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Liurai is a ruler's title on Timor. The word is Tetun and literally means "surpassing the earth". It is originally associated with Wehali, a ritually central kingdom situated at the south coast of Central Timor. The sacral lord of Wehali, the Maromak Oan enjoyed a ritually passive role, and he kept the Liurai as the executive ruler of the land. In the same way, the rulers of two other important princedoms, Sonbai in West Timor and Likusaen (Liquica) in East Timor, were often referred as Liurais, which indicated a symbolic tripartition of the island. In later history, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the term Liurai underwent a process of inflation. By this time it denoted any ruler in the Portuguese part of Timor, great or small. In the Dutch part in West Timor the title appears to have been restricted to the Sonbai and Wehali rulers. The rulers in the west were known by the Malay term raja, while there were internally used terms such as Usif (lord) among the Dawan-speaking groups, and Loro (sun) among the Tetun speakers.
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