East Timor Assignment
History of East Timor
Throughout the history of the country known today as East Timor, there has been numerous events that shaped and created this unique area of land in Asia’s South-east. The Portuguese began to trade with Timor in the early 16th century and colonised it throughout mid-century. They fought with the Dutch in the region which eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty, where the Dutch were able to claim the western side of Timor, and the Portuguese remained on the East. After 400 years of ruling in the region, the Portuguese recognised East Timor’s right to self government, which is when they declared an intention to withdrawal. This withdrawal meant that East Timor was under its own rule, but Indonesia saw the opportunity to step in and claim the land. As they stepped into East Timor, it was when things began to get ugly. In 1975, conflict in the region began to spread, with those wanting independence against those supporting integration with Indonesia. This would eventually lead to Indonesia claiming East Timor as its 27th province in 1976. Throughout the period of 1976-99, many abolitionist movements began to try and rid the country of Indonesian influence. Many tried, but all failed, and the fighting between the two continued. At the end of August in 1999, The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was established to conduct a vote, which resulted in a landslide in favour of independence. Once the result was declared, Indonesian militia launched a campaign of violence throughout the region, where many East Timorese were killed and almost half a million displaced from their homes. The UN then sent in a peacekeeping operation to stop the anarchist society that was East Timor.
What Australia did
One of the main reasons why Australia decided to step in and help with the chaos was because they felt that they owed something to the East Timorese. During the Second World War, when a battalion of Australian soldiers were surrounded by opposing Japanese forces, the Timorese took initiative in the situation and helped the Australians by providing them with shelter and food to keep them healthy for the heavy combat against the Japanese. They put their lives at risk to save a bunch of strangers, which shows the spirit of the Timorese culture. Many Australians made it back home thanks to the courageous efforts from the Timorese. This is mainly why the Australian forces were sent in to prevent further loss of life, just as they did for us in WWII.
An Australian-led United Nations peacekeeping force was needed to bring an end to the violence and to administer the territory during the period of transition to sovereignty. The United Nations supported the Australian movement and began an extensive humanitarian support program to provide emergency assistance for those Timorese in need. Apart from this, only one nation actually entered the country to do combat with the Indonesian forces and bring an end to the violence. This country was Australia. They sent around 5,500 personnel to the region in an attempt to restore peace and and security and facilitate assistance operations. The troops sent over saved many individuals and families from havoc and gave hope to those Timorese who needed it most.
The fighting was initiated when pro-Indonesian militia launched a campaign of of violence, looting and Larson throughout the entire territory. This was due to the overwhelming landslide in favour of independence from the 1999 UNAMET vote. The fighting continued from 1999-2002, when the Indonesian were driven out of the region by the UN forces. East Timor claimed independence in the later part of 2002. They were the first new sovereign state of the 21st century.
One major strategy that the UN used in its fight against the Indonesian military was that the longer they stayed there, the more it cost and already struggling Indonesian economy. The troops were also extremely tired from the constant combat. If the Indonesian-backed militia’s attacked the UN peacekeeper’s, they would threaten with international isolation, an end to outside aid, and increased instability.
How it ended
The crisis came to an end when a referendum for Timorese independence was arranged by the United States, Indonesia and the former colonial power Portugal. The Timorese were to choose between their independence or join with Indonesia. Not surprisingly, the results were overwhelmingly in favour of independence. East Timor claimed their independence in 2002, making them the first new sovereign nation of the 21st century.
Australia has continued to support the UN peacekeeping operation with between 1,500 and 2,000 personnel still there, as well as landing craft and black hawk helicopters. Australia remains the largest contributor of personnel to the peacekeeping mission.
Today, East Timor is a sovereign state in South-east Asia. It compromises the East half of the island Timor, and is next to the West half occupied by the Indonesian. As of 2015, their total population was 1,167,242 and uses the US dollar for currency. The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the public to serve a five-year term. The current relations between East Timor and Australia aren’t as strong as before, with the relationship slowly deteriorating. This has occurred due to the East Timor and Australia spying scandal, where the Australian Secret Intelligent Service (ASIS) was revealed to have planted covert listening devices in the cabinet office in 2004. East Timor has also recently ended an oil and gas agreement between the two. In saying this though, both countries are nearby and had close political and trade ties.
This image is from September 1999. We see an Australian troop taking a drink while he stands guard in East Timor. If you look beyond the soldier, you can see some of the horrific conditions in East Timor from the constant fighting between the Indonesian forces and the Australian-led UN forces. Many Timorese were killed or driven away from their homes in these circumstances. Their towns and cities were destroyed as the ferocity of the fighting increased. If it weren’t for the Australian troops, maybe East Timor would still be under Indonesian rule today. From this photo, I personally see what courage the Aussie troops showed as they endured some of the harshest conditions, and were still able to put their life on the line for strangers they may never see again when they leave East Timor. Also that the East Timorese have done extremely well to come from a destroyed and uncontrolled state into a self-governed country.
The 2006 East Timorese crisis began as a conflict between parts of the military of East Timor over discrimination in the military, and expanded into a coup attempt and general violence throughout the country, centred in the capital Dili. In the result of the violence, 5 people were killed, more than 100 buildings destroyed and an estimated 21,000 Dili residents forced to flee from the city.