australian citizens remembering the heroic actions of the Timorese during World War II.

In an effort to stamp greater control over its dissident new province - whose seizure was condemned by the United Nations - Indonesia invested considerable sums in Timor-Leste leading to more rapid economic growth which averaged 6% per year over the period 1983-1997. Unlike the Portuguese, the Indonesians favoured strong, direct rule, which was never accepted by the Timorese people who were determined to preserve their culture and national identity. By 1976 there were 35,000 Indonesian troops in East Timor. Falintil, the military wing of Fretilin, fought a guerrilla war with marked success in the first few years but weakened considerably thereafter. The cost of the brutal takeover to the East Timorese was huge; it’s estimated that at least 100,000 died in the hostilities, and ensuing disease and famine. Other reported death tolls from the 24-year occupation range from 60,000 to 200,000.[10] A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a lower range 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.[11] There were also reports of rapes, burning and sacking of buildings. By February 1976, with troops spreading out from the capital to occupy villages to the east and south, East Timor’s Indonesian-appointed deputy governor, Lopez la Cruz, admitted that 60,000 East Timorese had been killed. Troop numbers were increased and draconian controls were imposed on the population, isolating the territory from the outside world.

A puppet ''Provisional Government of East Timor'' was installed in mid-December, consisting of Apodeti and UDT leaders. Attempts by the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative, Vittorio Winspeare-Guicciardi to visit Fretilin-held areas from Darwin, Australia, were obstructed by the Indonesian military, which blockaded East Timor. On 31 May 1976, a 'People's Assembly' in Dili, selected by Indonesian intelligence, unanimously endorsed an 'Act of Integration', and on 17 July, East Timor officially became the 27th province of the Republic of Indonesia (Timor Timur). The occupation of East Timor remained a public issue in many nations, Portugal in particular, and the UN never recognised either the regime installed by the Indonesians or the subsequent annexation. We can refer to the resolution approved by the United nations General Assembly on December 12, 1975, saying "having heard the statements of the representatives of Portugal, as the Administering Power, concerning developments in Portuguese Timor...deplores the military intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in Portuguese Timor and calls upon the Government of Indonesia to withdraw without delay its armed forces from the Territory...and recommends that the Security Council take urgent action to protect the territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor and the inalienable right of its people to self-determination".

Western countries were criticized because they supported the Indonesian invasion. Indeed, they supported it by selling arms or making offerings of aid (it is believed that the United States provided 90% of Indonesia's arms), by making some military training programs in Indonesia, by not covering the events taking place in Timor, or by saying that the deaths were due to former conflicts.

By 1989, Indonesia had things firmly under control and opened East Timor to tourism. Then, on 12 November 1991 Indonesian troops fired on protesters gathered at the Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili to commemorate the killing of an independence activist. With the event captured on film and aired around the world, the embarrassed Indonesian government admitted to 19 killings, although it’s estimated that over 200 died in the massacre.

While Indonesia introduced a civilian administration, the military remained in control. Aided by secret police and civilian Timorese militia to crush dissent, reports of arrest, torture, and murder were numerous.

Towards independence[edit]

Demonstration against Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Perth, Australia, September 10, 1999.

Timorese groups fought a campaign of resistance against Indonesian forces for the independence of East Timor, during which many atrocities and human rights violations by the Indonesian army were reported. The Indonesian army is reported to have trained and supplied militias imported from Indonesia to terrorise the population[citation needed]. Foreign powers such as the Australian government, concerned to maintain good relations with Indonesia, had been consistently reluctant to assist a push for independence (despite popular sympathy for the East Timorese cause among many in the Australian electorate).[12] However, the departure of President Suharto and a shift in Australian policy by the Howard Government in 1998 precipitated a proposal for a referendum on the question of independence.[13] Ongoing lobbying by the Portuguese government also provided impetus.

Effects of the Dili Massacre[edit]

The Dili Massacre on 12 November 1991 was a turning point for sympathy for pro-independence East Timorese. A burgeoning East Timor solidarity movement grew in Portugal, Australia, and the United States. After the massacre, the US Congress voted to cut off funding for IMET training of Indonesian military personnel. However, arms sales continued from the US to the Indonesian National Armed Forces.[14] President Clinton cut off all US military ties with the Indonesian military in 1999.[15] The Australian government promoted a strong connection with the Indonesian military at the time of the massacre, but also cut off ties in 1999.[16]

The Massacre had a profound effect on public opinion in Portugal, especially after television footage showing East Timorese praying in Portuguese, and independence leader Xanana Gusmão gained widespread respect, being awarded the Portugal's highest honour in 1993, after he had been captured and imprisoned by the Indonesians.

Australia's troubled relationship with the Suharto regime was brought into focus by the Massacre. In Australia, there was also widespread public outrage, and criticism of Canberra's close relationship with the Suharto regime and recognition of Jakarta's sovereignty over East Timor. This caused the Australian government embarrassment, but Foreign Minister Gareth Evans played down the killings, describing them as 'an aberration, not an act of state policy'. Prime Minister Keating’s first overseas trip was to Indonesia in April 1992 and sought to improve trade and cultural relations, but repression of the East Timorese continued to mar cooperation between the two nations.[17]

Gareth Evans and Prime Minister Paul Keating (1991–1996) gave maintenance of close relations with the Indonesian government a high priority, as did the subsequent Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer during their first term in office (1996–1998). Australian governments saw good relations and stability in Indonesia (Australia's largest neighbour) as providing an important security buffer to Australia's north.[17] Nevertheless, Australia provided important sanctuary to East Timorese independence advocates like Jose Ramos-Horta (who based himself in Australia during his exile).

The fall of President Suharto and the arrival of President B.J. Habibie in 1998 and the rise of Indonesian democracy brought a new prospect for a potential change in the dynamic between the Australian and Indonesian governments.[13]

Role of the Catholic Church[edit]

The Catholic Church in East Timor played an important role in society throughout the Indonesian occupation. While just 20% of East Timorese called themselves Catholics in 1975, the figure surged to reach 95% by the end of the first decade after the invasion. During the occupation, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo became one of the most prominent advocates for human rights in East Timor and many priests and nuns risked their lives in defending citizens from military abuses. Pope John Paul II's 1989 visit to East Timor exposed the occupied territory's situation to world media and provided a catalyst for independence activists to seek global support. Officially neutral, the Vatican wished to retain good relations with the Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. Upon his arrival in East Timor, the Pope symbolically kissed a cross then pressed it to the ground, alluding to his usual practice of kissing the ground on arrival in a nation, and yet avoiding overtly suggesting East Timor was a sovereign country. He spoke fervently against abuses in his sermon, whilst avoiding naming the Indonesian authorities as responsible.[18]

In 1996, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta, two leading East Timorese activists for peace and independence, received the Nobel Peace Prize for ""their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor".[19]

A number of priest and nuns were murdered in the violence in East Timor that followed the 1999 Independence referendum. The newly independent nation declared three days of national mourning upon the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.[18]

International lobbying[edit]

José Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Prime Minister and present President of East Timor.
Major General Peter Cosgrove (right) Australian commander of the United Nations backed peace keeping operation (INTERFET) to East Timor.

Portugal started to apply international pressure unsuccessfully, constantly raising the issue with its fellow European Union members in their dealings with Indonesia. However, other EU countries like the UK had close economic relations with Indonesia, including arms sales, and saw no advantage in forcefully raising the issue.

In the mid-1990s, the pro-democracy People's Democratic Party (PRD) in Indonesia called for withdrawal from East Timor. The party's leadership was arrested in July 1996.[20]

In July 1997, visiting South African President Nelson Mandela visited Suharto as well as the imprisoned Xanana Gusmão. He urged the freeing of all East Timorese leaders in a note reading, "We can never normalize the situation in East Timor unless all political leaders, including Mr. Gusmão, are freed. They are the ones who must bring about a solution." Indonesia's government refused but did announce that it would take three months off Gusmão's 20-year sentence.[20]

In 1998, following the resignation of Suharto and his replacement by President Habibie, Jakarta moved towards offering East Timor autonomy within the Indonesian state, although ruled out independence, and stated that Portugal and the UN must recognise Indonesian sovereignty.

Referendum for independence, violence[edit]

New Indonesian President B. J. Habibie was prepared to consider a change of status for East Timor. Portugal had started to gain some political allies firstly in the EU, and after that in other places of the world to pressure Indonesia. In late 1998, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard with his Foreign Minister Alexander Downer drafted a letter setting out a major change in Australian policy. The letter supported the idea of autonomy but went much further by suggesting that the East Timores be given a chance to vote on independence within a decade. The letter upset Habibie, who saw it as implying Indonesia was a "colonial power" and he decided in response to announce a snap referendum to be conducted within six months.[13]

News of the proposal provoked a violent reaction in East Timor from pro-Indonesian militia. The Indonesian army did not intervene to restore order. At a summit in Bali John Howard told Habibie that a United Nations Peace Keeping force should oversee the process. Habibie rejected the proposal, believing it would have insulted the Indonesian military.[13]

The referendum, held on 30 August, gave a clear majority (78.5%) in favour of independence, rejecting the alternative offer of being an autonomous province within Indonesia, to be known as the Special Autonomous Region of East Timor (SARET).

Directly after this, Indonesian military-supported East Timorese pro-integration militia and Indonesian soldiers carried out a campaign of violence and terrorism in retaliation. Approximately 1,400 Timorese were killed and 300,000 forcibly pushed into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country's electrical grid were destroyed.

Activists in Portugal, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere pressured their governments to take action. The violence was met with widespread public anger in Australia. The Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Labor's Laurie Brereton, was vocal in highlighting evidence of the Indonesian military's involvement in pro-integrationist violence and advocated United Nations peacekeeping to support the East Timor's ballot. The Catholic Church in Australia urged the Australian Government to send an armed peacekeeping force to East Timor to end the violence.[21] Street protesters harried the Indonesian Embassy.

John Howard conferred with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and lobbied U. S. President Bill Clinton for an Australian led international peace keeper force to enter East Timor to end the violence. The United States offered crucial logistical and intelligence resources and an "over-horizon" deterrent presence. Finally, on 11 September, Bill Clinton announced:

Indonesia, in dire economic straits relented and on 12 September, Indonesian President Habibie announced:

It was clear that the UN did not have sufficient resources to combat the paramilitary forces directly. Instead, the UN authorised the creation of a multinational military force known as INTERFET (International Force for East Timor), with Security Council Resolution 1264.[22] Troops were contributed by 17 nations, about 9,900 in total. 4,400 came from Australia, the remainder mostly from South-East Asia.[23] The force was led by Major-General (now General) Peter Cosgrove. Troops landed in East Timor on 20 September 1999.

On 20 September 1999 the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end.

The independent republic[edit]

Xanana Gusmão, first President of East Timor and present Prime Minister.

The administration of East Timor was taken over by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), established on 25 October 1999.[24] The INTERFET deployment ended on 14 February 2000 with the transfer of military command to the UN.[25] Elections were held in late 2001 for a constituent assembly to draft a constitution, a task finished in February 2002. East Timor became formally independent on 20 May 2002. Xanana Gusmão was sworn in as the country's President. East Timor became a member of the UN on 27 September 2002.

On 4 December 2002, after a student had been arrested the previous day, rioting students set fire to the house of the Prime Minister Marí Alkatiri and advanced on the police station. The police opened fire and one student was killed, whose body the students carried to the National Parliament building. There they fought the police, set a supermarket on fire and plundered shops. The police opened fire again and four more students were killed. Alkatiri called an inquiry and blamed foreign influence for the violence.

Relations with Australia have been strained by disputes over the maritime boundary between the two countries. Canberra claims petroleum and natural gas fields in an area known as the 'Timor Gap', which East Timor regards as lying within its maritime boundaries.

2006 crisis[edit]

Unrest started in the country in April 2006 following riots in Dili. A rally in support of 600 East Timorese soldiers, who were dismissed for deserting their barracks, turned into rioting where five people were killed and over 20,000 fled their homes. Fierce fighting between pro-government troops and disaffected Falintil troops broke out in May 2006.[26] While unclear, the motives behind the fighting appeared to be the distribution of oil funds and the poor organization of the Timorese army and police, which included former Indonesian-trained police and former Timorese rebels. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri called the violence a "coup" and welcomed offers of foreign military assistance from several nations.[27][28] As of 25 May 2006, Australia, Portugal, New Zealand, and Malaysia sent troops to Timor, attempting to quell the violence.[28][29] At least 23 deaths occurred as a result of the violence.

On 21 June 2006, President Xanana Gusmão formally requested Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri step down. A majority of Fretilin party members demanded the prime minister's resignation, accusing him of lying about distributing weapons to civilians.[30] On 26 June 2006 Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned stating, "I declare I am ready to resign my position as prime minister of the government… so as to avoid the resignation of His Excellency the President of the Republic". In August, rebel leader Alfredo Reinado escaped from Becora Prison, in Dili. Tensions were later raised after armed clashes between youth gangs forced the closure of Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in late October.[31]

In April 2007, Gusmão declined another presidential term. In the build-up to the April 2007 presidential elections there were renewed outbreaks of violence in February and March 2007. José Ramos-Horta was inaugurated as President on May 20, 2007, following his election win in the second round.[32] Gusmão was sworn in as Prime Minister on August 8, 2007. President Ramos-Horta was critically injured in an assassination attempt on February 11, 2008, in a failed coup apparently perpetrated by Alfredo Reinado, a renegade soldier who died in the attack. Prime Minister Gusmão also faced gunfire separately but escaped unharmed. The Australian government immediately sent reinforcements to East Timor to keep order.[33]

New Zealand announced in early November, 2012, it would be pulling its troops out of the country, saying the country was now stable and calm.[34] Five New Zealand troops were killed in the 13 years the country had a military presence in East Timor.

United Nations missions[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Indonesia: From Economic Crisis to Political Turmoil Dr. Udai Bhanu Singh, Research Fellow, IDSA
  2. ^ http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/11/2011/evidence-of-42000-year-old-deep-sea-fishing-revealed
  3. ^ Timor-Leste.gov.tl, Timor Leste History.
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 378. ISBN 0-300-10518-5. 
  5. ^ Seasite.niu.edu, Precolonial East Timor.
  6. ^ a b Schwarz, A. (1994). A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia in the 1990s. Westview Press. p. 198. ISBN 1-86373-635-2. 
  7. ^ Deeley, Furness, and Schofield (2001) The International Boundaries of East Timor p. 8
  8. ^ Ricklefs, M. C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300 (2nd ed.). MacMillan. p. 301. ISBN 0-333-57689-6. 
  9. ^ GWU.edu
  10. ^ AmnestyUSA.org, "Indonesia/East Timor: Seven East Timorese Still in Danger". Amnesty International USA. A lot of rape were also taking place. Retrieved on 16 August 2007.
  11. ^ Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (9 February 2006). "The Profile of Human Rights Violations in Timor-Leste, 1974-1999". A Report to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation of Timor-Leste. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). 
  12. ^ Fernandes, Clinton (2004) Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and East Timor.
  13. ^ a b c d http://www.abc.net.au/news/howardyears/content/s2422684.htm
  14. ^ ETAN.org, U.S. Policy toward East Timor, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.
  15. ^ ETAN.org, ETAN Backgrounder for May 20 Independence, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.
  16. ^ "Australia should avoid ties with Indonesia military: Study". Reuters. Retrieved on 16 August 2007.
  17. ^ a b http://primeministers.naa.gov.au/primeministers/keating/in-office.aspx
  18. ^ a b Head, Jonathan (5 April 2005). "East Timor mourns 'catalyst' Pope". BBC News. 
  19. ^ http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1996/
  20. ^ a b Solidarity-us.org
  21. ^ http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P1-23049715.html
  22. ^ UN.org
  23. ^ PM.gov.au
  24. ^ UN.org
  25. ^ ETAN.org
  26. ^ BBC
  27. ^ SMH.com.au, Sydney Morning Herald
  28. ^ a b RTE.ie
  29. ^ IOL.co.za
  30. ^ SMH.com.au, Sydney Morning Herald
  31. ^ AlJazeera.net; "Deadly clashes erupt in E Timor", Al Jazeera, 25 October 2005
  32. ^ guardian.co.uk
  33. ^ "BBC News". BBC News. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  34. ^ Sabin, Brook (5 November 2012). "NZ pulls out of Timor-Leste". 3 News NZ. 

External links[edit]

  • Alertnet.org, Crisis profile East Timor
  • The National Security Archive, GWU.edu, East Timor Revisited: Ford, Kissinger and the Indonesian Invasion document 4, pp 9,10
  • Onebigtorrent.org, The Documentary Death of a Nation — The Timor Conspiracy, written and presented by John Pilger in 1994 details the occupation period and exposes the involvement of Western governments in providing essential weapons systems, financial aid and the political cover for the Indonesian regime.
  • ETAN.org, East Timor Action Network
  • Laohamutuk.org, East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis (La'o Hamutuk)
  • HRW.org, Human Rights Watch publications on East Timor
  • Atimes.com, Timor's Tutorial in Oil Politics
  • Oapen.org, Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea; Conflict and Adaptation in Early Colonial Timor, 1600-1800.