Daily Archives: 10 April 2004

East Timor: The World’s Newest Country

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i has made freely available online (in PDF format) a brief, 33-page high-school level workbook, East Timor: The World’s Newest Country, by Flo Lamoureux.

The purpose of this book is to provide students with an overview the world’s newest nation–East Timor. The narrative begins with a section on pre-colonial Timor and continues through the Portuguese era. It covers the 25-year period when Indonesia governed the entire island of Timor. After a varied and violent past, on September 27, 2002 this little known state became the United Nation’s 191st member. In addition to an accounting of important historical events, the book covers language, education, religion, women’s issues and government. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies wishes to acknowledge Dr. Douglas Kammen who carefully read and edited an early draft of the book. His experiences in East Timor significantly enriched its contents.

The workbook is loaded with provocative discussion questions. Here are the questions for the history section.

  • Sandalwood was the major source of income and bartered goods in Timor prior to 1500. How would sandalwood trade in the 16th and 17th centuries have differed if current international regulations related to conservation have been in effect? Compare the economic results of over-cutting sandalwood to the present day economic questions raised in the matter of drift net fishing. (For material on driftnet fishing, see http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/1salmon/salmesa/pubs/fsdrift.htm; and http://www.unescap.org/mced2000/pacific/background/drift.htm)
  • The explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, sailed under the Spanish flag. When his crewmembers landed on Timor they did not claim the island for Spain. They had previously landed in the Philippines and claimed those islands for Spain, why do you think they did not plant the Spanish flag on Timor? If Timor had been a Spanish colony and more closely connected to the Philippines how do you think that would have impacted on the island’s future?
  • The Portuguese were never able to maintain full control of Timor. The local Christianized Timorese resisted Portuguese rule and dealt with the Europeans only when required by commercial matters. Explain why the Topasses were more successful in their dealings with both the indigenous Timorese and the Portuguese.
  • It took well over a hundred years for the Dutch and Portuguese to sign a formal treaty that divided Timor between the two European nations. Since they essentially agreed to an informal division in 1777, why do you think they did not get around to a formal treaty until 1916?
  • In 1910 the Portuguese monarchy was overthrown. This was a cause for alarm among the elite class in East Timor who had developed a comfortable working relationship with the Portuguese government there. As a result of this change in the government in Portugal, a plantation economy emerged in East Timor. Compare the plantation economy with its salaried income and taxes to the economy that existed under the Portuguese monarchy where the East Timorese elite collected goods from the peasant farmers and turned them over to the Portuguese government representative.
  • Explain why the Japanese Army of occupation treated West Timor differently from East Timor. Compare this to the situation in Vietnam where the French government was an ally of Germany and hence not an enemy of Japan.
  • Give three reasons why post-World War II East Timor was such a poor region. Why do you think Portugal neglected it?
  • Explain why the Viqueque rebellion in 1959 led to Portugal exiling rebel leaders. What role did Communism play in the Portuguese government’s decision to do this?
  • In 1974 the conservative Portuguese government was overthrown and a new liberal government emerged. What policy did the new government implement that had a dramatic affect on East Timor?
  • Name the three major parties that vied for power in the newly independent East Timor? Compare their goals.
  • In August 1975 Fretilin controlled most of East Timor and the new nation’s independence seemed secure. Explain how the alliance of UTD, Apodeti and Indonesia reacted to this situation.
  • Once Indonesian troops forced Fretilin forces into the mountains, guerrilla warfare became the norm. One matter that encouraged East Timorese to join the guerrillas in the mountains was the Indonesian policy of encirclement. Explain how this policy worked.
  • Neither Australia, the United States nor Portugal supported East Timor’s struggle for democracy. Compare the reasons why the three countries did not support East Timorese independence.
  • If Indonesia built more hospitals and schools in ten years than Portugal did in 400 years, why were the East Timorese so adamant about being a separate nation?
  • Many brutal incidents took place in East Timor under Indonesian rule. What made the November 1991 incident outside a church a turning point in world opinion of East Timor’s quest for independence?
  • What role did the 1997 economic crisis in Asia play in East Timor’s independence?
  • How did the Indonesian military forces (the militia) react when Indonesia declared East Timor an independent nation? Why were the military in East Timor especially angry about it?

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Jungle "Hut Cuisine": Smoked Pigeons with Marijuana Sauce

In the evening we would go shooting wood pigeon among wild marijuana fields. The birds were high on the marijuana seeds and barely able to fly but fluttered helplessly in the bushes. Their spasmodic, interrupted flights, together with their strange little cries made me think of drunken people trying to waltz. We stuffed the barrels of our home-made guns with pebbles and shot the pigeons down. Just the sound of gunshots seemed to stun them and they dropped from the trees at our feet. We killed them by seizing them by the legs and bashing their heads against trees. They made an excellent dish. We cooked them with marijuana sauce according to the local recipe. Here it is — Smoked Pigeons with Marijuana Sauce: ‘Smoke the birds with the twigs of marijuana for a day. Stuff them with lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger with a pinch of salt and wrap them in banana leaves. Boil or bake according to taste.’

Although we used marijuana for cooking, smoking it was strictly forbidden by the rebels. You could end up condemned to the stocks, plagued by mosquitoes, for three nights if you did that.

When the rainy season began we caught frogs. There was some danger in this, for we were not the only party who preyed on them. We usually made sure of first killing the frog-eating snakes, and then caught the frogs afterwards. Pythons, like frogs, are quite delicious to eat. They taste like smoked salmon. We also hunted moles, guinea-pigs and rats. We hung and smoked the rodents for three days before cooking them. Rat soup, minced moles and roast guinea pigs were our common recipes. The local people liked to hang the meat of porcupines until it stank like that of a corpse before they cooked it with herbs. It tasted delicious, but we had to eat it holding our noses.

At the end of 1988 we were invited by the Karen villagers to share a Christmas meal with them. The main dish had a strange flavour — the meat in it tasted like dog meat with a strong whiff of garlic and lemon grass. After the meal, our hosts didn’t wash their fingers, but sniffed at them for some time. Before we went home they told us that we had been eating monkey. Suddenly, I wanted to throw up. For the Karen, the meat of monkey was a typical Christmas dish, like turkey or goose in the West. They believed it was a gift from God, and that even the smell should not be wasted.

Tender wild banana trunks were available throughout the year, and we used them in soups along with lentils and vegetables. Truffles and wild mushrooms were in season at the beginning of the monsoon. During the cold season, when the bamboo shoots had matured, bamboo mushrooms became available.

We had more than one way of cooking rice without pots and pans, depending on the situation we were in. It could be cooked in bamboo stems: you soak the rice in green bamboo stalks for half an hour, and stuff the open end of the bamboo with grass. Roast the bamboo slowly over the fire until the rice is cooked, then peel off the bamboo skin. In this method, the rice comes in cartridges. Another method we called ‘rebel style’. The rice is soaked in a towel, linen or sarong for more than an hour. Dig a hole in the ground, one foot deep, bury the rice bag, then make a fire on top. Steamed rice will be ready within fifteen minutes. We used this method often when the rebels were on the run.

SOURCE: From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey, by Pascal Khoo Thwe (HarperCollins, 2002), pp. 215-217

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