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 …
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Publication information: Article title: East Timor: On the Road to Independence. Contributors: Suter, Keith - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 278. Issue: 1622 Publication date: March 2001. Page number: 152. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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