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East Timor Independence Day


timor leste flag

The flag of Timor Leste, Southeast Asia's youngest state

East Timor Independence Day is celebrated on the 20th of May every year. This important day marks the independence won by Timor Leste from Indonesian rule in 2002. The day is also referred to as the Independence Restoration Day of Timor Leste.


East Timor’s Steep Road to Independence

East Timor is one of the world’s newest and poorest states, located at the eastern tip of the island of Timor. The country was colonized by Portugal (in the 16th century), but declared its independence in 1975. East Timor was subsequently invaded by Indonesia, and ruled as Indonesia’s 27th province. East Timor is the youngest state in Southeast Asia and became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002. East Timor is one of the only two Roman Catholic Southeast Asian countries, the other being the Philippines. The country continues to suffer the aftereffects of a decades-long independence struggle against Indonesia, which damaged infrastructure and displaced thousands of civilians. To read more about Timor’s struggle for independence, please read Ed Caffin’s Timor Leste: a Country Colonized and Neglected.

Nobel Peace Laureate and President José Ramos Horta

Nobel Peace Laureate and President José Ramos Horta


Independence Day in East Timor

Usually, festivities and celebrations start the day before independence day, with masses at cathedrals early on in the morning. On the day itself, proceedings start with the President of the Republic Palace welcoming the Armed Forces. The President, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta then inspects the troupes and flags are raised following the inspection. Arms are hoisted and fitting tributes are paid to the soldiers and freedom fighters of Timor Leste.


This session is followed by a cocktail and the festivities continue normally till around 4 pm. The ceremony ends with the lowering of the National Flag of East Timor. The celebrations are attended by top dignitaries such as the President, Prime Minister, President of the Court of Appeal and President of the National Parliament.


Read more about this fascinating country and its turbulent past in Labodalih Sembiring’s Introduction to East Timor.




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