Timor Leste celebrates its Independence Restoration Day on 20 May. The day is also referred to as “Restoration of Independence Day”. This day has special importance to the people of Timor Leste (East Timor) because of the long, bloody, decades-long conflict it took to finally achieve independence in 2002.
|2020||20 May||Wed||Independence Restoration Day|
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Actually, it is difficult to say exactly when Timor Leste became independent. The history is long and complex. The present division, and exact boundaries, between Indonesia and Timor Leste arose from the division of the island of Timor between Portuguese and Dutch colonial administrations.
The Portuguese colonised the northeast half of Timor, beginning with the city of Dili, in the 1700’s. A treaty with the Dutch in 1914 fixed the boundaries with “Dutch Timor” to the southwest.
The people of East Timor fought bravely and ferociously during World War II against the Japanese, but ultimately, East Timor fell into Japanese hands. After World War II, it was returned to Portugal, but the independence movement soon sprang up and grew.
In 1974, Portugal “unofficially” abandoned East Timor to itself, and a fear soon arose in Indonesia and beyond that the new nation would turn Communist. Therefore, Indonesia, Australia, and the US supported an invasion of the country which resulted in it being annexed by Indonesia. But the UN never recognised the annexation.
The people of East Timor then resisted Indonesian rule, and this was repressed violently, with some 100,000 people dying in the conflict over two decades’ time. The 1991 Dili Massacre eventually led to Indonesia allowing a referendum on independence in 1999, which was overwhelmingly approved. It took a few more years for the process to be complete, and 20 May is the day when Timor Leste was functioning again as a fully independent nation.