East Timor: On the Road to Independence

By Suter, Keith | Contemporary Review, March 2001 | Go to article overview

East Timor: On the Road to Independence


Suter, Keith, Contemporary Review


EAST Timor will become the 190th member of the United Nations when it achieves independence sometime this year. It is currently governed by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and there is a Cabinet of the Transitional Government in East Timor. The East Timorese are almost free at last. But freedom has had a high price tag and East Timor has many problems ahead.

The Lessons of History

East Timor was a Portuguese colony for over three centuries. When the military dictators were overthrown in Lisbon in 1974, the Portuguese colonies in Africa and East Timor had to prepare themselves for independence. Portugal was appalling as an imperial power and it was also appalling in setting its colonies on the road to independence.

Meanwhile, Indonesia decided that it could not risk an independent country in the middle of its island chain and so it invaded East Timor in late 1975. The Indonesian Government feared that an independent East Timor would somehow be an example to other parts of the sprawling country to stimulate a campaign for their independence. Whether that would really have been the case will never be known. After all, East Timor was never a part of the old Dutch Empire (as was the rest of Indonesia). The war in East Timor 1975-99 was, in per capita terms, one of the world's most violent wars since 1945. About 200,000 people were killed (the population in 1975 was about 600,000 people).

The Indonesian Government from 1975 onwards under-estimated the desire of the East Timorese for independence. Despite 24 years of war and suffering, the Indonesians never broke the resistance of the people. The East Timorese showed that a well-organized, well-motivated guerrilla group fighting on its own terrain, with the support of the local people, is almost impossible to beat. The East Timorese guerrillas had no military support from the outside world because Indonesia sealed off the island following the 1975 invasion. The fighters had to rely on homemade equipment and weapons taken from Indonesian soldiers. But they successfully resisted one of the largest defence forces in the world.

Ironically, the way that East Timor resisted the Indonesian aggression for 24 years - and it is now being set on the path to independence - provides an inspiration to the more independent-minded parts of Indonesia. The East Timorese have proved that it is possible to defeat Jakarta. Thus, Jakarta invaded to stop East Timor from indirectly providing a model for parts of Indonesia to try to break away. But its defeat in East Timor has provided an inspiration for parts of that increasingly turbulent country to try to break away (such as Aceh at the western end of the country and West Papua at the eastern end) because the East Timorese have shown that the Indonesian military are not invincible.

Western countries (such as Australia and the US) have also played an appalling role. They have consistently helped Jakarta and so have colluded in one of the worst violations of human rights in the twentieth century. I have been interested in East Timor since just prior to the 1975 invasion, when I got to meet the world's youngest foreign minister: Jose Ramos Horta. The Portuguese colony had just declared its independence and Mr Horta was visiting Australia to get Australian support for the new country. Mr Horta failed to get any governmental support (or support from the opposition) and so he was visiting non-governmental people such as myself. I have maintained my opposition to the Indonesian invasion. I have therefore clashed with every Australian foreign minister since 1975 over this issue. Each one claimed that East Timor was a lost cause and that we ought to forget about it. Each one has now been proved wrong. Australia's Whitlam Labour Government did nothing to stop the Indonesian invasion in 1975 -- a nd may even have encouraged it. This pro-Jakarta policy was followed by all the subsequent Australian governments.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

East Timor: On the Road to Independence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.