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New nation of East Timor to issue stamps May 20
By Glen Stephens
19/05/2002 (00:00)

SYDNEY (LoveIndonesiaPhilately) - A new stamp-issuing country will emerge May 20. The newly independent nation of East Timor will be the first new free country formed this millennium. East Timor will release four stamps May 20. This date marks the handing over by the United Nations of full independence to the new country. May 20 was selected because it is the founding date anniversary of the Fretelin independence party.

East Timor will issue its first stamps as an independent nation May 20. The $2 high value of the set, shown here, depicts the new country's flag. The three other stamps in the first set are illustrated below.

The stamp set was designed and printed by Australia Post. Australia Post also will be marketing the stamps. No charge will be made to East Timor for this service, and all proceeds from the stamp sales will go the East Timor government. The stamp denominations are in United States dollars, the initial currency of this new nation. All the wording on the stamps is in Portuguese, the official language.

East Timor is located on the eastern part of Timor Island in the Malay archipelago. The area was discovered in the early 16th century by the Portuguese, who claimed it as a colony. The first Timor stamps, issued in 1885, were the stamps of another nearby Portuguese colony, Macau, overprinted "TIMOR."

Most later issues were printed in Europe and were denominated in Portuguese currency: centavos and escudos. According to the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, the last East Timor stamps issued under the Portuguese administration were a Dec. 16, 1973, set for the World Meteorological Association's 100th anniversary (Scott 345).

Indonesian forces invaded East Timor in December 1975. Estimates are that 100,000 of the 650,000 population died in 1975 alone, many from famine. An active resistance movement called Fretelin (Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor) was formed in 1974, the year before the invasion.

A rebel named Xanana Gusmao took over the leadership in 1978. On Nov. 20, 1992, Gusmao was captured by Indonesian armed forces and taken to Jakarta, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment (later commuted to 20 years). World leaders frequently requested that they meet with the jailed Gusmao during visits to Jakarta.

The United Nations took over the territory's administration in October 1999, and the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) issued two stamps April 29, 2000, for use in East Timor (350-51).

World pressure on Indonesia in 1999 led to an announcement of free elections. On Sept. 7, 2001, the first democratic East Timor elections installed Gusmao's Fretelin party as the new government. In April 2002, elections were held to vote for president. Gusmao won in a violence-free landslide vote.

East Timor will issue four stamps May 20, the same day it becomes an independent nation. The $2 Flag stamp is pictured above. The other stamps, shown here, feature a crocodile (the national symbol), ceremonial palm fronds and coffee. Click on image to enlarge.

An Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived in September 1999 in East Timor to halt the rampage by pro-Jakarta militiamen following the territory's vote for independence from Indonesia. Australia's lead role in the U.N. peacekeeping force and the large financial contribution it has made in this area has formed close ties between the two countries, hence Australia Post's involvement with this debut stamp issue.

One of the most important symbolic acts of a new nation is the issue of its first postage stamps. For most new nations this is a relatively straightforward matter, and they often follow the practices and policies of previous administrations.

However, in the case of East Timor, stamps were just one of many practical problems faced by the emerging nation as it sought to deal with the almost total lack of infrastructure resulting from the physical destruction experienced during the struggle for independence. In June 2001, UNTAET approached Australia Post for advice on how to approach the matter of stamp-issue policies and stamp production.

Australia Post was aware of the immense difficulties being faced by the East Timorese and not only responded with advice but also offered to design, produce and market the first East Timor stamp issue. David Maiden the manager of Australia Post philatelic division told me: "We are producing and marketing East Timor's first stamps as a gesture of friendship and goodwill to the East Timorese people. All proceeds from these sales will go to the East Timor government."

Maiden continued: "The direct Australia Post involvement in the design printing and marketing of the stamps applies only to the first issue, but this will clearly save the East Timor government a very substantial sum. The East Timorese government will make its own arrangements for subsequent stamp issues, but Australia Post will continue to provide advice and assistance."

Two Australia Post staff members, national media manager Gary Highland and stamp designer Janet Boschen, visited East Timor for two weeks in August 2001 to identify potential subject matter and obtain design reference material. Highland and Boschen spoke with a wide range of East Timorese people to get their input. On the basis of these discussions, six draft designs were presented to the East Timor interim government (which by then had taken over responsibility from UNTAET on the project).

The new East Timor interim government selected four designs for its first issue. They feature the national symbol (a crocodile) on the 25, ceremonial palm fronds on the 50, an important industry (coffee growing) on the $1, and the newly adopted national flag on the $2. The flag is one of the official symbols of the new nation, as specified in the country's first constitution. The other symbols are the national emblem and the national anthem.

To guard against forgery, microprinting is used on the stamps as a special security feature. Across the four stamps in very tiny Portuguese text that can only be read with a 10X magnifying glass is the traditional East Timorese legend of the crocodile. This legend tells how a crocodile grateful for a boy's kindness changes itself into the island of Timor, a home where the boy and his descendants can live in happiness and security.

The stamp design revolves around tais. Tais is a traditional East Timorese woven cloth and a natural symbol. Each region has its own style and produces distinctive patterns, symbols and colors. Australia Post asked the Murak Rai Foundation in Dili to weave a so-called united tais from the 13 regional designs into a single national cloth. This national tais is used as a unifying background design element on the stamps and as a symbol of the weaving together of past and present to create the country's future.

All four stamps are inscribed "Independencia 2002." The country's name is written as "Timor-Leste."

Australia Post will provide 2 million stamps to East Timor. Sprintpak, Australia Post's philatelic production division, printed the stamps in sheets of 50. Australian Philatelic Bureau will be selling mint East Timor stamps in sets of four or mint blocks of four sets (no selvage ) or complete panes of 50. No other configurations will be supplied. A first-day cover canceled May 20 in Dili also will be available from the bureau, as will the set of four in a stamp pack.

Australia Post advises its standing-order customers that East Timor stamps are not part of standing orders. If collectors wish to purchase the East Timor products they must order them separately. For ordering information, contact the Australian Philatelic Bureau, Box 4000, Ferntree Gully, Victoria 3156, Australia; by e-mail at or visit the bureau's web site at

Australia Post appointed the international stamp agent Georg Roll of Germany to handle international sales and distribution. Australia Post told me that its United States agent, Unicover of Cheyenne, Wyo., will not be handling the East Timor issue.

Glen Stephens is a philatelic journalist and stamp dealer based in Sydney, Australia.

Timor Leste Terbitkan Prangko

Bagi para filatelis seluruh dunia, kelahiran negara baru Timor Leste, tentu juga menjadi perhatian. Hal ini tak mengherankan, karena sebagai negara yang berdaulat, tentunya Timor Leste akan menerbitkan berbagai jenis prangko. Bagi filatelis, prangko tak pelak merupakan benda filateli utama yang dikoleksi, selain sampul (amplop) dan kartu pos yang dikirim melalui kantor pos, dan berbagai jenis benda pos lainnya. Tabloid filateli terkemuka dunia Linn's Stamp News yang diterbitkan di Ohio, Amerika Serikat, dalam edisi terbarunya memuat informasi mengenai terbitnya prangko Timor Leste menyambut kemerdekaan negara tersebut. Satu set terdiri dari empat prangko diterbitkan tepat pada hari kemerdekaan Timor Leste, 20 Mei 2002. Harga nominal tertinggi dari keempat prangko itu adalah US$ 2 yang menampilkan desain bendera negara tersebut. Sedangkan tiga prangko lainnya mempunyai desain gambar buaya dan tanaman rakyat yang terdapat di negara itu. Keempat prangko itu didesain dan dicetak oleh Dinas Pos Australia, yang juga membantu memasarkan prangko-prangko tersebut. Biaya desain dan pencetakan seluruhnya ditanggung oleh Dinas Pos Australia, dan semua hasil penjualan prangko itu diperuntukkan Pemerintah Timor Leste. Keseluruhannya dicetak sebanyak dua juta set, dan tiap prangko bertuliskan "I"I"iiiiindependencia 2002" dan nama negaranya "Timor Leste". Untuk mencegah adanya pemalsuan, digunakan pengaman berupa cetakan mikro berupa tulisan dalam Bahasa Portugis, yang hanya dapat dibaca dengan menggunakan kaca pembesar yang berkekuatan sedikitnya 10 kali dari gambar asli. Dari data sejarah, diketahui bahwa prangko Timor pertama diterbitkan pada masa pendudukan Portugal. Pada tahun 1885, prangko Macau, yang juga merupakan wilayah pendudukan Portugal, diberi cetak tindih tulisan "Timor". Sedangkan prangko Timor terakhir dari masa pendudukan Portugal adalah prangko untuk memperingati 100 tahun Asosiasi Meteorologi Dunia, yang terbit 16 Desember 1973. Setelah Timor Timur menjadi bagian dari Republik Indonesia sampai tahun 1999, juga diterbitkan beberapa prangko dengan desain seni budaya dan flora fauna khas wilayah itu. Pada masa itu, beberapa sampul peringatan filateli juga telah diterbitkan.(B-8) ------------------------------------------------------------- Last modified: 24/5/2002 Suara Pembaruan 26 Mei 2002

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