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Challenges of Constructing Postcolonial Unity: Timor-Leste as a Case Study



Following Indonesia's removal from Timor-Leste in 1999, there was a question as to whether the newly independent state and the institutions that manifested it could build their own legitimacy. In order to be successful, this process needed to be more than just an alternative to Indonesian occupation; it needed to work toward constructing a state representing the aspirations of its people in a way that reflected the maintenance of a bonded political identity. This article considers how the idea of that bonded Timor-Leste political identity was formed, the types of circumstances that undermined such a sense of national identity, and where its weaknesses might still lie. This article then considers the claims to legitimate authority of separatist organizations, in this case the Timor-Leste resistance, by which it sought to represent the wishes of its constituency. Finally, the article addresses the creation and embedding of civic institutions.