East Timor

Introduction

Introduction

East Timor, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a sovereign state in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor; the nearby islands of Atauroand Jaco; and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. The country's size is about 15,410 km2 (5,400 sq mi).

East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) declared the territory's independence. Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia's 27th province the following year. The Indonesian occupation of East Timor was characterised by a highly violent decades-long conflict between separatist groups (especially FRETILIN) and the Indonesian military.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on 20 May 2002 and joined the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. In 2011, East Timor announced its intention to gain membership status in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by applying to become its eleventh member. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines.


Understand

The eastern half of the island of Timor, East Timor, is a former Portuguese colony that declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975. Nine days later, Indonesian forces invaded and occupied the former colony, with the tacit approval of the United States and Australia. By July 1976 the colony had been annexed as the province of Timor Timur.

Over the next two decades, Indonesia integrated the colony, with many significant positions of authority being occupied by Indonesians rather than the East Timorese. An estimated 100,000-250,000 individuals are believed to have lost their lives during a campaign of pacification during this time.

The United Nations supervised a popular referendum on 30 August 1999, in which the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. After the results were announced, gangs of independence opponents, supported by the Indonesian military, terrorised the population in a civil war that destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. A United Nations peacekeeping force led by Australian forces was sent in to re-establish a civil society and reconstruct the nation.

On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state under the official name of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.


Geography

Located in Southeast Asia, the island of Timor is part of Maritime Southeast Asia, and is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. To the north of the island are the Ombai Strait, Wetar Strait, and the greater Banda Sea. The Timor Sea separates the island from Australia to the south, and the Indonesian Provinceof East Nusa Tenggara lies to East Timor's west.

Much of the country is mountainous, and its highest point is Tatamailau (also known as Mount Ramelau) at 2,963 metres (9,721 ft). The climate is tropical and generally hot and humid. It is characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The capital, largest city, and main port is Dili, and the second-largest city is the eastern town of Baucau. East Timor lies between latitudes 8° and 10°S, and longitudes 124° and 128°E.

The easternmost area of East Timor consists of the PaitchauRange and the Lake Ira Lalaro area, which contains the county's first conservation area, the Nino Konis Santana National Park. It contains the last remaining tropical dry forested area within the country. It hosts a number of unique plant and animal species and is sparsely populated. The northern coast is characterised by a number of coral reef systems that have been determined to be at risk.


Climate

East Timor has a hot and humid climate (tropical). November to May is the wet season with the temperatures averaging 30ºC the year round, with temperatures far cooler in higher altitude areas.

The dry season during lasts for about 6 months during June to October.

The wet season can damage the roads in East Timor, making travel difficult to remote district areas during this time.


Demographics

East Timor recorded a population of 1,167,242 in its 2015 census.

The word Maubere, formerly used by the Portuguese to refer to native East Timorese and often employed as synonymous with the illiterate and uneducated, was adopted by FReTiLIn as a term of pride. Native East Timorese consist of a number of distinct ethnic groups, most of whom are of mixed Malayo-Polynesian and Melanesian/Papuandescent. The largest Malayo-Polynesian ethnic groups are the Tetum (100,000), primarily in the north coast and around Dili; the Mambai (80,000), in the central mountains; the Tukudede (63,170), in the area around Maubara and Liquiçá; the Galoli (50,000), between the tribes of Mambae and Makasae; the Kemak (50,000) in north-central Timor island; and the Baikeno (20,000), in the area around Pante Macassar.

The main tribes of predominantly Papuan origin include the Bunak (50,000), in the central interior of Timor island; the Fataluku (30,000), at the eastern tip of the island near Lospalos; and the Makasae, toward the eastern end of the island. As a result of interracial marriage which was common during the Portuguese era, there is a population of people of mixed East Timorese and Portuguese origin, known in Portuguese as mestiços. There is a small Chinese minority, most of whom are Hakka. Many Chinese left in the mid-1970s.


Religion

According to the 2010 census, 96.9% of the population profess Roman Catholicism; 2.2% Protestantism or Evangelicalism; 0.3% are Muslim; and 0.5% practise some other or no religion.

The number of churches has grown from 100 in 1974 to over 800 in 1994, with Church membership having grown considerably under Indonesian rule as Pancasila, Indonesia's state ideology, requires all citizens to believe in one God and does not recognise traditional beliefs. In rural areas, Roman Catholicism is practised along with local traditions.

While the Constitution of East Timor enshrines the principles of freedom of religion and separation of church and state in Section 45 Comma 1, it also acknowledges "the participation of the Catholic Church in the process of national liberation" in its preamble however, it has no legal value. Upon independence, the country joined the Philippines to become the only two predominantly Roman Catholic states in Asia, although nearby parts of eastern Indonesia such as West Timor and Flores also have Roman Catholic majorities.

The Roman Catholic Church divides East Timor into three dioceses: the Diocese of Díli, the Diocese of Baucau, and the Diocese of Maliana.


Economy

East Timor has a market economy that used to depend upon exports of a few commodities such as coffee, marble, oil, and sandalwood. East Timor's economy grew by about 10% in 2011 and at a similar rate in 2012.

Timor now has revenue from offshore oil and gas reserves, but little of it has gone to develop villages, which still rely on subsistence farming. Nearly half the population lives in extreme poverty.

The Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund was established in 2005, and by 2011 it had reached a worth of US$8.7 billion. East Timor is labelled by the International Monetary Fund as the "most oil-dependent economy in the world". The Petroleum Fund pays for nearly all of the government's annual budget, which has increased from $70 million in 2004 to $1.3 billion in 2011, with a $1.8 billion proposal for 2012.

The economy is dependent on government spending and, to a lesser extent, assistance from international donors. Private sector development has lagged due to human capital shortages, infrastructure weakness, an incomplete legal system, and an inefficient regulatory environment. After petroleum, the second largest export is coffee, which generates about $10 million a year.Starbucks is a major purchaser of East Timorese coffee.

9,000 tonnes of coffee, 108 tonnes of cinnamon and 161 tonnes of cocoa were harvested in 2012 making the country the 40th ranked producer of coffee, the 6th ranked producer of cinnamon and the 50th ranked producer of cocoa worldwide.

According to data gathered in the 2010 census, 87.7% of urban (321,043 people) and 18.9% of rural (821,459 people) households have electricity, for an overall average of 38.2%.

The agriculture sector employs 80% of the active population. In 2009, about 67,000 households grew coffee in East Timor, with a large proportion being poor. Currently, the gross margins are about $120 per hectare, with returns per labour-day of about $3.70. There are 11,000 household growing mungbeans as of 2009, most of them subsistence farmers.

The country was ranked 169th overall and last in the East Asia and Pacific region by the Doing Business 2013 report by the World Bank. The country fared particularly poorly in the "registering property", "enforcing contracts" and "resolving insolvency" categories, ranking last worldwide in all three.

In regards to telecommunications infrastructure, East Timor is the second to last ranked Asian country in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI), with only Myanmar falling behind it in southeast Asia. NRI is an indicator for determining the development level of a country's information and communication technologies. East Timor ranked number 141 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, down from 134 in 2013.

The Portuguese colonial administration granted concessions to Oceanic Exploration Corporationto develop petroleum and natural gas deposits in the waters southeast of Timor. However, this was curtailed by the Indonesian invasion in 1976. The resources were divided between Indonesia and Australia with the Timor Gap Treaty in 1989. East Timor inherited no permanent maritime boundaries when it attained independence. A provisional agreement (the Timor Sea Treaty, signed when East Timor became independent on 20 May 2002) defined a Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) and awarded 90% of revenues from existing projects in that area to East Timor and 10% to Australia. An agreement in 2005 between the governments of East Timor and Australia mandated that both countries put aside their dispute over maritime boundaries and that East Timor would receive 50% of the revenues from the resource exploitation in the area (estimated at A$26 billion, or about US$20 billion over the lifetime of the project) from the Greater Sunrise development. In 2013, East Timor launched a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to pull out of a gas treaty that it had signed with Australia, accusing the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) of bugging the East Timorese cabinet room in Dili in 2004.

There are no patent laws in East Timor. A Timor Railway System has been in proposal but the current government has yet to advocate the proposal due to lack of funds and expertise.

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