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The new flag debate (East Timor, 1999-2001)

Last modified: 2023-12-09 by zachary harden
Keywords: no flag |
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(Note: Most of the contents of this page was contributed in the 1998-2001 period. They portrait discussions and uncertainty about the then future flag of East Timor and we opt to change them only minimally. See here material about current east-timorese flags. — Ed.)

See also:

How things turned out

As at midnight on 19 May 2002 East Timor (Timor-Leste) becomes independent.
Andrew Leith, 04 May 2002

Following the (overwhelming) victory of FRETILIN in the parliamentary elections, the constitutional assembly restored all the symbols from the 1975 independence, including the flag.
Jorge Candeias, 20 May 2002

The pre-independence situation

Currently [1998-2001], as the territory is under a UN mandate, East Timor has no flag of it’s own.
Jorge Candeias, 17 January 2000

Currently East Timor [1998-2001] has no status (legally I guess it might have reverted to the status of before the invasion) and is waiting for the UN to set up the successor of the INTERFET, since this is merely a military mission and its successor (known here as the phase III of the agreement between Portugal and Indonesia) will have also administrative powers, which INTERFET does not have.
Jorge Candeias, 20 October 1999

Which for independent East Timor?

Constitutional Commissioners will on Thursday present (UN governor) Sérgio Vieira de Mello with reports from each of East Timor’s districts on the issues that people would like to be considered by the future Constituent Assembly when drafting a Constitution. (…) Among the prevalent issues discussed at the hearings were the political system, currency, and flag East Timor should adopt; (…) and the official language.
Jan Zrzavy quoting from UNTAET briefing of 2001.08.14, 16 August 2001

I’m still curious about which flag receives the status of national flag in the end: the red-yellow-black arrowhead or the blue-white-green of the FALINTIL/CNRT. Both have a big support within the people and both have an honorable tradition of resistance. I’d bet on the blue-white-green, but I wouldn’t bet much.
Jorge Candeias, 22 October 1999

The "new" flag of East-Timor (blue-white-green) is not having any popular acceptance. Instead all the flags seen in demonstrations (both in the territory and in Portugal) are red with the black and yellow triangles and the white star.
Jorge Candeias, 08 May 1999

The UNAMET (U.N. mission in East Timor) decided to illustrate the two options in the coming referendum on the future of the territory (or popular consultation, as they call it) with flags. The "yes" to the autonomy will be illustrated with the Indonesian flag, while the "no" to the autonomy (which implies independence) is to be illustrated by the flag of the C.N.R.T.. This option by the UNAMET is being contested by the Socialist Party of Timor, which claims that the flag of the CNRT does not represent all Timorese and is, therefore, not a good choice. They don’t say it in the paper, but I suspect the guys from the S.P.T. are trying to push the red flag with black triangle into the place of the flag of CNRT.
Jorge Candeias, 05 August 1999

I believe many people are not aware that they changed to a new flag. I’ve been involved with APCET (Asia Pacific Committee on East Timor) since APCET II and I didn’t know until I read about it here.
Robert Kee, 31 August 1999

I have been following with close attention the news reports on the situation in Timor Lorosae, and the red and black seems to have disappeared almost totally and what is seen are CNRT flags, mostly in paper drawings or as (large) lapel pins. The only instance where I saw the red and black flag was recently in a press-conference of some Popular Commission for the Defense of the Democratic Republic of East-Timor. This commission denounces the agreement between Portugal and Indonesia under the auspices of the UN, because, according to them, this agreement recognizes the occupation of East Timor, while they only recognize the Democratic Republic, unilaterally proclaimed in 1975. They also say that the introduction of a new flag by the C.N.R.T. is a «falsification of the East Timorese history» (forgetting that this flag, or a close relative, has been in use for many years now as the flag of the armed resistance, the FALINTIL).
Jorge Candeias, 27 August 1999

Everything is pointing in the direction of abandon of the red-black-yellow colours. However, these colours are retained in the coat of arms in the canton. It might also happen that some other flag gets adopted (the independentists are insisting very much on reconciliation, and they might go for a more neutral design because of that.
Jorge Candeias, 01 September 1999

Considering the recent events in East Timor and the foreseeable tense relations between the novel country and it’s former occupant in the near future, I wouldn’t be surprised if the red and black flag makes a comeback in the next months…
António Martins, 19 September 1999

It came back already! Red-yellow-black flags (i.e., both the arrowhead and the flag of FRETILIN) are the most seen in demonstrations here in Portugal and, from what I’ve seen on TV, also abroad. However, this could be related with the difficulty of finding proper CNRT/FALINTIL flags to fly. In fact the “old” flag(s) is much simpler than the “new” one. Let’s wait and see what happens now that the killing seems to be over.
Jorge Candeias, 21 September 1999

But is still might happened as in Namibia, where the new national flag was different than expected…
António Martins, 17 August 1999