Asia in Review Archive


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10 September 2019

Timor-Leste: Domestic troubles but steady improvements on foreign relations 

(jk) On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s independence last week [AiR 36, September/2019, 1], this short background article looks at the young country’s relation with its neighbors, specifically Australia, Indonesia and ASEAN more broadly. While the country is facing some domestic issues with regards to mistrust between President and government, fanned by allegations of corruption, East Timor’s foreign relations are more hopeful and it continues to pursue its aim to join ASEAN. [RSIS]

3 September 2019

East Timor: 20 years of independence

(ls) The current developments in Papua remind of events two decades ago in what is now East Timor. The country just celebrated 20 years since a UN-backed vote ended a decades-long occupation by Indonesian forces and paved the way for it to become an independent nation. However, there has been little justice for the families of those killed in a wave of bloodshed unleashed by the Indonesian army after the 1999 independence vote. Efforts to prosecute army commanders for crimes against humanity have largely been unsuccessful. East Timor, or Timor-Leste, was recognized as an independent state in 2002. [Channel News Asia]

The Timorese independence movement Fretilin began to oppose Portuguese colonialism in the early 1970s, while developing a revolutionary program that included the emancipation of women. The Conversation offers an overview of the historic events that unfolded since then. [The Conversation]


Date of AiR edition

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24 July 2018

East Timor: Parliamentary Elections 2018

(jk) For the second time within the span of a year, the citizens of East Timor have elected a new Parliament. As the parliamentary elections in East Timor on 22 June 2017 failed to produce a clear majority and a stable government. Subsequently, the President called for new elections which were held in May. The new parliament convened for the first time on 13 June and then elected Taur Matan Ruak, former President, as the new Prime Minister [Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung].

10 June 2018

“Timor-Leste is not a failing state”

(ls) Last month, Timor-Leste’s citizens elected a new government, with Xanana Gusmao the likely new prime minister. But the country’s prospects remain uncertain. In the New Mandala, Bobby Anderson argues that Timor-Leste is not a failing state. Rather, he writes that Timor-Leste’s bureaucratic problems, which can be described concretely, are concentrated in its capital Dili, an often insular center that lacks understanding of, and experience in, the rural areas where most Timorese live. According to his analysis, the problems involve ineffective logistics, haphazard supply chains, a lack of facilities standardization and maintenance, centralization of fiscal policy and procurement that takes no account of local conditions, and lengthy delays in payments and financial acquittals. [New Mandala]

13 May 2018

Timor Leste: General elections this weekend

(ls) Timor-Leste is set to hold the second general election in less than a year at the weekend. After a months-long political impasse, the 65-member Parliament was dissolved in January. In a tension-filled campaign, violent weekend clashes broke out between supporters of the Fretilin party and backers of the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction led by former president and independence hero Xanana Gusmao. Some 40 per cent of Timor-Leste’s people live in poverty. Providing jobs for the large numbers of young people and reining in public spending will be key tasks for the new government, analysts say. [The Straits Times]

11 February 2018

Timor-Leste: An example of a well-functioning democracy in Southeast Asia?

(ls) With Vietnam and Laos remaining one-party communist states, Cambodia dismantling the opposition, Thailand being under military rule and Myanmar under military control, the Philippines exposed to President Duterte’s attempts to undermine democracy, and Singapore and Malaysia never having been tested by a change of political parties in government, Luke Hunt argues in the Diplomat that Timor-Leste displays a remarkable resilience to maintain its democratic system. After last month’s dissolution of parliament and new elections called, he holds it likely that elections will take place in an orderly manner, showing the small country’s early democratic maturity. [The Diplomat]

29 December 2017

Timor-Leste: Uncertainty at home and in the region

Up until just after the general elections earlier this year, the political situation in Timor-Leste looked comparatively stable and on track. The third general elections since its independence went smoothly and with the Philippines as ASEAN chair, an advocate for its ASEAN accession held the keys to setting much of the regional agenda. After the election however, Timor-Leste has failed to form a government and new elections might be necessary to break the gridlock. With Singapore taking over as ASEAN chair, ASEAN will be guided by an opponent to its accession instead and the opportunity to make strides towards accession under more auspicious circumstances appears to have withered away [East Asia Forum].