When the diaspora returns. Language choices in post-independence Timor Lorosa’e.
After four centuries of Portuguese rule, twenty four years of Indonesian occupation, and two years of United Nations' administration, East Timor gained independence on 20 May, 2002. The new constitution of East Timor designates Portuguese as the official language, Tetum (the Indigenous lingua franca) as the national language, and English and Indonesian as working languages. There are also sixteen distinct local languages in the various districts. Indonesian is being officially phased out, but Indonesia remains East Timor's largest trading partner. Why was Portuguese chosen as the official language of East Timor? East Timor must confront the possibility of failing as a nation, like at least one of its neighbours, the Solomon Islands. Language questions will play a key part in East Timor's direction. The following are examples of the practical consequences of choosing Portuguese as the official language, in a country where less than fifteen per cent of the people speak or understand it.