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East Timor

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Last modified: 2023-12-09 by zachary harden
Keywords: east timor | timor-leste | timór lorosaʔe | star: 5 points (white) | arrowhead | triangle (black): hoist | leitão (natalino) | law | rdtl | constitution |
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Repúblika Demokrátika Timór Lorosae / República Democrática de Timor Leste (Democratic Republic of East Timor)

Flag of East Timor CSW/CSW image by Manuel Gabino, 28 September 2002
See also: External links:

About the flag

Following the (overwhelming) victory of FRETILIN in the parliamentary elections, the constitutional assembly restored all the symbols from the 1975 independence, including the name, the flag, the anthem, etc. The hymn is causing some uproar, and will probably have its lyrics changed, but the version sang in the independence ceremony was the 1975 one. In the ceremony, by the way, what was declared was the "restoration of the independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor"…
Jorge Candeias, 20 May 2002

In East Timor only the national flag is prescribed by the Constitution, while all other national symbols must be described by special laws.
Jan Zrzavy, 17 May 2002

The constitutional assembly finally approved East Timor’s constitution on 22 March 2002. As for the flag, the community consultations on the draft constitution produced some wishes to add the colour green to the flag. However, in the final revision of the constitution’s section 15, only a minor linguistic change was made, a revision that removes the confusing reference to the colour red as "vermelho-púrpura" (purple-red). The constitution is now clear, the colour is simply called "red".

In the final document a change was also made to the official symbolism of the yellow colour. Whereas golden-yellow was said in the draft to represent "the wealth of the country", the official meaning is now that this colour stands for "the traces of colonialism". Black still represents "the obscurantism that needs to be overcome", red is for "the struggle for national liberation" and white symbolizes "peace".
Jan Oskar Engene
, 03 May 2002

The East Timor national flag will be raised tomorrow (20 May 2002) at the nation’s independence celebrations. (Darwin based manufacturer Ron Strachan who has had made and supplied the new flag for East Timor, informed me earlier today that eyelets have been placed along the top of the large 7,2 m × 3,6 m flag so that it may be raised or displayed horizontally depending upon the conditions on the day.
Ralph Bartlett, 19 May 2002

The 2002 Corr. Nº2 [pay02] to the Album [pay00] shows a 1:2 red flag with a five-pointed white star on a black triangle at hoist superimposed on a yellow triangle, and marks it for all uses: CSW/CSW
Željko Heimer, 30 March 2003

In Tetum language, the territory is called Timór Loro Saʔe, meaning "Timor of the rising sun". This is the name adopted for the new state. In the other two official languages of the country, Portuguese and Bahasa Indonesian, it’s spelled "Timor-Leste" and "Timor Timur", respectively (both meaning "east-east" because "Timor" is a Portuguese (or local) corruption of "timur", "east").
Jorge Candeias, 29 October 1999

From the UN web page:

27 September — The General Assembly will admit Timor-Leste, formerly East Timor, as the 191st Member State of the United Nations today.
Interesting, isn’t it? It seems that Timor-Leste will be listed as UN member under its Portuguese, not English name, like Cote d’Ivoire and Myanmar.
Jan Zrzavy, 27 September 2002

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 ) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be. For Timor Leste, PMS 485 red, 123 yellow and black. The vertical flag  is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 11 October 2012

Flag laws

Flag law (2007)

The law about the national symbols only talks about the size of the flags [not ratios], check on line (Portuguese language).
J. Patrick Fischer, 09 July 2007

Image in the 2007 flag law

Wrong flag of East Timor image by António Martins, 07 September 2007

The annex to this law shows a very crude solid back and white image of a ~7:12 flag, horizontally asymmetrical (upper part noticeably smaller than the rest, should be a mirror half), and the star misplaced and misshapen. Could this be a squeezed version of the infamous first draft of the “new” flag as specified by UNTAET in 2002? A very incorrect, yet legal design.

António Martins, 07 September 2007

Constitution (2002)

Section 15
(National Flag)

  • 1. The National Flag is rectangular and is formed by two isosceles triangles, the bases of which are overlapping. One triangle is black and its height is equal to one-third of the length overlapped to the yellow triangle, whose height is equal to half the length of the Flag. In the centre of the black triangle there is a white star of five ends, meaning the light that guides. The white star has one of its ends turned towards the upper right end of the flag. The remaining part of the flag is red.
  • 2. The colours mean:
    • Yellow: the traces of colonialism;
    • Black: the obscurantism that needs to be overcome;
    • Red: the struggle for national liberation;
    • White: peace.

Jan Oskar Engene, 03 Mar 2002,
quoting from this document

My translation and comment from the Portuguese language original:

1. The national flag consists of two isosceles (i.e. symmetrical) triangles with superimposed bases (the odd side of each triangle), being one triangle black, and as high as one third of the length of the flag, supposedly, which is set over the yellow triangle, whose height is half of the length of the flag. On the center of the black triangle there is a white five-pointed star, standing for the guiding light. The white star is pointed to the upper left corner of the flag (meaning supposedly top hoist). The rest of the flag is red.

I had expect to find a disposition that a more detailed law would set all remaining details, as constitutions often do, but there is none. The text is almost untouched (comparing with the 1975 version), even in those points it would need some revision — namely in the evident misplacement of the meaning of the star within the geometric details, and not in the symbolism section. The construction prescription, however verbose, is ambiguous as flag laws tend to be — the part about the triangles could be describing St. Lucia instead.
António Martins
, 08 Jan 2003

Flying the National Flag on Solemn Days

Media Release from Government of Timor-Leste:
The Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers and Official Spokesperson for the Government of Timor-Leste Ágio Pereira,
July 30, 2011
Dili, Timor-Leste

Flying the National Flag on Solemn Days
The National Flag and the National Anthem are the unifying symbols of the Timorese Nation, representing national sovereignty and the independence, unity and integrity of Timor-Leste. As such, they must be respected by all Timorese citizens, regardless of their political convictions, religious beliefs and social origins.

It is an obligation of the State to ensure that every Timorese citizen throughout the country respects the National Symbols, particularly the National Flag and the National Anthem. This is even more so on Solemn Days associated with important and meaningful dates for the Nation's sovereignty and independence.

Acknowledging that civil servants have a greater responsibility in terms of giving the proper respect to the National Symbols, the Government has decided to Fly the National Flag in all State Agencies and education establishments on 2 February (Falintil-FDTL Day), 27 March, (PNTL Day), 20 August, (FALINTIL Day) and on the first Monday of every month.

The National Flag will be raised on these dates at 8:00 AM, starting next 1 August, in a ceremony to be attended by all civil servants working at the various State Departments, who will sing the National Anthem.

Any citizens wishing to associate themselves with this initiative are hereby invited to attend the designated places, namely the Government Palace, Ministries, Secretariats of State, education establishments and other State agencies, on the dates above.
J. Patrick Fischer, 31 July 2011

Reverence for the flag

An incident where the national flag was dropped on the ground illustrates reverence the East Timorese have for their flag:
"One of the honor guards dropped part of the flag on the ground... There was a collective gasp... The guard was in shock himself... Many Timorese are superstitious and that includes issues concerning the flag. Some believe what happened yesterday is a bad omen -- signaling trouble ahead.
J. Patrick Fischer, 21 May 2009

Differences respective to 1975


You can find every variation (1:2, 2:3) of all flags in Timor-Leste, because the law about the national symbols only talks about the size of the flags [not the ratio].
J. Patrick Fischer, 09 July 2007

The 1:2 ratio is not prescribed in the constitution, only in the UNTAET specifications. (As also the darker color shades.)
António Martins, 25 September 2002

I was in Timor Leste (East Timor, Timor Lorosae) in the end of June 2002; the flags, made of cotton, are 1:2, maybe because they were produced in Australia (I heard it here). Paper flags and flags on T-Shirts are 2:3. They seem to be as official as the 1:2, because in Timorese parliament, the representatives has paper flags on their table.
J. Patrick Fischer, 07 August 2002

Why did all or nearly all the East Timorese flags in use all these years have been 2:3 or whereabouts?
Jorge Candeias, 26 May 2002

Though the ratio was not fixed in the 1975 constitution, 2:3 has been in consistent use ever since. I cant’ see any valid reason for the new 1:2 ratio — but apparently it is the law. (I just hope it was not “imposed” by some kind of manufacturing constraints made in Australia…)
António Martins, 22 May 2002

My point is that the recently re-approved DRET constitution of 1975 should have caused the approval of the 2:3 ratio established by tradition based upon that very document. Any contrary opinions should prove either that there was no such tradition or that the original constitution prescribed 1:2 after all.
António Martins, 10 June 2002

In 1978, Vexilologie 27 [vex] has presented some details on the East Timorese national flag (i.e. that of 1975). As a source, FB XVI:4 [tfb] is mentioned. According to this article, the 1975 flag is exactly the same as the present day, including the flag ratio 1:2. As an author of the flag is mentioned Natalino Leitão, and description of the flag is reported as in Article No. 20 of the (former) constitution.
Jan Zrzavy, 26 May 2002

The ETAN website says:

The flag that will be hoisted tomorrow night had been hastily designed before November 28 by Natalino Leitao, a Fretilin militant who was to die soon after resisting the full-scale invasion launched 10 days after his flag first flew.
J. Patrick Fischer, 23 September 2006

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste has been admitted in the UN. The flag shown in this photo is 2:3 as all those hoisted outside the UN building.
Manuel Gabino, 27 September 2002

It’s interesting to note that the very same UN who come up with a never-heard-of prescription for 1:2 national flag ratio, now uses a 2:3 flag at its flag yard in New York.
António Martins, 30 September 2002

Orientation of the star?

The only variation was (in 1975-1999) ever the orientation of the star, mostly depicted pointing up. Unlike the ratio and color shades, though, the orientation of the star (to upper hoist) is specified in the constitution.
António Martins, 27 May 2002 and 25 September 2002

Flag on stamps

The stamps issued by East Timor on 20 May 2002, with the inscription "Independência 2002" include a $2 value showing this very flag.
Mike Oettle, 26 June 2002

Australia Post has designed and printed the first postage stamps for newly independent East Timor. One of the four stamps shows the national flag, as also the First Day Cover.
Ralph Bartlett, 23 May 2002

Air Craft Marking

image by Zachary Harden, 1 September 2020

This 2018 article shows a plane operated by the Air Force (F-FDTL) shows two different markings on the aircraft. By the aircraft's nose, there is an image of the national flag; on the fin there is the badge of the Armed Forces. I am not sure when this was first used or if there is an outline around the black badge.
Zachary Harden, 1 September 2020

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