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Frédéric Durand
Christine Cabasset-Semedo

Part 4. Tracks for the construction of the future

Crisis and uncertainties as a sign of a lack of Timorese project of society

Frédéric Durand

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1In 2002, at the time of the accession to independence, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was regularly presented as the “poorest country of Asia” and as a State that the United Nations had to construct “from scratch”. These formulations lead to mistakes. Timor-Leste is rich of resources in hydrocarbons, but also of a real agricultural potential. Furthermore, the Timorese have deep and strong traditions that constitute a very rich culture.

2In this context, the numerous crises on political and economical basis that the country faced during its five first years of independence can be analysed like a deficit of specific project society. In other terms, they could be regarded more precisely as a lack of consultation and as a sign of inadequacy between what is proposed to the population, the traditional political and economic values and the expectations in term of “development”.

3Indeed, although occupied for almost 25 years by Indonesia, East Timor has not been completely isolated. It was influenced especially from the end of the 1980s by the “developmentalist” mental representations of Indonesia and the hope of gaining comfort and modernity along with freedom. Since 1999, international experts reinforced these aspirations, notably through the National Development Plan, drafted in 2002 and supposed to project the future of the country by 2020. Yet to the analysis, this type of document shows a lack of reflection on what could be Timorese values.

1 - Pertinence and ambiguity in concepts of “viability” and “poverty”

  • 244 Defert (Gabriel) 1992, Timor-Est, le génocide oublié, droit d’un peuple et raisons d’Etats, p. 64.

4During the preparation of Timor-Leste’s independence, which occurred on May 20, 2002, the old and somehow specious argument about the alleged “non-viability” of the country was often heard. As early as the 1970s, this argument was presented by Indonesian military leaders, in order to justify its will to annex the territory244. The country was deemed “too small”, “without enough resources”, and “underpopulated”. After the invasion in December 1975, the argument was used again by the Western allies of Indonesia, while a year before, large amounts of gas had been discovered within Timor’s waters. This “non-viability” idea is more than questionable since a quarter of world’s countries have a size and population inferior or similar to that of Timor-Leste. The 40 countries with a smaller or equivalent size include Luxembourg, Singapore, Lebanon, Palestine, Kuwait, El Salvador, or Kosovo.

5Because of these interrogations, the concept of “poverty” also needs to be questioned. The reliability of GDP per capita is now often criticized. However, in the 2000s, the international community utilizes it to state that, with less than $ 370 per inhabitant, East Timor would have been the “poorest Asian country” and one of the 20 most underprivileged states on the planet. But the use of monetary values is ill-suited to measure the living standards of populations mainly living from agriculture auto-consumption. In fact, even if there were food shortages during the last few years, by and large the rural population of Timor-Leste is no worse off than those of Indonesia or Vietnam.

6GDP per capita was presented as decreasing within the last few years, especially since the independence, though it remains above that of the end of the Indonesian occupation in current value.

Table 1 - GDP per capita evolution in Timor-Leste (1999-2004)

Table 1 - GDP per capita evolution in Timor-Leste (1999-2004)

Source: UNDP, Human Development Report, 2006.

  • 245 PPP: Purchasing Power Parity.
  • 246 Durand (Frédéric) 2008, Timor-Leste en quête de repères, perspectives économico-politiques et inte (...)

7Several causes can be identified. First, the GDP increased artificially during the UN period, especially during 2000 and 2001 when money injected by the UN represented one fourth of the country’s GDP. Second, the GDP-PPP245 also suffered from the arrival of international staff which increased the cost of living, especially in Dili. Finally, most documents on the country situation use “non-gas” per capita GDP. However, it is more and more disconnected from the global revenues of Timor-Leste. In 2007, with the growth of hydrocarbon production and the increase in gas prices, the country received up to $100 million a month, rendering possible the opening of a gas fund in a US bank account amounting to $2 billion. GDP per capita of Timor-Leste in 2007 was therefore not $370 but around $1,500. This value is not very high when compared to that of OECD countries ($30,000) or even ASEAN countries, but it helps keep the situation in perspective, especially vis à vis countries such as Laos (less than $2,000) or Cambodia and Vietnam ($2,500 and $3,000 respectively). A similar reasoning can be reached with HDI.246

2 - A country destroyed and rebuilt “from scratch”?

8The importance of the destruction in September 1999 tends to be forgotten as it occurred ten years ago. In some regions, up to 75% of the houses were burnt by the Indonesian army and its trained militias, while administrative buildings were systematically destroyed together with their archives and equipment. In 2008, many ruins are still visible throughout the country. A similar fate affected the livestock that was largely decimated in 1999, especially in the western part of Timor-Leste. At the time of the 2004 census, the number of buffalos, horses and pigs remained below that of the end of the Portuguese period in the early 1970s, while the population had increased by 30%.

9However, these “material” destructions may also be misleading. Many speeches emphasized the role of the UN and of its “experts” in the reconstruction of the country from scratch from October 1999 to May 2002. These statements are more than debatable and their implications are detrimental to the comprehension of actual situation. East Timorese society is indeed composed of several complex stratums which interact, sometimes in an antagonistic way, while searching for a project for their nation. Hence, beyond the differences induced by the great ethnolinguistic diversity, four main elements can be identified:

  1. The pre-Portuguese time was particularly neglected by the international community. The majority of experts considered that Timor-Leste had to “forsake its past” in order to turn itself towards the future, assuming that prior to 1999, everything would have been “poverty”, “lack of technique” or “suffering”. But Timorese have values on which their culture is based and which are essential to building their identity. Among those values one finds: endurance, courage, sobriety, simplicity, a weak attachment to material goods, a sense of community, of honor, and of the given word. Paradoxically, while praised and displayed in principle by international discourse, these values are less emphasized in reality than the individual capacity to accumulate wealth. Another major component of Timor’s worldview lies in the dualistic concept that joins together opposite and complementary poles in the search for balance. Traditional society, while not ideal, emphasized balance, moderation, especially on environmental issues, i.e. things that modern societies tend to forget even when they promote the so-called “sustainable development”.
  2. The Portuguese period was often abusively denigrated. It is true, that their material realizations are rather limited after four centuries in the island. However, outside of Dili, East-Timor was largely managed following the principle of indirect-rule. Moreover, much of what was built was destroyed by the bombings, which occurred during the Japanese occupation (1942-1945). Pictures from the 1970s show that, while not flourishing, the situation was not catastrophic. The destructions started again in 1975 and 1999. More profoundly, even if its material vestiges are few, the Portuguese period imparted strong cultural and moral values, which explains why many East Timorese are certainly prouder of the shared history with Portugal than many former colonies may be.
  3. During the 1975-September 1999 period, several great aspiring trends fostered. In Timor itself, after the hard phases of the occupation and until the 1980s, Timorese had to compose with Indonesians. Some became resigned to the annexation while others were fighting for independence. In both cases, the media that reached them made the Timorese share the same ideal of “development” as the Indonesians based on the idea of “catching up” with countries of the first industrial era. In parallel, a Diaspora was formed outside the country. It was numerically less important, but it included several leaders such as José Ramos-Horta or Mari Alkatiri. They too imagined the future of Timor, by following different influences taken from the countries in which they resided (mainly Portugal, Mozambique and Australia), and the political inclinations which emerged in 1974-75 (Liberal, Social-democrats, Marxist).
  4. The post-referendum period strengthened aspirations to “development” initiated in the 1980s and 1990s while exacerbating confrontations among the previous ones.

3 - 1999-2006: a problematic transition between aid with ambiguous effects and political crisis

10Timor-Leste was also described as the country that received the greatest per capital help in post-conflict periods. It is estimated that within the first 3 years, Timor-Leste received on average twice as much per capita than Bosnia Herzegovina and eight times more than Afghanistan. In fact, from the end of 1999 to March 2006, Timor-Leste received 2 billion dollars of international aid.

  • 247 Gunn (Geoffrey C.) 2003, “Rebuilding Agriculture in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste: A Critique of the W (...)

11However, the use of this amount must be clarified. A significant part of it did not directly benefit the Timorese. As an example, 80% of the money spent by the UN was used for expenses incurred outside of Timor, 15% went to international staff or for the import of goods to their benefit, and only the remaining 5% was directly given to the Timorese. The distribution of this aid by sector is also problematic. During the 1999-2006 period, UN Peace Keeping Forces (PKF) accounted for almost 30% of the expenses while the UN police accounted for 8%. Next to this, emergency and technical help represented 15% and 46% respectively. This stated-and it is the most delicate point to evaluate-, this aid was used to pay the high salaries of contractors and technical consultants who, for an important part, had little knowledge of the country or even of Asia. Their work was not necessarily well-suited, and many of them were unable to train people or transfer a pertinent savoir faire if only because of language problems.247

12The evolution in time of aid fluxes must also be considered. Logically, the main part was used between the referendum and the independence. Starting as of May 2002, principally at the request of President Xanana Gusmão, the UN presence strongly diminished, going from 8,000 personnel in 2000 to 275 in 2005. Indeed, President Gusmão was worrying about the revenue gap between international experts and Timorese having a hard time earning a few dollars to feed their families. The UN would have even pulled back all of its personnel in May 2006 had troubles not forced it to sent troops back again. Beyond costs, even if it were necessary to turn the page of assistance and trusteeship, the pullback without a real preparation would have been destabilizing, as shown by the country's GDP decrease after 2001. This was particularly obvious in Dili, where local businesses faced slack times. At this point, a major distinction must be drawn between the capital and the rest of the country. Indeed, because of its opening up to the outside world, of the importance of political dealings and of its non-agricultural economic activities, Dili is far from representative of a country, which is 80% rural. Many transient observers do not necessarily appraise this. This does not mean that what happens in Dili is without consequences, but rather that there is a growing gap between the urban preoccupations of the capital’s inhabitants and those of the bulk of a population that continues to live from an agriculture of subsistence.

13The gap is also a political one. In 2002, a constitution largely based on the Portuguese model was drafted under the aegis of the UN. Based on strong parliamentary powers, it gave the President of the Republic a role that is more symbolic than managerial, in relative contravention of Timorese traditions of power exercise. Thus, between 2002 and 2007, President Xanana Gusmão had limited possibility to act practically. Decisions were mostly taken by the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, leader of Fretilin, the party enjoying a large majority in the Parliament. During these five years, popular support to Fretilin progressively weakened, especially after a series of crisis. In November-December 2002, anti-government demonstrations resulted in the destruction of administrative buildings, of shops, and of houses belonging to people close to the government. In April-May 2005, demonstrations started all over Dili to protest against a plan to reduce the influence of religion in education.

  • 248 Durand (Frédéric) 2004, Catholicisme et protestantisme dans l’île de Timor 1556-2003, construction (...)

14By that time, several splits became apparent between different components of the population, notably within the governing body. It happened thus between the Timorese Diaspora turned towards the Anglo-Saxon worlds (Australia, USA) and that of the Portuguese speaking countries (Portugal and its former colonies in Africa). Their decisions were not necessarily well-accepted by a population which had remained in Timor during the Indonesian occupation, especially the youth. The youth, who were educated in the Indonesian language, became strongly marginalized. Indeed, measures, such as the exclusive opening of civil servant’s jobs to Portuguese speaking people or such as the use of that language in Parliament, were poorly received, since Portuguese was spoken by less than 15% of all Timorese. Certain choices by Fretilin, based on a secular conception of society, did not help either in bringing together a population that declared itself 95% Catholic.248

15In January 2006, a petition of soldiers who felt victims of discriminations because of their connection to the Western part of the country started a new crisis that later degenerated. Indeed, an ancient distinction exists between the populations of the West of Timor-Leste (Kaladi/Loromonu) and those of the great-East (Firaku/Lorosae), but it is neither ethnic nor linguistic. This split took shape during the Portuguese colonial time, between the populations of the West, in the vicinity of Dili, which were considered to be more “assimilated” than those of the East, presented as more “backwards”. This difference was reinforced from 1975 to 1999, when most of the armed resistance connected to Fretilin was concentrated in the Eastern part of the country because it was less controlled by the Indonesian army.

16The initial leader of this petition, Lieutenant Gastão Salsinha, was later joined by Major Alfredo Reinado who quickly became an emblematic figure of the movement. In 2006, troubles consecutive to these East/West tensions caused the death of 37 people, and the displacement of another 150,000. They rendered necessary the return of a multi-national force. The poor management of these crises forced Prime Minister Alkatiri to resign and leave his seat to José Ramos-Horta.

4 - 2007-2008: elections and rebellious attacks revealing instability

17After these crises, the context of the 2007 presidential elections was particularly tense, with a population divided between continuity and aspiration for change. Eight candidates were running during the first round of elections. The main two were Francisco Guterres (“Lu Olo”), president of Fretilin, and José Ramos-Horta, the then Prime Minister, who enjoyed a great aura because of his role as defender of the Timorese on the international scene, a role which earned him the Nobel Peace Price in 1996. Fernando de Araujo was another personality who attracted attention. Known under the code name “Lasama” from the time he was a leader of the resistance against Indonesia in the 1980s, he embodied the new Indonesian speaking generation which felt shunned from responsibilities. Its PD party (Democratic Party) had reached the second best score in 2001. Moreover, he had received the support of the Catholic Church as well as that of Major Alfredo Reinado.

  • 249 SOMET 2007, On the First Round of Timor-Leste Presidential Elections, April 18, 2007.
  • 250 Cabasset-Semedo (Christine) & Durand (Frédéric) 2007, “Les élections présidentielles de 2007 à Tim (...)

18Aside from some minor incidents, the first round of elections took place on April 9, 2007 peacefully. It was “free and fair” according to independent observers249. The results were relatively close. Fretilin came first, but with 28% of the votes, versus 22% for Ramos Horta, and 19% for Fernando de Araujo.250

Table 2 - Results of the first round of the 2007 presidential election and of the 2001 parliamentary elections

Table 2 - Results of the first round of the 2007 presidential election and of the 2001 parliamentary elections

Sources: Durand F., 2002; CNE-Timor 2007.

  • 251 Xanana Gusmão had co-founded the first CNTR (National Council of Timorese Resistance) in 1998, to (...)

19When compared to the results of the 2001 parliamentary elections, these scores indicate a decline of Fretilin. The series of crisis since 2002 and also the challenge of José Ramos-Horta may explain this. José Ramos-Horta was running with the support of outgoing President Xanana Gusmão who had just recreated in 2007 the CNRT (National Congress for the Reconstruction of Timor)251. The first round also indicates a tendency towards regionalism, following local origin of the candidates. This phenomenon reoccurred during the second round of the presidential election of May 9, 2007. José Ramos-Horta, who had received the support of Fernando de Araujo (PD) and of almost all of the other minority parties, largely won the election with 69.2% of the votes. Francisco Gutterres, who represented Fretilin, was defeated nationally but managed to come first in the three Eastern districts of Baucau, Lautem and Viqueque. These elections showed a certain desire for change, even if the Timorese also wished for continuity since they elected a pioneer of independence.

20The parliamentary elections that followed on June 30, 2007 confirmed this trend. Fretilin arrived first, but with only 29% of the votes, ahead of CNRT (24%), ASDT-PSD (16%), and PD (11%). These last three groups formed a coalition led by former President Xanana Gusmão. This allowed him to become Prime Minister. However, his nomination was not without difficulty. Indeed, a constitutional ambiguity required the President to ask the party winning the elections or a majority coalition to form a government. But the new President José Ramos-Horta was aware of the weariness of Fretilin and of the risk of seeing an increase in turmoil, and he did not wish to give the government to Fretilin, as in any case, it would have been unable to form a majority. It was only at the beginning of August 2007, after more than one month of turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations in the three Eastern districts that José Ramos-Horta decided to nominate Xanana Gusmão as the new Prime Minister.

21The stakes are particularly sensitive. Indeed, the transition period under UN aegis from 1999 to May 2002, then the first parliamentary mandate of the independence era from May 2002 to June 2007, could be construed as trial periods. The new government will probably no longer benefit from the same indulgence, as many problems remain to be solved. In fact, the two failed attacks of February 2008 against the newly elected President and the Prime Minister, which were carried out by the rebels Alfredo Reinado and Gastão Salsinha, and were followed by the death of the former and the surrender of the latter, ended the most delicate part of the crisis started in 2006. Nevertheless, they did not clear all of its socio-cultural, political and economic aspects.

5 - Ideologically contradictory and sometimes naïve visions

22After at least four crisis during the five first years of independence, the necessity to request the return of foreign military forces to restore the country’s peace made several analysts say that Timor-Leste could be a failed State, a “country having failed to become a State”. In 2007, the American foundation “Fund for Peace” and the magazine Foreign Policy ranked Timor-Leste at the 19th position on the list of the 32 failed States that they considered in an alert situation. If the country’s place is far behind Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Afghanistan, or Myanmar, it nevertheless leaves open the question of the country’s future.

23Based on what was previously stated, I considered that the failed States concept is not applicable, especially here, since it takes into account only the ability to imitate the Western model. The concept of “a country that has yet to set up how to bring together traditions and the economic and political requirements of the modern world” will be preferred. Indeed, the evolution of the world since the industrial revolution shows that countries regarded, as “successful examples” are countries that managed to conciliate their social and cultural values with the institutional and technical transformations required by globalization. Japan and South Korea are the most emblematic examples, having managed to maintain their strong traditions. It is more generally the case with East Asia, even if it was at the price of a more or less artificial reconstruction of “Asian values”. Inversely, countries considered as “failures” have seldom managed this conciliation or have not been able to go beyond a caricatured vision of the past.

24For Timor-Leste, the stakes are very critical because, unlike countries such as Japan or South Korea, there are no “main” cultural currents that can federate diversity. In fact, Timor-Leste is characterized by a great cultural diversity in a large sense, i.e. ethno-linguistic, but also historical, and political. The cultures meet and sometimes clash within a very diverse society of more than 20 ethno-linguistic groups, which have been rocked, since the mid 1970s, by more than 30 years of chaotic and destabilizing events. In that regard, the arrival of the international community in 1999 and the access to independence did not resolve the contractions. On the contrary, they often exacerbated them, giving rise to frustrations within people who believed that their “dreams” were about to come true, even if they often did not have a clear vision of what they would bring. Many were disappointed by the lack of improvement of their situation or the fact that they were kept away from the path of success.

  • 252 Planning Commission, East Timor National Development Plan, Dili, May 2002.

25At this moment, the national development plan for the year 2020, which was endorsed in 2002 by the cabinet of the Prime Minister, but largely drafted following UN recommendations, reveals the lack of insight on the country’s situation.252 This is not necessarily specific to Timor-Leste. Many other so-called “developing” countries are faced with similar situations. However, the problems certainly reached a special dimension in Timor because of the late accession to independence and the great scope of the people’s expectations.

Vision of development in Timor-Leste for the next generation, in the year 2020
-East Timor will be a democratic country with a vibrant traditional culture and a sustainable development;
-It will be a prosperous society with adequate food, shelter and clothing for all people;
-Communities will live in safety, with no discrimination;
-People will be literate, knowledgeable and skilled. They will be healthy, and live a long, productive life. They will actively participate in economic, social and political development, promoting social equality and national unity;
-People will no longer be isolated, because there will be good roads, transports, electricity, and communications in the towns and villages, in all regions of the country;
-Production and employment will increase in all sectors–agriculture, fisheries and forestry;
-Living standards and services will improve for all East Timorese, and income will be fairly distributed;
-Prices will be stable, and food supplies secure, based on sound management and sustainable management of natural resources;
-The economy and finances of the state will be managed efficiently, transparently, and will be free from corruption;
-The state will be based on the rule of law. Government, private sector, civil society and community leaders will be fully responsible to those by whom they were chosen or elected.

Source: East-Timor National Development Plan, May 2002, pp. 19-20.

26Development proposals for the year 2020 reveal these weaknesses, even if it is not because of the proposals per se, since they gather everyone’s support without any great difficulty. Indeed, they first and foremost convey general and politically correct concepts that are naïve because they hide tensions and contradictions. Moreover, they are not specifically “Timorese”. Anyone could replace the name of “East-Timor” by that of any other State to turn it into a standard UN national project.

27The “concrete goals” of that document are of the same register. However, beyond the “politically correct” formulations and a manifest lack of synthesis, which tend to give rise to repetitions and confusions, their analysis reveals other ideological oppositions. Four main currents appear:

  1. A “humanistic” vision inspired by universal values (health, education, respect for all).
  2. Proposals coming from good governance rules that enjoy a worldwide consensus (separation of powers, effective carrying-out of the laws, safeguards against abuse and corruption).
  3. General recommendations requiring a greater involvement of the State (a responsible and creative government, a network of social safety nets, a reduction of poverty).
  4. Precise recommendations requiring, inversely, that the State’s role be as limited as possible, and that the economy be liberalized as much as possible.

28This last point is probably the most significant. It reveals a strong tendency of contemporary economic and political thought to emphasize economic growth above anything else, by means of a maximized reduction of the public sector, of privatizations, of transforming population into “disciplined labor force” and of the opening up of markets. This position is not the only one appearing in the document, hence the ideological contradictions between registers 3 and 4. Liberal recommendations are often much more explicit and precise, since they advise to:

  • Transform the subsistence agriculture into a market economy;
  • Achieve a stronger financial and banking sector;
  • Maintain a competitive real exchange rate with more exports and less imports;
  • Promote private initiatives;
  • Promote a competent, productive, and disciplined labor force;
  • Monitor and remedy the potential excesses of the government and its functionaries. 253

29All these recommendations are not necessarily bad or negative in themselves, but they show a tendency to push “Southern” countries into sacrificing social projects and cultural practices in order to promote at all cost an “economic growth” which may be more destructive than constructive. “Growth” itself may be a step, notably in a country like Timor-Leste which faced so many destructions, but it cannot be a goal in itself, especially since, in a world with finite resources and with what we know of environmental threats such as global warming, it is unrealistic to imagine that all of the planet’s inhabitants may reach the Western-Japanese life-style.

30At the beginning of the 21st century, nobody has a ''ready-made” recipe for success, not even Western countries or “UN experts” who see a multiplication of crisis in the North and a confirmation of the oil peak threat and environmental degradations. In East-Timor’s case, considering the difficult living conditions that the country inherited in 1999 and thanks to financial means provided by international aid, and more recently by hydrocarbons, successive governments have had a tendency to give a strong role to the State. Supporting the population through social and economic aid rather than liberalizing the economy by diminishing the role of the public sector was a choice that did not always succeed, and its realizations were slow. But to abstain from doing it would have certainly caused social troubles and unrest. Unlike many “developing” countries, Timor-Leste should have, at least in the coming decades, the means to carry out real social policies given its relatively limited population and its important revenues.

6 - Which “project of society” for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste?

31Beyond available financial means, Timor-Leste’s most crucial need is more certainly that of a real “project of society” based on the values of the country. The general goal to build a “democratic country with a vibrant traditional culture and a sustainable development”, where society will be “prosperous with adequate food, shelter and clothing for all people” is too vague to constitute a real project. Indeed, beyond the upholding of traditional ceremonies, what does a “traditional vibrant culture” concretely mean in the case of East-Timor when a majority of Timorese have different local “traditions” but are mostly ignorant of their “history”?

32When questioned, civil society’s leaders and representatives indicate that taking their country to the Singapore model is an idea that does not attract them much. However, it is generally what is implicit in speeches regarding “economic development”, as well as in idealized images or pictures found in the humblest homes or on the banners of CNRT during the legislative elections of 2007.

33A real reflection and introspection have yet to be carried out, in order to define the values on which the inhabitants, in their diversity, want to build their country. Such a project was initiated in 2002, but it yielded mainly ready-made images that mostly emphasized basic needs. An endeavor to define a more precise and more “cultural” project will not be easy because aspirations and expectations are not identical in all the components of society. They may even be antagonistic sometimes among political currents, generations, and regions of the country. It will first require that the growing gap between the inhabitants of Dili and those of the rest of the country be filled. Moreover, within the next decades, Timor-Leste will have to face strong challenges such as an unprecedented demographic growth, a time limit on the oil revenues and on the international aid, and environmental risks connected to the consequences of global warming on an island with a dry tropical climate.

34In a world that is more and more global, this reflection will not be possible if one does not take also into account the geopolitical context and the orientations or proposals of partners and neighbors, whether they be in Europe with Portugal, in Asia with ASEAN, Japan and China, or in the Pacific region with Australia. The challenge for Timor-Leste will probably be to continue to travel the path of a greater integration in the international community, starting with the entry in structures such as ASEAN, while standing on, rediscovering, or rebuilding national values that emphasize the specificities of the Timorese and enable them to feel pride. Among these values found in myths, in anthropological studies, and all throughout the history of East-Timor, are the following: a strong sense of justice, a capacity to limit the power of leaders whose role was to guarantee a stable and sustainable community, a tie to regional lands going from sea to mountain regions, a prudent management of diversity, especially in agricultural practices, a deep attachment to spiritual and sacred values, a search for balance and fair assessment, particularly in order to manage the environment, and a strong will toward independence, whether it be political or economic.

35It is probably more through the search for roots and justifications of these practices to adapt them to the modern world than through the imposition of outside models that Timor-Leste will manage to define its model for society and for the future.

Refugee Camp in Dili in 2007. © Frédéric Durand

UN cars in 2007. © Frédéric Durand

Fretilin banner in 2007. © Frédéric Durand


244 Defert (Gabriel) 1992, Timor-Est, le génocide oublié, droit d’un peuple et raisons d’Etats, p. 64.

245 PPP: Purchasing Power Parity.

246 Durand (Frédéric) 2008, Timor-Leste en quête de repères, perspectives économico-politiques et integration régionale 1999-2050, p. 23.

247 Gunn (Geoffrey C.) 2003, “Rebuilding Agriculture in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste: A Critique of the World Bank Role”.

248 Durand (Frédéric) 2004, Catholicisme et protestantisme dans l’île de Timor 1556-2003, construction d’une identité chrétienne et engagement politique contemporain.

249 SOMET 2007, On the First Round of Timor-Leste Presidential Elections, April 18, 2007.

250 Cabasset-Semedo (Christine) & Durand (Frédéric) 2007, “Les élections présidentielles de 2007 à Timor-Leste”.

251 Xanana Gusmão had co-founded the first CNTR (National Council of Timorese Resistance) in 1998, to bring together a platform of the 1974/75 parties, in view of a possible referendum for self determination. It was dissolved in 2001.

252 Planning Commission, East Timor National Development Plan, Dili, May 2002.

253 Ibid, pp. 20-21.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1 - GDP per capita evolution in Timor-Leste (1999-2004)
Légende Source: UNDP, Human Development Report, 2006.
Fichier image/jpeg, 59k
Titre Table 2 - Results of the first round of the 2007 presidential election and of the 2001 parliamentary elections
Légende Sources: Durand F., 2002; CNE-Timor 2007.
Fichier image/jpeg, 97k
Légende Refugee Camp in Dili in 2007. © Frédéric Durand
Fichier image/jpeg, 194k
Légende UN cars in 2007. © Frédéric Durand
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Légende Fretilin banner in 2007. © Frédéric Durand
Fichier image/jpeg, 263k


Frédéric Durand is Associate-Professor in Geography at University Toulouse II-Le Mirail, member of the CNRS Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Paris (UMR 8170), and currently Director of the Malaysia-France University Center in Kuala Lumpur. Author of more than ten books on Southeast Asia, the Malay World and Indonesia, he published four books on Timor: a geo-historical atlas of East-Timor in 2002 (translated into English in 2006), an history of Christianism in East and West Timor (in 2004), an history of cartography and travel to Timor Island (in 2006), and a study on contemporary situation in the country (Timor-Leste in search of reference marks. Economic and political perspectives, and regional integration 1999-2050), in 2008. Contact:

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