May 20, 2002. (Front page feature story)
New nation of East Timor to issue stamps May 20
By Glen Stephens
A new stamp issuing country will emerge this month.
It will be
the first new free country formed this Millennium.
The newly independent nation of East Timor will release their debut stamp issue May 20. This date marks the handing over by the UN of full independence to the new country.
May 20 was selected as it was the founding date anniversary of the Fretelin independence party.
The set of 4 stamps have been designed and printed and marketed by Australia Post. No charge will be made to East Timor for this service, and all proceeds from the stamp sales will go the East Timor government.
Stamp denominations are in US dollars - the initial currency of this new nation. All the wording on the stamps is in the official language Portuguese.
East Timor is
located on the eastern part of Timor Island on the Malay archipelago.
The era was first discovered by the Portuguese in the early 16th Century
who claimed it as a colony. The first Timor stamps issued 1885 were the
stamps of another nearby Portuguese colony - Macao, simply overprinted
Most later issues were printed in Europe and were denominated in Portuguese currency, centavos and escudos. Timor had a very conservative stamp issuing policy and many valuable sets are among them . The last set issued by the Portuguese government was in December 1973.
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 November 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).
Despite Gusmao's jailing, world leaders frequently requested they meet with him during visits to Jakarta. Former South African President Nelson Mandela first met with him in July 1997 and pleaded with then-President Soeharto to release him.
The UN took over the territory's administration in October 1999. World pressure on Indonesia that year led to an announcement of free elections. On September 7 2001 the first-ever democratic East Timor elections installed Gusmao's Fretelin party as the new government.
East Timor is one of the poorest countries on earth. Today under UN protection and with a UN Transitional Administration assisting in the peaceful handover to a new government, the East Timorese people are rebuilding their nation.
The UN has said that up to 98% of the capital city Dili was torched by the Indonesians and their sympathizers. Destruction of crops and infrastructure was immense.
government have since drafted and adopted their country's first
constitution, adopted their national flag and national anthem. In April
2002 there was a vote for President of the new country of East Timor.
Gusmao won in a violence free landslide vote.
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. Large numbers of islanders were murdered in this period.
Senior police and Indonesian military officers from that time are undergoing trial now in Indonesia for alleged Crimes Against Humanity in the southwest Timorese town of Suai.
Australia's lead role in the UN 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, as they often follow the practices and policies of previous administrations.
However in the case of East Timor, this was 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.
UNTAET the United Nations body charged with the interim administration of East Timor, recognised the significance of postage stamps in the birth of the new nation.
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 responded not only with advice but offered to design, produce and market the first East Timor stamp issue, free of any cost.
In making this offer Australia Post was conscious that the design of the stamps must reflect the new nation's aspirations and therefore must involve East Timorese people in the process.
Two Australia Post staff 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 and on the basis of these discussions six draft designs were presented to the East Timor interim government (which by now had now taken over responsibility from UNTAET on the project).
The new East Timor interim government selected four designs for its first issue - featuring the national flag; the national symbol (a crocodile); an important industry (coffee growing); and ceremonial palm fronds.
To guard against forgery a special security feature on the stamps is microprinting. 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.
Australia Post will provide two million stamps to East Timor and the stamps are being produced by Sprintpak (SNP Ausprint) Australia Post's internationally renowned philatelic production division.
David Maiden the Manager of Australia Post philatelic division told me today: "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" he said.
Australia Post has also appointed the international stamp agent Georg Roll of Germany to handle international sales and distribution. Australia Post advised me today that their USA agent Unicover of Cheyenne Wyoming will not be handling this issue.
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 colours. Australia Post asked the Murak
Rai Foundation in Dili to weave a 'united tais' from the thirteen regional
designs in to a single national cloth.
The four designs are:
25c - Crocodile - a symbol of the traditional Timorese foundation story.
50c - Palm Frond - a symbol of welcome and celebration shown on the beach in Dili, the new nation's capital city.
$1 - Coffee - a symbol of the 90 per cent of the country's population living in rural areas, and the potential for further development of the export economy.
$2 - National Flag - one of the official symbols of the new nation, as specified in the new nation's constitution. ("The national symbols of the Democratic Republic of East Timor shall be the flag, the emblem and the national anthem").
Mint stamps in sets of 4 or mint blocks of 4 sets (no selvedge) or complete sheets 50 are available from the Australian Philatelic Bureau. No other configurations will be supplied. No CTO stamps or sets will be available.
A first day cover cancelled in the capital Dili on May 20 will be also available from the Bureau, as will the set of 4 in a stamp pack.
Australia Post has advised 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.
Issue date ..........................20 May 2002
Denominations .................... US25c, US50c, US$1.00, US$2.00
Photographers …... 50c, $2.00 Ross Bird $1.00 Daniel Groshong/David Boyce
Designer ............................Janet Boschen, Australia Post
Printer ..............................SNP Ausprint
Paper ................................Tullis Russell red phosphor
Stamp size..........................40.28 x 30 mm
Perforations ........................14 x 14.4
Sheet layout ......................50 stamps no gutter
Printing process ..................Lithography
National postmark ..............Dili East Timor
information contact the Australian Philatelic Bureau, Box 4000, Ferntree
Gully, Victoria 3156, Australia. e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or
Glen Stephens is a philatelic journalist and stamp dealer based in Sydney, Australia.
All content Copyright 2000 Linn's Stamp News, of Sidney, Ohio, USA and by the author Glen Stephens.
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