Timor-Leste, or East Timor, commemorates its independence day on May 20 each year. The country’s fight for independence has been arduous and lengthy. When the nation sought independence from Portugal, the first declaration of independence was signed on November 28, 1975. However, their independence was short-lived, as East Timor was violently and swiftly seized by the Indonesians. Up to 200,000 people perished as a result of the violence and other hardships, such as disease and starvation. The United Nations (UN) recognised East Timor as an independent republic in 2002, and in September of that year, the country was renamed Timor-Leste to honour its Portuguese origins.
The background of East Timor Independence Day
Prior to the arrival of Europeans on East Timor’s shores, the country traded valuable products such as sandalwood, honey, and wax with Malaysia, India, and China. Timor established military ties with the Europeans in the 16th century, prompting the Philippines to take a keen interest in the country and its abundance of sandalwood. Soon after, in the middle of the 18th century, the Portuguese established East Timor as a colony and founded the city of Dili.
Timorese citizens rebelled against the occupation. Following the Portuguese Revolution of 1974, Portugal abandoned Timor and granted the country independence. East Timor’s political parties engaged in civil war shortly after achieving independence, and the newly formed nation endured a period of unrest. Indonesia, fearing the spread of communism, attacked Timor and occupied its land in response to the unrest. The United Nations opposed the invasion, but it had little effect — Indonesia assumed authority and retained administrative control over Timor until 1999.
Following the heinous Dili atrocities of 1991, Timor’s struggle for independence gained international attention. Portugal, the Philippines, Australia, and other nations demonstrated their support for Timor. The United Nations assumed administrative responsibility for Timor in 1999. In 2001, the United Nations organised the country’s first elections to establish the Constituent Assembly. Xanana Gusmo became the first president of East Timor, or Timor-Leste, as it was renamed after the country’s independence in 2002.
5 East Timor facts that will blow your mind
In East Timor, the average life expectancy is 48 years.
About 947 thousand individuals inhabit East Timor.
In the country, Tetum, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia, and English are spoken.
After achieving independence in 2002, East Timor became the youngest nation in Asia.
The flag of East Timor is comprised of a red background (suffering), a black triangle (colonial oppression), a yellow triangle (struggle for independence), and a white five-pointed star (future optimism).
EAST TIMOR INDEPENDENCE DAY DATES