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East Timor is the world's newest country and, like most newborns, it's constantly screaming its tits off so that nobody can get any sleep. Luckily for the rest of the region, though, it's always Australia that has to get up in the middle of the night to burp the little bastard.
East Timor is about half of a pissant little island on the edge of Indonesia. It is only about 400km north of Australia, so the capital, Dili, is by far the closest place to Darwin with more than one pub. Thirsty Darwinians sick of their own locals have been know to catch a dugong across the Torres Strait just to enjoy a change of scene while imbibing a few tall, frosty tins of amber nectar (bloody VB, of course).
As well as being the world's youngest country, East Timor is also the poorest. Australia gives it a little bit of pocket money, perhaps because it feels a bit guilty about having helped itself to the natural gas reserves of the Timor Gap. The East Timorese are proud of the start they've made on their economic development, however, and proudly post their GDP on the national flag at the end of each financial year. At the moment, both GDP and flag stand at 25 cents.
There was much debate about what the flag should look like, but the East Timorese finally plumped for a design that incorporated a split-tailed gecko. This symbolises the fact that the country could be easily torn in half from the arsehole up at any moment. The East Timorese also showed their self-deprecating sense of humor by adopting the small fry of a local fish as their national animal.
|Motto: "Run for the hills!"|
|National Anthem: Xanana in Pyjamas|
|Official languages|| Portuguese, Tetum, |
|Government||What day is it?|
|National heroes|| Xanana "In Pyjamas" Gusmao, Patrick Viera |
de Mello, Vasco "In Pyjamas" da Gama
|Currency||Postage stamps, coconuts|
East Timor was founded by the Portuguese in 1552, when Vasco da Gama mistakenly thought he'd discovered Brazil. Or at least Goa. Da Gama's famous quote, Para a causa da foda, diga-me ao menos que é Macao. Ao menos esse furo da merda tem um casino ("For fuck's sake, at least tell me it's Macao. At least that shithole has a casino"), was immediately inscribed in wet cement out the front of the presidential palace in Dili, where it remains to this day.
Over the ensuing centuries the Portuguese had a few gos at trying to make an escudo out of the place, but found that it was about as rich in natural resources as Liechtenstein and that the locals were as about as industrious as the average Australian.
The place was forgotten about again until 1943, when it was rediscovered by Japanese tourists. Overnight it became a magnet for young Australians who liked playing a game called "Diggers and Nips" with their new Japanese chums. The game itself was a primitive form of paintball but with balls of lead instead of paint, and Mum didn't take you home and make you a nice warm mug of Milo when you got shot in the face. In the spirit of multicultural friendship, the Australians and the Japanese generously involved thousands of East Timorese in the game, even though they couldn't afford to buy their own guns.
Then in 1975, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam magnanimously handed the place over to Indonesia, along with the gift of 16 Australian journalists to be slaughtered alongside the native Timorese. Britain came to the party too, supplying 24 Hawk ground-attack aircraft so that the Indonesians could bomb the bejaysus out of the few Timorese who had managed to high-tail it to the hills.
Luckily, one of those who did escape the clutches of the evil TNI (Indonesian military) was Xanana "In Pyjamas" Gusmao, a cuddly cartoon character who kept a warm, fuzzy, romantic kind of fairytale insurgency going for decades. This despite successive Australian governments spending those decades training Indonesia's not-so-warm-and-fuzzy special forces in the art of torture, sorry, "vigorous interrogation".
In the end (1999) East Timorese voted "Bugger off him one fella Indonesia" and declared independence. This resulted in another wholesale slaughter by the departing Indonesian army and local militias. Australian Prime Minister and American Deputy Sherriff John Howard famously sent in the Australian Army to prevent a feared trickle of refugees. This ushered in a years-long UN babysitting mission headed by UN special envoy Patrick Viera de Mello (who was later killed in an apparently unrelated bombing in Baghdad). Then the UN lost interest and went home and it was left to Australia to go up there every few hours to stop the little bastard wailing and chucking the toys out of the cot.
Economyin a somewhat parlous state economically, especially since Australia pocketed the gigantic Timor Gap natural gas reserves as protection money.
Some analysts believe that East Timor has tourism potential, but that's bullshit. With all the coups, machete-wielding militias and general lawlessness going on you'd be better off taking your chances with the bombs in Bali or the landmines in Cambodia. And let's face it, there's nothing to do in Timor anyway. Unless maybe you get off on watching riots and arson.
Even when it comes to simply putting a bit of tucker on the table, the East Timorese are also at something of a disadvantage. They can't even fish because they didn't actually inherit a maritime boundary from Indonesia, and Australia has successfully asserted that its territorial waters go right up to the low-tide mark in Dili.
For refugee purposes, however, the water has been legally excised from the Australian immigration zone, as has the rest of Australia. The only way an East Timorese can apply for refugee status in Australia is to personally knock on the door of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's office in Parliament House in Canberra. Though since it looks like you've had a touch of the tarbrush there, Curly, you won't be getting past the front gate.
Politicspiss-up in a brewery.
People and culture
Most East Timorese are Roman Catholic, as if the poor bastards didn't have enough problems already.
Bananas and pyjamas and Bananas in Pyjamas also play important roles in East Timorese cultural life. The East Timorese affinity for the stripey winter bedwear is a tradition that dates back to the morning that a hung-over Vasco "In Pyjamas" da Gama first set foot on Timorese soil without getting dressed (he'd been sleeping one off and had to be woken by the bosun when they got there).
Upon independence, Xanana "In Pyjamas" Gusmao declared traditional East Timorese pyjamas to be the new nation's national dress. He had personally worn the same pair for the duration of his 25-year guerrilla war against the Indonesian military.
The sanity-testing Australian children's show Bananas in Pyjamas is the highest-rating show on East Timorese television. This is because East Timor is too poor to afford its own TV station and the only thing it can pick up is the Australian government's Television Free Asia-Pacific propaganda service. Apart from loads of self-serving drivel about how great Australia is (but don't even think about trying to get in here), all it shows is Bananas in Pyjamas and re-runs of Blue Heelers.