Occupying the eastern part of the island of Timor, and about 550km north of Australia, East Timor became Asia's newest nation when it restored independence on May 20, 2002. The country first declared independence on November 28, 1975, after 400 years of Portuguese colonisation. But that status was short-lived as the Indonesian army rolled in nine days later. Jakarta's occupation, which lasted 24 years, was followed by 21/2 years of UN administration. The latter was preceded by the vote for self-determination in a referendum held in August-September 1999. East Timor's past has long been marred by abuses and poverty. Portugal ran it as a penal colony and did nothing for the indigenous people. Jakarta built a few schools and medical facilities, but failed to control its military, which ran amok during the occupation and financed armed militias to do its dirty work when the people voted for independence. In the days after the vote, more than 1,000 people were killed and the country was burned to the ground. Rebuilding has been difficult, marked by grave uncertainty and a lack of an educated middle-class. Fresh hope has arrived in the shape of revenue from offshore oil and gas reserves, which has increased nine-fold to US$351 million since 2003. More will flow in with the controversial ratification of the agreement with Australia to develop the Greater Sunrise reserves, located between the two countries. Production will start in 2013 and generate US$10 billion in revenues over its productive life. However, most of the present and future revenue is to be locked in a Petroleum Fund that will be 'saved for future generations'.