Vicki Poole: Timor-Leste a bridge between Asia and the Pacific

People in Timor-Leste are Melanesian, Polynesian and Indonesian in heritage, says Vicki Poole. (Photo: 123RF)

Timor-Leste’s geo-strategic location between Indonesia and Australia makes it a bridge between Asia and the Pacific, says Vicki Poole, New Zealand Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

Vicki Poole: “Timor-Leste is the second-newest country in the world. In 1999, the New Zealand Defence Forces went in with Australia and other countries to help liberate Timor-Leste. The Indonesians had been occupying the small country for 25 years. So they had three years of a transition. New Zealand police came in as well to help boost the peace and security in the country.

In 2002, they set up a new government, so they are only 16 years old. It makes them pretty new, and they were starting from a very low base.

In terms of how we perceive them, Timor-Leste’s situated between Asia and the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean flows into the Indian Ocean in three places in the world – and two of them are on the north and south of this little island-country. So they are really this bridge between Asia and the Pacific. 

People are Melanesian and Polynesian, and they are also Indonesian in their heritage. Having worked in the Pacific I can see a lot of similarities. New Zealanders who worked in the Pacific go to Timor and say, ‘Oh, this is quite Asian’. New Zealanders who worked in Asia who come to Timor say, ‘Wow, this is a really Pacific country’. So it is right on the cusp. It’s geo-strategically situated between Indonesia and Australia. It’s got the Pacific flowing through. It’s got this mixed ethnicity. So, we feel part of Timor, and they feel part of us.

I think the big thing to try and remember when we are trying to help Timor-Leste is that this is a new country. It’s got so many challenges, from economic development, feeding its kids and getting them into school, and building up the capacity of government.”

Read the full interview with Vicki Poole, New Zealand Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

– Asia Media Centre