Subject: AusAID 'Blacklists' East Timor NGOs over Timor Sea Comments

Media Release 14 November 2005

AusAID 'Blacklists' East Timor NGOs over Timor Sea Comments

Australian aid agency (AusAID) has effectively 'blacklisted' 13 East Timorese NGOs for speaking out over East Timor's maritime boundary dispute with Australia. The 13 NGOs are to be denied funding for 'openly criticizing Australia' in press releases dated 29th of September 2004 and 27th of October 2004. The press releases called for the maritime boundary to be set fairly according to international legal principles.

AusAID's decision to deny funding to these NGOs follows the earlier withdrawal of funding from Forum Tau Matan (FTM), one of the signatories to the press releases. Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Director of Haburas Foundation, said "we were told by AusAID that because FTM was denied funding, AusAID must be consistent and not fund other organizations that signed the same press releases".

East Timorese civil society is being punished by Australia for speaking out about something that affects all East Timorese people. This is a restriction of our freedom of speech and a breach of our human rights" said Mr Carvalho.

Haburas Foundation was called in to meet with AusAID on 10 November to be told we would not get funding for our project supporting environmental education in schools, because we had signed the press releases last year" said Mr Carvalho. "We were told that unless Canberra changes its view, AusAID would not be funding the NGOs that signed the releases"

AusAID confirmed in Senate Estimates Committee hearings on 3 November that the decision was taken at the ministerial level to withdraw Australian aid funding from Forum Tau Matan over the press releases calling for a fair maritime boundary.

The 13 NGOs signing the September and October 2004 press releases were:

Haburas Foundation (recipients of the Goldman International Environmental Prize 2004)

HAK Association (Association for Law, Rights and Justice),

La'o Hamutuk (Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis),

Sahe Institute for Liberation,

Kdadalak Sulimutu Institute (founded by Nobel Prize winner Bishop Belo),

Timor Leste Community Radio Association (AKRTL),

Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP),

KSTL (Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation),

Labour Advocacy Institute for East Timor,

FOKUPERS ( East Timor Women's Communications Forum),

Forum Tau Matan (FTM)

LABEH (Mirror for the People)

and Timor Leste Students Association


Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Executive Director, Haburas Foundation and The Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient for 2004

+ 670 723 2851

see also LH: AusAID revokes grant to a Timorese NGO in response to their calling for a fair maritime boundary

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