The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste or East Timor is an island nation in southeastern Asia, consisting of the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro[?] and Jaco[?], and Oecussi-Ambeno, a political exclave of East Timor situated on the western side of the island, surrounded by West Timor.
|National motto: "Honra, Pátria e Povo"|
(Portuguese: Honour, Country and People)
|Official languages||Tetum and Portuguese|
|Prime Minister||Mari Alkatiri[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 154th |
- Total (2002)
November 28, 1975
May 20, 2002
|Time zone||UTC +9|
Formerly occupied by neighbour Indonesia, East Timor achieved independence on May 20, 2002, making it the youngest new nation state. When East Timor joined the United Nations in 2002, it decided to be officially referred to by its Portuguese name, Timor-Leste, as opposed to its English name.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the area in the 16th century and they established an isolated presence on the island of Timor, while the surrounding islands came under Dutch control. Portuguese Timor declared itself independent on November 28, 1975, but was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. The territory was subsequently incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur.
During the following guerilla war an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 persons lost their lives. On August 30, 1999, in a United Nations-supervised popular referendum, the East Timorese voted for full independence from Indonesia, but violent clashes instigated primarily by anti-independence militias broke out soon thereafter. UN peacekeepers led by Australia were brought in to restore order. Independence was internationally recognised on May 20, 2002 and East Timor joined the UN on September 27 of that year.
Head of state of the East Timorese republic is the president, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and whose role is largely symbolic, though he is able to veto some legislation. Following legislative elections, the president appoints as prime minister the leader of the majority party or majority coalition. As head of government the prime minister presides over the Council of State or cabinet.
The unicameral Timorese parliament is the National Parliament or Parlamento Nacional, whose members are also elected by popular vote to a five-year term. The number of seats can vary from a minimum of 52 to a maximum of 65, though it exceptionally has 88 members at present, due to this being its first term of office. The Timorese constitution was modelled on that of Portugal. The country is still in the process of building its administration and governmental institutions.
East Timor is subdivided into 13 administrative districts:
Timor is the Malay word for "Orient" and the island of Timor is part of the Indonesian archipelago and the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands[?]. To the north of the mountainous island is found the Banda Sea[?], to the south the Timor Sea[?] separates the island from Australia, while to the west lies the Savu Sea[?]. The highest point of East Timor is Mount Tatamailau[?] at 2,963 m.
The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The captital, largest city and main port of East Timor is Dili, second-largest is the town of Baucau[?], which has the only significant airport of the country.
Prior to and during colonisation Timor was best known for its sandalwood. In late 1999, about 70% of the economic infrastructure of East Timor was laid waste by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias, and 260,000 people fled westward. Over the next three years, however, a massive international programme, manned by 5,000 peacekeepers (8,000 at peak) and 1,300 police officers, led to substantial reconstruction in both urban and rural areas. By mid-2002, all but about 50,000 of the refugees had returned.
The country faces great challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure and the strengthening of the infant civil administration. One promising long-term project is the joint development with Australia of oil and natural gas resources in the southeastern waters off Timor, a location known as the Timor gap[?].
Due to her potential submarine oil fields, the tiny country currently runs the risk of becoming a puppet state like Panama and the Republic of Texas. Some even think that petroleum made the Western countries, especially Australia and the U.S., separate East Timor from Indonesia.
The East Timorese population, which is collectively known as the Maubere, an originally derogatory name that was turned into a name of pride by the resistance movement, consists of a number of distinct ethnic groups, most of which are of Malay[?] descent and some of older Papuan[?] stock. There is also a small ethnic Chinese minority.
The population is predominantly Roman Catholic (90%), with sizable Muslim (5%) and Protestant (3%) minorities. Smaller Hindu, Buddhist and animist minorities make up the remainder. East Timor's two official languages are Tetum, a local Austronesian language, and Portuguese, with Indonesian and English being spoken as well.