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Legend and History of Timor Leste

Legend and History of Timor Leste

The Crocodile Story

Many years ago a small crocodile lived in a swamp in a faraway place. He dreamed of becoming a big crocodile but, as the food was scarce, he became weak and grew sadder and sadder.

He left for the open sea, to find food and realize his dream, but the day became increasingly hot and he was still far from the seashore. The little crocodile – rapidly drying out and now in desperation – lay down to die.

A small boy took pity on the stranded crocodile and carried him to the sea. The crocodile, instantly revived, was grateful. “Little boy”, he said, “you have saved my life. If I can ever help you in any way, please call me. I will be at your command…”

A few years later, the boy called the crocodile, who was now big and strong. “Brother Crocodile”, he said, “I too have a dream. I want to see the world”.

“Climb on my back,” said the crocodile, “and tell me, which way do you want to go?”

“Follow the sun”, said the boy.

The crocodile set off for the east, and they traveled the oceans for years, until one day the crocodile said to the boy, “Brother, we have traveled for a long time.

But now the time has come for me to die.

In memory of your kindness, I will turn myself into a beautiful island, where you and your children can live until the sun sinks in the sea.”

As the crocodile died, he grew and grew, and his rigid back became the mountains and his scales the hills of Timor.

Now when the people of East Timor swim in the ocean, they enter the water saying “Don’t eat me crocodile, I am your relative”.

From the East Timor’s Independence Day Committee (in:


In May 2002, after 450 years of continuous foreign occupation, East Timor became the newest independent country in the world.

The island of Timor Leste is located towards the eastern end of the Indonesian island chain running from Malaya through Sumatra and Java, New Guinea.

The island is divided into two parts. Most of the western half remains part of Indonesia.

The eastern half forms the largest part of the national territory of Timor, with its capital, Dili, on the north coast, a small enclave on the western half around the city of Oecussi and Atauro small island, 30 km (19 miles) north of Dili.

Let us learn a little bit more about the history of East Timor

The pre-occupation of Timor Leste history is sketchy.

The migration of many people along the track of Southeast Asian monsoon from northwest to southeast, of course, led to the population of the island by a civilization that had no written records, but worked in iron and had a relatively sophisticated system of agriculture.

The island was connected to a regional trading system centered on Java, which spread to China and India.

The Portuguese first arrived on the island in the early 16th century and by the 1550s occupied the eastern part.

The Dutch took control of the western part, which became part of the Dutch East Indies and, after independence, Indonesia.

During the Second World War, Portugal, then ruled by a fascist dictatorship, was formally neutral – a statute that extended their colonies.

However, that did not stop the Allied moving into East Timor in late 1941 units, apparently to pre-empt the Japanese invasion.

The Japanese, in fact, invade, in February 1942, defeating the Dutch forces / combined Australian and occupy the territory until its liberation in 1945 Portugal regained possession and remained in control until the Portuguese Revolution of 1974.

In 1975, the new government left Portuguese abandoned all their colonies. East Timor then enjoyed a few days of independence, before the Indonesians, who had long coveted territory, annexed it as a province.

There were little local resistance and the international community largely acquiesced.

The main Timorese independence movement, Fretilin (Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor This), which was originally formed to fight the Portuguese, now had to gear up again to fight a new and even more brutal occupier.

In the violent counterinsurgency campaign that followed, the Indonesian army killed more than 200 000 Timorese. (Learn more about East Timor genocide)

East Timor’s history tells that with the capture in 1992 of the legendary leader of FRETILIN, Xanana Gusmão, the prospects looked bleak for the movement. It was not until the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the subsequent removal of the veteran Indonesian President Suharto that the growing international criticism of Indonesia’s campaign began to have some effect.

In June 1999, President Habibie of Indonesia suddenly announced that a referendum would be held in East Timor, offering independence or autonomy within Indonesia.

The referendum was held in August 1999 and 80 percent opted for independence.

By way of revenge, the Indonesian army, along with local militias were armed and funded, indulged in an orgy of destruction and death that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the already fragile economic base of the country.

A truth and reconciliation commission on the South African model, has been established to investigate the events of that period, and several senior Indonesians, including an army general, once they have been convicted of complicity in human rights abuses.

In October 1999, a transitional UN administration (UNTAET) was established in East Timor, pending the holding of national elections. Furthermore, Gusmão was released from prison.

The assembly returned the survey in August 2001, as expected most candidates FRETILIN; Mari Alkatiri, FRETILIN also assumed the Premiership.

The Presidency challenged in April 2002, was won by Xanana Gusmão, with a large majority.

The new government sought to develop international contacts – with the UN, ASEAN and the South Pacific Forum – ASAP.

Adherence to the IMF and World Bank was secured in July 2002, followed by joining the UN in September. Relations with its two more powerful neighbors, Indonesia and Australia, are also of high priority (see section Economy).

The new country faced a massive task of reconstruction (see section Economy), and the government has found it difficult to fulfill many of its early promises.

By the end of 2002, there were a number of violent confrontations between the frustrated population and the security forces of the government.

The government has been supported by a force of residual UN, now known as UNMISET (United Nations Mission in East Timor), who took over from UNTAET in May 2002.

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