Sunday, October 11, 2009

Timor-Leste, Decolonisation

The Prtuguese declared Timor as their Overseas Province in 1955. But only a small minority of Timorese were educated and even fewer went to University in portugal (there were no university in the territory until 2000). During this time Indonesia did not show any interest in Portuguese Timor, despite the anti-colonial rhetoricof President Sukorno.
The process of decolonisation began in 1974, following the change of Govt. in Portugal in the wake of Carnation Revolution. One of the first act of the New Lisbon Govt. was to appoint a new Governor for the colony on 18 Nov. 1975, in the form of Mario Lemos Pires, who would ultimately be the last Governor of Portuguese Timor.
One of his first decrees made upon his arrival in Dili was to legalise political parties in preparation for elections to a Constituent Assembly in 1976. Three main political parties were formed.
1. Timorese Democratic Union (UDT),supported by the traditional elites associated with Lisbon. One of its Leader Mario Viegas Carrasalao,
2. Timorese social Democratic Association (ASDT). It has later changed its name to Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor or Fretilin. Fretilin was criticised by many Australians and Indonesians as Marxist but it was more influenced by African nationalists.
3. Timorese popular Democratic Association or Apodeti. Support as an autunomous province of Indonesia.
There were also other small parties.
During this period it was closely observed by Indonesia and Australia.
In local elections on 13 march, 1975, Fretilin and UDT emerged as the largest parties, having previously formed an alliance to campaign for Independence. Indonesian military intelligence , known as BAKIN, began to cause diision and extend its support to Apodeti. This was known as "operation komodo". The coalition between Fretilin and UDT later broke up.
During the course of 1975, portugal became increasingly detached from political development of its colony and became more concern about Angola and Mozambique.
The United States in the wake of vietnam War and being an ally with Indonesia did not lik to see a left wing in the south east Asia.
In the mean time UDT ,on 11 Aug, 1975, mounted a coup, in a bid to halt the increasing popularity of Fretilin. Governor Pires instead of giving any protection fled to the offshore island of Atauro. Indonesia portrayed it as a civil war.
On Nov 28, 1975, fretilin made a unilateral declaration of Independence. This was not recognized by Portugal, australia and indonesia but it was recognized bysix countries like, Albania, cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, mozambique and saotome and Principe.
Fretlin's Francisco Xavier do Amaral became the first President.