Run 116 : East Timor – Dili

rtw east timor 10

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 7th August, 2017

Time :  57’ 44”

Total distance run to date : 1160 km

Run map and details :

Jet lag. Jet lag. Jet lag.

Some people seem to be able to deal with it. Take my sister for instance. She can fly from continent to continent giving a lecture there, chairing a conference here, educating everywhere, without skipping a beat.

I, on the other hand, cannot. To be fair, I’m not too bad going west. That’s just a matter of going to bed and getting up later. Which is something I practice most weekends.

But going east is a different matter. At best I can adjust at the rate of about an hour a day. Which is something I should have remembered when I agreed to Luke the ever patient travel agent’s suggestion of a 5.45am flight from Darwin to Dili, the capital of East Timor.

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Having fallen asleep at 3am, and then been woken by my alarm at 4am, I wasn’t overjoyed when my taxi was 15 minutes late. Especially as I’d cut the schedule a little fine in the hope of more sleep.

Still I managed to restrict myself to a reasonably cheery “you had me a little worried there ” when I got into the cab. “No worries ” was the response.

Anyone who’s been to Australia will know that the expression “no worries” is as ubiquitous as “cheers” is in the UK. And when it means “you’re welcome”, or “not a problem” , then it’s perfectly pleasant and even quite addictive (you hear it more and more in the UK these days and I even got a ‘no worries’ when I checked in to my hotel in Estonia the other day).

rtw east timor 8

As a response to a stated concern, however, it can be quite annoying. The pedant in me wants to say, “No, you’re wrong. There is a worry and, since you’re responsible for it, I’d like you to fix it.” But then I reflected that my driver probably wasn’t enjoying being up at that time in the morning any more than I was – and I kept my pedantry to myself.

Not that it really mattered because, as is almost always the case, there was no need to get to the airport more than an hour in advance of the flight. In fact I had time for a nice chat with the man at the check-in counter who’d heard all about Run the World from some running contacts in Darwin. Fame can be a heady thing…

I landed in Dili to discover that there were no maps available and no connectivity on my phone. And the last time I’d looked at East Timor on Google Maps had been more than a week ago. In short, I didn’t know where I was going.

So I devised the imaginative plan of running into town on the main road – and then turning round at roughly the 5 km mark and running back to the airport. With the vague hope that I might bump into something interesting along the way.

Putting my plan into action, I immediately came across a reasonably impressive, if to me anonymous, monument and had my ‘proof of presence’ picture taken.

rtw east timor 4 (2)

I later discovered that it was a statue of the Timorese martyr and independence hero Nicolau Lobato. Lobato had been Prime Minister in 1975 for the brief period between East Timor’s independence and its invasion by Indonesian troops. He subsequently fought the Indonesians only to be killed by Lieutenant Prabowo Subianto who was later to become President Suharto of Indonesia’s son-in-law. (There’s something about this story that smacks of a PR campaign to me – but perhaps I’m just being cynical. Whatever the truth of the matter, Subianto was to go on to have a very successful career in the army before moving into business and politics.)

From Lobato’s memorial I ran along a slightly too narrow pavement navigating bus waiters, drive ways, turn offs, a flock of chickens and a fly encrusted meat stall. I eventually  made it to the harbour where I had a faint view of one of East Timor’s main attractions – the 27 metre high statue of Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) statue. If you squint you may be able to make it out in the left hand corner of the picture below.

rtw east timor 2

And here’s what it looks like from a little closer up and via a better photographer.

rtw east timor 6

After that it was a fairly uneventful run back to the airport and a wait for the 11.15 flight back to Darwin.

As I sat there in a semi-comatose, ‘I’ve spent more time running than sleeping in the last 24 hours’ state, a man came and sat down next to me.




“Are you Christian or Muslim?”

“Neither, I’m not religious.”


Man left.

In retrospect I suspect that this brief and, at least by British standards, unconventional conversation spoke volumes about the divisions and bitterness of East Timor’s recent history.

Briefly (there’s more detail in Facts & Stats below), East Timor is situated in the eastern half of the island of Timor. The western half of Timor (apart from one small enclave) and most of the surrounding islands belong to Indonesia. East Timor is really only a separate country because it was colonised by Portugal in the late 16th century. It remained a Portuguese colony until independence in 1975 becoming, in the process, a predominantly Christian country in a region that is otherwise Muslim.

Indonesia, citing post-colonial unity, and with US, Australian and British support, invaded shortly after independence and imposed what is generally recognised as a bloody and brutal occupation. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt that mass murder and rape occurred and some go as far as it refer to it as genocide. (My local Amnesty group at the time – led by a wonderful woman called Helen – used to campaign against human rights abuses by Indonesian forces. Sadly, I think Helen found it hard to get much traction in the UK – even amongst Amnesty members.)

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After much violence and suffering, East Timor eventually came under UN rule in 1999 and became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century in 2002. Needless to say, the occupation left a bitter legacy. One of the people I ran with in Australia was ex-military and he’d been sent to Dili post-independence to help with reconstruction. He told that me that the East Timorese hatred was so great that they tried to destroy anything and everything related to the Indonesians – including valuable infrastructure that would have benefited East Timor.

My recollection is that the conflict in East Timor received relatively little coverage in Western media at the time so please do read Facts & Stats below and/or follow the genocide link above if you’re interested to learn more. Other than that it just remains for me thank you for reading this blog. Not as light-hearted as some – and no obscure musical references this week. But informative and engaging…I hope…


Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

East Timor is a sovereign state in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. The country’s size is about 15,410 km2 (5,400 sq mi).

East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until 28 November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) declared the territory’s independence. Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia’s 27th province the following year. The Indonesian occupation of East Timor was characterised by a highly violent decades-long conflict between separatist groups (especially Fretilin) and the Indonesian military.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on 20 May 2002 and joined the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. In 2011, East Timor announced its intention to gain membership status in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by applying to become its eleventh member. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines.

Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor was marked by violence and brutality. A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a minimum bound of 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 “excess” deaths from hunger and illness. The East Timorese guerrilla force (Forças Armadas da Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste, Falintil) fought a campaign against the Indonesian forces from 1975 to 1999.

The 1991 Dili Massacre was a turning point for the independence cause and an East Timor solidarity movement grew in Portugal, Australia, and other Western countries.

Following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal allowed for a UN-supervised popular referendum in August 1999. A clear vote for independence was met with a punitive campaign of violence by East Timorese pro-integration militia with the support of elements of the Indonesian military. With Indonesian permission, an Australian-led multi-national peacekeeping force was deployed until order was restored. In late 1999, the administration of East Timor was taken over by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The INTERFET deployment ended in February 2000 with the transfer of military command to the UN.

On 30 August 2001, the East Timorese voted in their first election organised by the UN to elect members of the Constituent Assembly. On 22 March 2002, the Constituent Assembly approved the Constitution. By May 2002, over 205,000 refugees had returned. On 20 May 2002, the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor came into force and East Timor was recognised as independent by the UN. The Constituent Assembly was renamed the National Parliament and Xanana Gusmão was sworn in as the country’s first President. On 27 September 2002, East Timor was renamed to Timor-Leste, using the Portuguese language, and was admitted as a member state by the UN.

The following year, Gusmão declined another presidential term, and in the build-up to the April 2007 presidential elections there were renewed outbreaks of violence. José Ramos-Horta was elected President in the May 2007 election,] while Gusmão ran in the parliamentary elections and became Prime Minister. Ramos-Horta was critically injured in an attempted assassination in February 2008. Prime Minister Gusmão also faced gunfire separately but escaped unharmed. Australian reinforcements were immediately sent to help keep order. In 2006, the United Nations sent in security forces to restore order when unrest and factional fighting forced 15 percent of the population (155,000 people) to flee their homes. In March 2011, the UN handed over operational control of the police force to the East Timor authorities. The United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission on 31 December 2012.


Nicolau dos Reis Lobato (24 May 1946 – 31 December 1978) was an East-Timorese politician and national hero.

He was born in 1946 in SoibadaPortuguese Timor. Lobato was prime minister of East Timor from 28 November to 7 December 1975. Upon the arrival of the Indonesian military Lobato, along with other key Fretilin leaders, fled into the Timorese hinterland to fight against the occupying forces. On the final day of 1978 Lobato was ambushed by Indonesian special forces led by Lieutenant Prabowo Subianto (later son-in-law of President Suharto). He was killed after being shot in the stomach, and his body was brought to Dili to be inspected by Indonesian press.

Nicolau Lobato was made an East Timorese national hero. The East Timor International Airport has been named in his honour (Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport).


Subianto (born 17 October 1951) is an Indonesian businessman, politician and former Lieutenant General in the Indonesian National Armed Forces. In the Indonesian presidential election, 2009 he ran for the vice-presidency as part of Megawati Sukarnoputri‘s campaign for president. He ran for president in the Indonesian presidential election, 2014 but was defeated by Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo in a close finish, which he initially disputed.

Prabowo is the son of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, an Indonesian economist, and Dora Sigar. He is also the former husband of Titiek Suharto, the late President Suharto‘s second daughter, they were married in 1983 and divorced in 1998 during the Indonesian political crisis.


Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) is a 27.0-metre-high (88.6 ft) statue of Jesus located atop a globe in Dili, East Timor. The statue was designed by Mochamad Syailillah, who is better known as Bolil. The statue was officially unveiled by Suharto in 1996 as gift from the Indonesian government to the people of East Timor, which was at the time still a province. The statue is one of the main tourist attractions in East Timor.

The idea of raising the Cristo Rei statue was proposed by the East Timor governor José Abilio Osorio Soares to President Suharto. It was intended as a present for the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s integration into Indonesia.

Suharto appointed the director of national airline Garuda Indonesia to lead the project. Garuda was given the responsibility to find capital for funding the project, and raised 1.1 billion rupiah (US$123,000). However, that was not sufficient to erect the statue, and contributions from East Timorese civil servants and businessmen were needed to complete the project, which eventually cost more than 5 billion rupiah (US$559,000).

It took almost a year of working to create the body of the statue, which was fabricated by 30 workers in Sukaraja, Bandung. It was made of 27 separate copper sections, which were then loaded onto three trailers and shipped to Dili. Reconstruction of the statue, including the globe and a 10-meter-high cross, took three months.

It was unveiled on 15 October 1996. Roman Catholic bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, together with President Suharto and East Timor Governor José Abilio Osorio Soares, directly witnessed the revelation of this statue from the air using a helicopter.


World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for East Timor – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP                                               $1.44 bn    2015      $368 m   2000

Population                                   1.27 m       2016      872 k       2000

Primary school enrolment*      137%         2015      118%       2001

CO2 Emissions                             0.39           2014      0.18         2002

% below poverty line***          41.8            2014      36.3       2001

Life expectancy at birth            68.6 yrs      2015      59.3 yrs  2000

GNI per capita                             $2180        2015      $780        2002

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

** Metric tons per capita

***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how East Timor performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – NA

Per Capita Cup – NA

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.


About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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1 Response to Run 116 : East Timor – Dili

  1. Pingback: Run 117 : Solomon Islands – Honiara | dansgoldchallenge

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