Development in East Timor
Despite Portuguese neutrality during the Second World War, which also extended to its overseas territories, the Empire of Japan invaded the island of Timor – comprising both Dutch and Portuguese Timor – in December 1941 and successfully routed the last remnants of the Anglo-Australian allied coalition forces by February 1943. Given the islands minor strategic advantage, the costs were prodigious: tens of thousands of civilian lives were lost during both the invasion and subsequent Japanese occupation. After the Japanese surrender in 1945 the territory of Portuguese Timor was returned to the Portuguese yet the region remained a relatively neglected area within the colonial empire, similar to what had it been treated like before the outbreak of war. The post-war rebuilding of Timorese society under colonial rule happened for the most part through pre-existing indigenous systems (Kratoska, 2001, p. 212) along the lines of local socio-political structures (Bertrand, 2004, p. 136). Portuguese rule in Timor was brutal and exploitative and as investments in infrastructure, health, and education remained minimal (Robinson, 2010), costs regarding military expenditure to remain in control were high and heavily outweighed the minimal profits that were made through the export of cultivated crops.
The 1974 domestic overthrow of the Portuguese regime of the Estado Novo in light of the Carnation Revolution marked the end of Portugal’s colonial administration, and consequently resulted in the sudden and rapid withdrawal of administrative and military personnel from overseas territories. In the subsequent period of decolonization the new Portuguese regime legalized the formation of political parties in East Timor, which were to engage in elections to form a constituent assembly in October 1976 (Ooi). A threefold of major political parties emerged: the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (Fretilin) and the Timorese Popular Democratic Association (Apodeti). These developments where closely monitored by Indonesia and the United States. Indonesian president Suharto met with U.S. president Ford and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger in 1975 to discuss the issue of decolonization in the archipelago, describing Indonesia as a nation “[…] without any territorial ambition” nor one to “use force against the territory of other countries” – something considerably ironic after its aggressive practices regarding the forceful incorporation of West Papua. Yet, Suharto loathed the idea of an independent East Timor and promoted the idea of incorporation into Indonesia as being something in the Timorese best interest. (Kiernan, 2011).
Able to gain an approximate 50 to 55% of the votes in local village elections organized by the Portuguese (Kratoska), the Fretilin party became increasingly popular during the first half of 1975 and eventually formed a coalition government with UDT, the second largest...