When the first Portuguese traders arrived in the
16th century, a number of small kingdoms had long
existed on the island. Only a hundred years later, life
began to be seriously affected by the Portuguese
colonization, when a government was built, coffee
plantations were built and missionaries began to convert
the population to Catholicism. During the Second World
War, the colony was occupied by Japan, but returned to
Portugal after the Japanese surrender in 1945.
East Timor was populated about 14,000 years ago by
hunter and gatherer people who probably migrated from
Australia. Today's Atony people in the central mountain
regions are believed to be descendants of these
Aborigines. About 9,000 years later, the Austronesian
and Papuan peoples immigrated from Asia and Papua New
Guinea. They farmed the earth and introduced ceramics,
mills, rice cultivation and livestock farming.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of East Timor, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Several small kingdoms were eventually formed along
the coasts with each local leader, called liurai. The
rich conducted trade in sandalwood and slaves. The loads
went to India, China and the Southeast Asian islands.
It was sandalwood that attracted the first Portuguese
traders and adventurers to the area in the 16th century.
However, the influence of the Portuguese on society
became minimal until a hundred years later when
Dominican missionaries began to convert the local
population to Catholicism. In the 1640s Portugal
established a more formal power. The first fort was
built and governors were appointed. The population had
to pay taxes to Portugal in the form of sandalwood,
slaves, gold and horses.
During the 18th century, the Portuguese concentrated
more and more of their activities on the eastern part of
Timor while the Dutch took over the west. The Portuguese
governor moved his seat to Dili. In the mid-19th
century, coffee plantations were built and a simple road
network was built to transport the harvest. The colonial
power strengthened its grip on the area and the system
of liurai was abolished.
In 1859, Timor was formally divided into a
Portuguese, eastern colony and a Dutch in the west.
However, at the time of the outbreak of the Second World
War, there were only a few hundred Portuguese in East
Timor and European influence was limited. In the 1940s
there were no paved roads, electricity or water pipes.
In 1942, East Timor was occupied by Japan. The
occupation was a tough time for the East Timorese
civilian population. Portugal had declared itself
neutral at the outbreak of the war. This led Australia
to place a force in the colony as early as 1941, fearing
that Portugal would accept a likely Japanese presence
there. The Australian soldiers waged guerrilla war
against the Japanese until 1943, when the Australians
were taken home. When Japan surrendered in 1945, the
Rebel leaders are killed
The East Timorese government announces that a high-ranking rebel leader, Mauk
Moruk, has been killed in an exchange of gunfire with police and army soldiers.
Assessors believe that the death of the rebel leader reduces the risk of new
violence caused by rebels.
Australia returns documents
The Australian Government announces that it will return the sensitive
documents on the 2006 oil and gas negotiations that East Timor has accused the
Australian intelligence service of having stolen from one of East Timor's
lawyers and which Dili turned to the ICJ in The Hague to recover (see
May 2013, January 2014 and March 2014).
The Prime Minister resigns
Prime Minister Gusmao submits his resignation to President Ruak, who
announces that he accepts Gusmao's request. Rui Maria de Ara˙jo, a member of
Fretilin and former Minister of Health, is elected new Prime Minister on the
recommendation of Gusmao. He will be installed as the country's new head of
government on February 16. Rui Ara˙jo forms a smaller government consisting of
37 ministers. Gusmao's outgoing government had 55 ministers. Gusmao remains in
the government as minister responsible for planning and strategic investment.