[ISG] Migrants, citizens and the new transnationalism among Indonesians in Timor Leste


Since 1999 referendum, bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste is good from the get-go and improve over time. Recently, when President Jokowi visits Timor Leste, he pledged to enhance close relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste, and he wished to reaffirm commitment to be the main partner in the development in Timor Leste. “This relationship manifest in so many sectors,” Andrey Damaledo, one of the recipients of Indonesia Project’s research grant, argued. The strong partnership manifested in trade relationship (Indonesia mainly export: instant noodle, tobacco, cigarettes, mineral water, and oil; while Timor Leste primarily export: water buffalo, timber, and sand), business relationship among its citizens, education (many Timorese studying in Indonesia’s university, defence (joint patrol between two nations), and many more.


Andrey Damaledo at Indonesia Study Group, Indonesia Project

The healthy relationship between the two nations is not only between the two governments but also among the citizens of the two countries. Andrey argues that there are at least three essential channels in which this transnationalism among Indonesian and Timor Leste spur. The first significant channel is through kinship. Many Indonesians who move out to Indonesia in the referendum only did so temporarily and went back to Timor Leste because many of their family are Timorese due to “cross marriages between Indonesian and Timorese. The second, is faith. Religion has played important role in reintegration between Indonesian and Timorese. One major example is, there is one Timorese “imam” in Indonesian mosque in Timor Leste. This is rarely found before the referendum. Finally, the last channel is through food. Food has brought together Indonesia and Timor Leste in an intimate way. “If you mention “warung” in Dili, they will know its Javanese.”

Apart from this three critical channels, Andrey also argues that several other channels are driving the transnationalism between the two countries, namely: employment, trading, education, comradeship, and mobility between the two countries.

The presentation material for this discussion is available for download here, and the podcast here.