|Subject: OK Daily: Nairn
protests Phillips in Timor Gap
Oklahoma Daily (University of Oklahoma)
November 4, 1999 Noted reporter leads protest against U. Oklahoma president By Matt Welch, Oklahoma Daily
"East Timorese are dying. Phillips is making money," read Todd Walker's poster.
The University of Oklahoma alumnus, members of the Student Action Network and others protested OU President David Boren's relation to the East Timor crisis Wednesday. Boren sits on the board of directors for Bartlesville-based Phillips Petroleum Company, which drills for oil in the Timor Gap.
Accompanying them was international investigative journalist Allan Nairn.
"I hope that I am stepping on toes because these are toes that need to be stepped on," he said. Nairn's visit was sponsored in-part by the OU Speakers Bureau fund.
According to a statement released by Phillips petroleum, the company bought BHP Petroleum in April and took over several of their oil production sites in the Timor Gap. From those sites, Phillips has paid almost $3 million to Indonesia, according to Jim Godlove, a Phillips spokesman in Australia.
Boren said in a statement that Phillips had to pay Indonesia for the oil because of an international treaty signed by Australia and Indonesia called the Timor Gap Treaty.
"At that point Phillips had no choice but to make payments to the joint commission because it cannot violate international treaties," Boren said. "Governments make treaties. Private companies have no choice but to obey the treaties."
But protesters said Phillips should never have entered into a contract with Indonesia and Australia in the first place.
"They knew it was the same as if the United States paid Nazi Germany for Poland's oil," Walker said.
Nairn related the Timorese crisis to OU when he described a small university that neighbored a military base in East Timor.
"They would swoop down and drag away the students whenever they opened their mouths," he said.
The protesters said they were also upset because of statements Boren made several weeks ago claiming Phillips had not paid any money to Indonesia.
"As a director of Phillips Petroleum, I was told several months ago that Phillips was not making any payments for its production in the Timor Sea," Boren said speaking about his comments at the earlier protest.
Boren said that he recently found out about the payments to Indonesia. Boren continued to say that much of the literature being circulated concerning Phillips was based on a 1980 newspaper article, 15 years before Boren became a Phillips director.
"It is unfortunate that he has perpetuated some mistruths about the issue because he is often trusted by students," said Traviss Thomas, letters senior.
Rob Phillips, a spokesman for Phillips Petroleum headquarters, said the company is working on an even larger project in the area called the Bayou-Undan project. Phillips said no oil has been collected from the site yet and that East Timor will replace Indonesia in the treaty by the time that oil is collected.
"There is work being done so East Timor will take Indonesia's place in the Timor Gap Treaty," Phillips said.
Boren said that he has supported independence for East Timor for years.
But many students and faculty feel uncomfortable about the situation.
"I think Phillips should pull out of Indonesia, unless Indonesia continues on its newly independent course," said David Ray, associate professor of political science.
Boren said that Phillips has made charitable contributions that will go to aid the Timorese.
"I respect the sincerity of those who have demonstrated in favor of help for East Timor and I support their goals though I do not agree with some of their conclusions."
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