Skip to main content

On This Day
Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 14:17 GMT
Timeline: East Timor
A chronology of key events:

1600s - Portuguese invade Timor, set up trading post and use island as source of sandalwood.

Pro-independence leader Xanana Gusmao
Long-term freedom fighter Xanana Gusmao
1749 - Timor split following battle between Portuguese and Dutch. Portuguese take the eastern half.

1942 - Japanese invade, fighting battles with Australian troops. Up to 60,000 East Timorese are killed. Japan in control until 1945.

1974 - Anti-Fascist revolution in Portugal leads to promise to free colonies, encouraging parties to prepare for new future.

1975 August - Portuguese administration withdraws to offshore island of Atauro.

Bishop Belo, East Timor's spiritual leader until November 2002
Unifying force: Nobel laureate Bishop Belo
1975 October - Five foreign journalists killed along border with West Timor, allegedly by Indonesian troops.

1975 November - After brief civil war, Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) declares East Timor independent.

1975 December - Indonesia invades, using its fight against communism as a pretext. It annexes territory as its 27th province, a move not recognised by the UN.

Strong resistance to Indonesian rule followed by repression and famine in which 200,000 people are thought to have died.

1991 - Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in which troops fire on mourners at a funeral in Dili of Fretilin supporter, killing more than 100 people.

1992 - Setback for the resistance as pro-independence leader Xanana Gusmao is captured near Dili. In 1993 he is convicted of subversion and is given a life sentence which is later reduced.

1993 - Groups of East Timorese enter foreign embassies in Jakarta over the next few years seeking political asylum.

Ramos-Horta returns to East Timor December 1999
Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta is welcomed home in 1999 after 25 years away
1995 - 20th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion marked by protest by 112 East Timorese and sympathisers who enter Russian and Dutch embassies in Jakarta.

1996 - Acting Bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo, and resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta jointly awarded Nobel Peace Prize, raising international awareness of the East Timorese independence struggle.

1998 - Indonesian President Suharto resigns. Replaced by Habibie who suggests territory may be given special status within Indonesia.

1999 January - Indonesia says it will consider independence for East Timor if people reject autonomy.

Build-up to referendum

1999 February-April - Gusmao moved from Jakarta prison to house arrest. In response to increasing violence by anti-independence activists, Gusmao orders guerrillas to resume independence struggle.

1999 May - Indonesia, Portugal sign agreement to allow East Timorese to vote on their future. Deal endorsed by UN.

1999 August 30 - Almost 99% of 450,000-strong electorate votes in UN-organised referendum.

1999 September - Result of referendum shows 78 % voters favoured independence.

Village destroyed by militia, September 1999
Referendum revenge: Aerial view of village turned to ashes by militia
Violence erupts as anti-independence militia helped by the Indonesian military resume campaign of terror, leaving up to 1,000 dead. A quarter of the population flees, mainly to West Timor. Martial law imposed. Gusmao freed.

Australian-led peace-keeping force arrives, gradually restores order. Many militia members flee to West Timor to avoid arrest. Indonesian parliament recognises outcome of referendum.

1999 October - Gusmao released. UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) established.

Australian peacekeeper, September 1999
Restoring order: Australian peacekeeper on patrol as Dili burns
1999 December - International donors at a Tokyo conference agree to provide US $520 million in aid to help rebuild East Timor.

2000 September - United Nations evacuates staff from West Timor following series of incidents culminating in the murder of three UN refugee agency workers by pro-Indonesian militia gangs in Atambua. Tens of thousands of refugees are left without international assistance. An Indonesian court subsequently jails six men for up to 20 months for the killings, earning international outrage for being too lenient.

FALINTIL's 25th anniversary, August 2000
Anniversary: FALINTIL troops on parade at the 25th anniversary of their guerrilla army
2001 - East Timor, Australia sign a deal to give East Timor a greater share of future revenues from oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea than under an earlier Australian-Indonesian agreement. East Timor is to get 90% of the revenue which should amount to billions of dollars over the next 20 years.

2001 August - Election of 88-member Constituent Assembly, which is to write constitution for independent East Timor. Fretilin party wins, taking 55 seats.

2002 - January - Truth and reconciliation commission opens to try and heal wounds of past.

2002 January - Indonesia inaugurates human rights court which is expected to test government's willingness to hold the military accountable for atrocities in East Timor after the territory's independence vote in 1999.

2002 February - East Timor's assembly approves draft constitution envisaging a government run along parliamentary lines.

2002 February - East Timor and Indonesia sign two agreements aimed at easing relations.

2002 April - Xanana Gusmao wins presidential elections.

2002 17 May - UN Security Council votes for new peacekeeping mission to replace the UN transitional administration at independence.

East Timor man with the nation's flag painted on his chest
A nation is born: mass celebrations marked East Timor's independence
2002 20 May - Independence: VIP guests including former US president Bill Clinton and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri join the celebrations in Dili.

2002 September - East Timor becomes the 191st member of the United Nations.

2002 November - Indonesian human rights tribunal convicts former pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Guterres of crimes against humanity for his part in 1999 massacre. The sentence is the heaviest handed down so far by the tribunal, which has been widely criticised for its reluctance to convict those charged.

2003 March - Court in Jakarta sentences Indonesia's former military chief in East Timor, Brigadier General Noer Muis, to five years in jail for crimes against humanity. He is accused of failing to prevent attacks on civilians which followed the 1999 independence vote.


Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Key stories

Independence day


Key people



E-mail services | Desktop ticker | News on mobiles/PDAs

Back to top ^^

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia | UK | Business
Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Have Your Say | Country Profiles | In Depth |
BBCi Homepage >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | BBC World Service >>
Help | Feedback | News sources | Privacy
bannerwatch listen bbc sport AmericasAfricaEuropeMiddle EastSouth AsiaAsia Pacific