5 July 2012
East Timor (Timor Leste)
We took a day trip to see an old Portuguese fort. I'm huge fan of anything fort or castle.
A bit about the history of East Timor.
Like many countries, it's future and troubles were determined hundreds of years ago by the somewhat randomness of colonialism.
Half of the island was a Dutch colony. The other half Portuguese. This administrative colonial divide in the past set them on very different courses and violent confrontation.
West Timor was a minor part of the Dutch presence in the area and gained independence in late 1949. You don't see alot of colonial influence.
East Timor was an important outpost to the Portuguese and remained a colony until 1975. You see this greater importance and longer influence in numerous seaside forts projecting cannons, grand old colonial buildings, wide boulevards, and a certain European feel to the architecture.
Indonesia invaded in 1976. They feared the East Timor government would be communist controlled and didn't want that for a neighbor. That standard narrative is that the US and Australia encouraged the invasion. Indonesia treated it more like a permanent province than an occupation and build lots of infrastructure. Any dissent was violently crushed though.
In 1999, after mounting international pressure and an internal vote for independence, Indonesia began withdrawing from East Timor.
Various militias, chaos, civil war, and massacre followed.
Eventually the UN moved in.
This has pretty much continued in to the present day. There is a trend towards things calming down but every so often tension escalates to violence.
The capital has the look of a place that is prepared for trouble.
UN peacekeepers still patrol.
Every hotel, business, and apartment/home is it's own little sealed compound.
12ft (4 meters) high walls, razor wire, broken glass, spikes, thick metal doors, security guards.
Still, things are getting better. They held elections while we were there and the UN soldiers are due to leave soon. The UN aid as well as the NGO's and most of the other foreigners will remain though. There's alot of work to be done still.
My cynical self questions how helpful the help really is. After a DECADE of aid money, training, infrastructure projects, and everything else there is still alot of poverty and anger.
Colonial era administrative and prison complex.
I often so Israel graffiti and art. Never could figure out why.
Dilapidated colonial style building. Lots of these around.
Portuguese fort by the sea.