Subject: GLW: East Timorese appeal for justice

East Timorese appeal for justice

On March 10, resources minister Ian MacFarlane introduced bills into both houses of Australian parliament that would pressure the East Timorese government to ratify the highly unfair international unitisation agreement.

This agreement, between Timor and the corporations involved in the Greater Sunrise gas fields, will provide East Timor with just 18% of the Greater Sunrise revenue.

Although East Timor had agreed to ratify it, that country is now holding out in an attempt to force the Australian government to renegotiate the maritime boundary between the two countries. East Timor wants it set mid-way, which would provide it with a fair division of revenue. Canberra is refusing to negotiate.

The bill was passed in the House of Representatives, with the support of the ALP, but in the Senate, Labor blocked with the Greens and Democrats to send the legislation into review.

At the World Social Forum, in Mumbai, India in early February, East Timorese activists gave an impassioned appeal to Australian solidarity activists to pressure our government to give the Timorese a fairer deal.

Tomas Freitas, a researcher with La'o Hamutuk in East Timor, gave the following presentation:

"Since the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, when people around the world saw the Indonesian military kill more than 200 young people, there has been considerable solidarity with East Timor. Many came to support independence for East Timor.

"Since the referendum in 1999, which led to independence for East Timor, Timorese people have faced something different. When the United Nations arrived in East Timor, it brought the International Finance Institution with it. The UN has set up East Timor as its own project, doing what it thinks is good without consulting the East Timorese people.

"What kind of independence have we got from the United Nations, without justice, without sovereignty, without independence of economy?

"The majority of Timor-Leste's people are victims of crimes against humanity committed between 1975 and 1999. The architects and perpetrators of these crimes should be held accountable.

"The United Nations and Indonesian investigating commissions in 2000 recommended the establishment of an international tribunal if other processes prove ineffective. We are now asking the international community to make good on that promise. None of the trials so far - neither the United Nations Serious Crimes Unit trial in East Timor, nor the ad-hoc tribunal in Jakarta - have done this.

"We urge the international community not to run away from the process it initiated, but to use all available mechanisms, including economic and political pressure, to compel Indonesia to cooperate. If the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses were brought to justice, they wouldn't be able to continue their crimes in Aceh and West Papua.

"The Australian government - our so-called friend - refuses to agree on a fair maritime boundary. We are unable to exploit all of the natural resources which are legally ours under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

"Unless we can agree on this boundary, we do not know where the limits of our new country are - nor can we exploit all the resources that are rightfully ours. The future economic independence of Timor Leste [East Timor] relies on using these natural resources - in an ecologically responsible and sustainable way.

"Timor Leste faces a budget shortfall for the years 2005-2007, since the international consultants who guided our national planning process did not anticipate delays in earning revenues from the oil fields which Australia doesn't lay claim to.

"We ask our supporters in Australia to demand their government:

"1. Seriously and quickly negotiate a fair maritime boundary according to current international legal principles;

"2. Rejoin legal processes for impartial resolution of maritime boundary disputes that cannot be settled by negotiation;

"3. Stop exploitation, exploration, and the signing of new contracts for areas closer to the coastline of Timor Leste than to Australia;

"4. Place any revenues the Australian government has received from these disputed areas in escrow, for future apportionment between Australia and Timor when the boundary has been settled;

"5. Respect Timor Leste as a sovereign nation and equal negotiating partner, entitled to full rights and protections under international law, rather than taking unfair advantage of this nation's size, inexperience and difficult economic situation.

"We in East Timor can stand by ourselves. We don't need charity. But we need justice for a people and access to what is rightfully ours. We need international support to continue pursuing those who killed our people and to stop our powerful neighbor from stealing our oil, the future of our children.

"Our country needs international solidarity to get through this period, so that we can emerge as a stable, self-sufficient nation. We, the East Timorese people, encourage you to continue to support Timor Leste as you have done since 1999, so we can finally complete our struggle for true independence. Thank you for all you have done so far."

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From Green Left Weekly, March 17, 2004.

From Australia's Green Left Weekly 

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