East Timor Votes for Independence (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: Residents of the eastern half of the island of Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia, rejecting the latter’s offer of local autonomy.
A Separate History
On August 31, 1999, residents of the eastern half of the East Indian island of Timor voted for a complete break with the large island nation of Indonesia. Indonesia had proposed that East Timor remain a part of Indonesia but receive a degree of local autonomy (political independence) based on the territory’s history.
Portuguese explorers had opened trade with Timor in the early sixteenth century. Beginning in the early seventeenth century, however, their activities were limited by traders and troops from the Netherlands, who eventually colonized most of what is now Indonesia. Between 1859 and 1914, the Netherlands and Portugal negotiated the boundaries separating their respective territories. Portugal received the eastern half of the island, the enclave of Ocusse on the northwest coast, and two smaller islands. Over the years, most East Timorese converted to Roman Catholicism, in contrast to their Muslim neighbors.
Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1949, but East Timor remained Portuguese. The Portuguese revolution of April, 1974, encouraged revolutionaries in most of Portugal’s colonies, including East Timor, to fight for the independence of their own lands. However, before the...
(The entire section is 890 words.)
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