Timor

Timor

[tee-mawr, tee-mawr]
Timor [Malay,=east], island (1990 est. pop. 3,900,000), c.13,200 sq mi/34,200 sq km, largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sundas, in the Malay Archipelago. Timor is divided politically between Indonesia and East Timor (Timor-Leste). The island is long, narrow, and almost wholly mountainous. Rice, coconuts, and coffee are grown, and stretches of grassland support cattle. There are oil and gas fields off East Timor's southern coast. The inhabitants are of predominantly Malay and Papuan descent.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish themselves in Timor; their claim to the island was disputed by the Dutch, who arrived in 1613. By a treaty of 1859, modified in 1893 and finally made effective in 1914, the border between the Dutch and Portuguese territories was settled. In World War II, Timor was occupied (early 1942) by the Japanese. With the creation of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950, Dutch Timor became Indonesian territory and is now part of Nusa Tenggara Timur province.

In 1975, Portuguese Timor declared itself independent as East Timor. Indonesia invaded, however, and annexed the region. Sporadic guerrilla warfare continued into 1999, when Indonesia agreed to permit a referendum in which voters chose independence. Pro-Indonesian militias and the army subsequently engaged in a campaign of terror and brutality, but under international pressure Indonesia asked for UN peacekeepers, and, following a period of transitional UN administration, East Timor became independent in 2002.

Island, southern Malay Archipelago. It is the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Indonesian-Malay peoples live along the coast and Melanesian aboriginals in the mountains. They speak dozens of Papuan and Malayan languages, as well as Portuguese in the east and Indonesian in the west. The Portuguese began trading with Timor circa 1520. In 1613 the Dutch settled at the island's southwestern tip, and the Portuguese moved to the north and east. Treaties in 1860 and 1914 divided the island between them. The island was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. In 1950 Netherlands Timor (West Timor) was transferred to Indonesia. East Timor was held by the Portuguese until 1975, when Indonesian troops invaded and annexed the area; it achieved full sovereignty in 2002.

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officially Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Country occupying the eastern half of the island of Timor, Southeast Asia. Bounded by the Timor Sea and by the western half of Timor, it also includes the enclave of Ambeno (surrounding the town of Pante Makasar on the northwestern coast of Timor) and the islands of Atauro (Kambing) and Jaco. Area: 5,639 square miles (14,604 square km). Population (2005 est.): 975,000. Capital: Dili. Languages: Tetum and Portuguese (both official). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant); also Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: U.S. dollar. The Portuguese first settled on Timor in 1520 and were granted rule over Timor's eastern half in 1860. The Timor political party Fretilin declared East Timor independent in 1975 after Portugal withdrew its troops. It was invaded by Indonesian forces and annexed to Indonesia in 1976. The takeover, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of East Timorese during the next two decades, was disputed by the United Nations. In 1999 an independence referendum won overwhelmingly; though Indonesia officially recognized the referendum, anti-independence militias killed hundreds of people and sent thousands fleeing to the western part of the island before and after the vote. A UN-administered interim authority imposed order and oversaw elections, the promulgation of a constitution, and the return of refugees; East Timor became a sovereign nation in 2002.

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Timor is an island at the south end of the Malay Archipelago, north of the Timor Sea. It is divided between the independent state of East Timor, and West Timor, belonging to the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara.

The island's surface is 11,883 square miles (30,777 km²). The name is a variant of timur, Malay for “east”; it is so called because it is at the east end of a chain of islands.

Language, ethnic groups, and religion

Similar to nearby islands, most Timorese are Melanesian and anthropologists identify eleven distinct ethno-linguistic groups in Timor. The largest are the Atoni of western Timor, and the Tetum of central and eastern Timor. Most Timor indigenous Timorese languages belong to the Austronesian group of languages spoken through the Indonesian archipelago. The non-Austronesian languages are related to languages spoken in the Halmahera (in Maluku) and Western New Guinea.

The official languages of East Timor are Tetum and Portuguese, while in West Timor it is Indonesian. Indonesian is also widely spoken and understood in East Timor.

Christianity is the dominant religion throughout the island of Timor, at about 90% of the population. Roman Catholics are the the majority on both halves of the island; Catholics outnumber Protestants in West Timor by about a 1.5:1 ratio. Muslims and animists are most of the remainder, at about 5% each.

Geography

To the south and southeast of Timor is Oceania. To its northwest is the island of Sulawesi, and to its west, the island of Sumba. To the west-northwest of Timor are the islands of Flores and Alor, and to its northeast are the Barat Daya Islands, including Wetar.

Timor has older geology and lacks the volcanic nature of the Lesser Sunda Islands. The orientation of the main axis of the island also differs from its neighbors. These features have been explained as the result of being on the northern edge of the Indo-Australian Plate as it pushes into the South East Asia.

Flora and fauna

Timor, together with the Lesser Sunda Islands to the northwest and the smaller islands to the northeast, is covered by tropical dry broadleaf forests. Many trees are deciduous or partly deciduous, dropping their leaves during the dry season. Timor, the Barat Daya Islands, and the smaller islands to the northeast of Timor constitute the Timor and Wetar deciduous forests ecoregion.

During the Pleistocene epoch, Timor was the abode of extinct giant monitor lizards similar to the Komodo dragon. Like Flores, Sumba and Sulawesi, Timor was also once a habitat of extinct dwarf stegodonts, relatives of elephants.

History

As the nearest island with a European settlement at the time, Timor was the destination of William Bligh and seamen loyal to him following the infamous mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. It was also where survivors of the wrecked HMS Pandora, sent to arrest the Bounty mutineers, landed in 1791 after that ship sank in the Great Barrier Reef.

The island has been politically divided in two parts for centuries: West Timor, which was known as Dutch Timor from the 1800s until 1949 when it became Indonesian Timor, a part of the nation of Indonesia which was formed from the old Netherlands East Indies; and East Timor which was known as Portuguese Timor, a Portuguese colony until 1975. It includes the enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno in West Timor. The Netherlands and Portugal did not formally resolve the matter of the boundary until 1912.

Japanese forces occupied the whole island from 1942 to 1945. They were resisted in a guerrilla campaign led initially by Australian commandos. (See Battle of Timor.)

Following the withdrawal of the Portuguese, internal unrest, and an Indonesian invasion in 1975, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia and became known as Timor Timur or 'Tim-Tim' for short. It was regarded by Indonesia as the country's 27th province, but this was never recognised by the United Nations or Portugal. The people of East Timor resisted Indonesian forces in a prolonged guerilla campaign. (See: Indonesian occupation of East Timor). Following a referendum held in 1999, under a UN sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, in which its people rejected the offer of autonomy within Indonesia, East Timor achieved independence in 2002 and is now officially known as Timor-Leste. A group of people on the Indonesian side of Timor have been reported active since 2001 trying to establish a Great Timor State.

References

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