Subject: RA: E. Timor Activists Take Boundary Protest to Australia

Radio Australia April 1, 2005 -transcript-

EAST TIMOR: Activists Take Protest to Seabed Boundary to Australia

Australia wants a final decision on the boundary in the Timor sea to be deferred for up to 100 years so that oil and gas projects worth 40 billion dollars can go ahead, and has offered Dili $3 billion to put aside its concerns about sovereignty. But a group of East Timorese activists have travelled to Australia to put pressure on the government over the way oil and gas reserves are being divided up between the two countries.

Presenter/Interviewer: Ben Knight

Speakers: Tomas Freitas, Institute for Reconstruction Analysis and Monitiring in Dili

BK: Somewhere between Australia and East Timor, one country begins and the other one ends. But currently, there's no agreement on where that line should be. What's making the discussions so tricky is that any line on the map will carve through billions of dollars worth of oil and gas.

Currentlly, those resources are being shared under a treaty signed between Australia and East Timor in 2002. East Timor is pushing to have a permanent boundary set up, but has no right of appeal if Australia disagrees, since Australia withdrew from the maritime jurisdiction of the international court of justice in the same year.

There's been some progress. This month, a framework on how to divide the resources was agreed to. And both sides say they're still hopeful a boundary deal can be worked out. But those outside the government are less optimistic.

Tomas Freitas is with the Institute for Reconstruction Analysis and Monitoring - a non government organsiation based in Dili.

TOMAS: Our people just simply... they think about this dispute, they say, if Australia reclaim that Timor Sea, and that Timor bed belongs to them, why didn't they change that name to Australia Sea or Australia Gap? They just think this simply, you know?

BK: Tomas Freitas was in Melbourne last night, one of a number of appearances he's making in Australia to campaign for a maritime boundary. He says he does't want to see his country become a slave to the oil industry at the expense of its environment - but says the revenue will be crucial to building a nation that can develop different industries.

One option reportedly on the table is for the concept of a maritime boundary to be put off comlpetely for 100 years - with Australia compensating East Timor. But Tomas Freitas says the boundaries must be discussed and decided.

TOMAS: We've been fighting for 24 years just to get independence as a new country. We need to have our sovereignty. Our sovereignty is not only we have a flag, we have a language. But we need our territory, you know? We need a border between the two countries. Between Indonesia and Timor yeah, we're clear. But between Timor and Australia, still not clear.

BK: The campaign has strong supporters in Australia - including from Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose, who has funded a series of telelvison commercials criticising the Australian government for its approach to the negotiations. Two new commercials were run on channel nine on good Frdiay - the anniversary of Australia's withdrawal from the international court of justice.

But channel 7 and SBS declined to run them. The ads were much the same as those run previosuly - except for this line...

AUDIO: Stealing from a third world country kills their children.

BK: But Ian melrose says they were approved by the appropriate authorities.

MELROSE: Apart from being very politically sensitive, there's nothing technically wrong with them. All the information was factually correct.

BK: Neither Channel Seven nor SBS would comment last night.

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