East Timor History

East Timor History

East Timor or Timor-Leste. Its official name is the Democratic Republic of East Timor, at one time it was also known as Portuguese Timor. It occupies the eastern part of the island of Timor, together with the enclave of Ambeno, located on the northwestern coast of the island. It was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, which occupied it until 1999. The country achieved its full independence on May 20, 2002. It is considered the poorest nation in the world. Dili is the capital city of East Timor according to itypemba.

Ancient times

The first residents of East Timor were australoids from the north and west of the island, the same ones that populated the entire area of Oceania around 20,000 years ago. Timor was incorporated into the commercial circuits of China and India in the 14th century, selling them sandalwood, slaves, honey and wax.

Portuguese colonialism

Before the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama in the 15th century, Chinese and Arab sailors knew Timor as an “inexhaustible source of precious woods”, which were exchanged for axes, porcelain, lead and other useful elements for the natives, whose social structure It was made up of the liurari (chiefs and kings), the dato (nobles and warriors), the ema-kingdom (free commoners), the ata (slaves) and the lutum (nomadic shepherds).

The population resisted colonialism and armed insurrections took place in 1719, 1895 and 1959, all of them repressed. The territory was divided in 1859 between Portugal and Holland. The eastern part corresponded to the Portuguese, according to an agreement of 1904. But the resistance of the Maubere people allowed their culture to survive colonialism. Instead, forests of precious woods – especially white sandalwood – were razed by overexploitation and coffee cultivation became the basis of the economy of the Timor people.

In the mid- 1970s, the independentistas united to fight for national liberation, bringing together various political and social forces. In April of 1974 took place in Lisbon the ” Carnation Revolution ” which brought down the colonial regime in Portugal and allowed in Timor patriotic, same movement that acquired the name legalized Liberation Front of Independent East Timor ( Fertilin).

The new Portuguese government promised independence for the island of Timor; but the local colonial administration promoted the creation of the Democratic Union of Timor (UDT), in favor of the colonial status quo and of a federation with Portugal. Simultaneously, the Indonesian consulate in Dili promoted groups of Timorese to organize the Democratic People’s Association of Timor (Apodeti), which proposed the integration of Timor into Indonesia.

Indonesian occupation

The struggle between the interests of Portuguese neocolonialists, Indonesian annexationists and Timorese independentists began then. In August 1975 the UDT attempted a coup and the Fretilin proclaimed a general armed insurrection. The Portuguese administration left the country, and on November 28, 1975 the Fretilin proclaimed independence, creating the Democratic Republic of East Timor. However, it was not recognized by Portugal. In December 1975 Indonesia (under the government of President Suharto) invaded the territory. In June of the following year, the People’s Assembly, made up of members of the UDT and Apodeti, approved the annexation of East Timor to Indonesia as a province. This annexation was not recognized by the UN, which continued to recognize Portugal as an administering power. Australia and the United States recognized annexation in 1977. For its part, the Democratic Republic of East Timor established diplomatic relations with former Portuguese colonies and socialist countries.

In 1978 the head of the resistance and president of the Republic and Fretilin, Nicolás dos Reis Lobato, died in combat. This was a severe blow for the independentistas, but they continued to resist. It is estimated that the Indonesian occupation of the island cost the lives of almost a third of the population. In 1982 the UN Security Council approved a resolution, in which it demanded the withdrawal of the occupying forces; but the Indonesians ignored it and the guerrilla war continued.

Resistance against Indonesia

In 1988 an agreement between Fretilin and the UDT culminated in the creation of a common organization: the Nationalist Convergence. Xanana Gusmão was recognized as Commander-in-Chief of the Liberation Army. Portugal, for its part, managed to get the European Parliament to support the self-determination of the Maubere people, rejecting the Indonesian occupation. In 1989 there was an active popular mobilization on the island, especially of students, which resulted in violent riots against Indonesians. In October of that year the UN approved the condemnation of the occupation of East Timor. The Indonesians banned foreign correspondents from entering, expelled diplomatic missions and cut off communications with the outside world. Dili was cut off from the world.

The repression of the Indonesians increased to intolerable excesses. The families were forced to post a list with the names of the residents on the doors of their homes. This list could be verified by the occupying force at any time of the day. Thousands of Maubere women were sterilized. In schools the use of tautem, the national language, was prohibited. In addition, mass graves with corpses were discovered in different parts of the country, evidencing mass executions. In 1992 the independence leader Xanana Gusmao was imprisoned and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Opposition leaders accused the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan and other countries of minimizing genocide and supporting Indonesia to protect its commercial interests, especially in relation to the exploitation of oil and natural gas reserves in territorial waters. from East Timor. The oil companies that have an influence in that region are: Royal Dutch Shell, Nippon Oil, Chevron (United States) and others of Australian origin (Phillips Petroleum, Marathon and Enterprise Oil Company).

East Timor History