Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: MKOTT: Statement in Solidarity with Australians for Timor Sea Justice

Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea Dili, East Timor 20 May 2004

Statement in Solidarity with Australians for Timor Sea Justice

Dear Australian people,

Warm solidarity greetings from East Timor!

We hope you share our joy in celebrating the second anniversary of the restoration of our independence. As you know, a critical step in that achievement was when

InterFET, led by Australian General Peter Cosgrove, came to East Timor in 1999 to ensure that atrocities carried out by the Indonesian armed forces and its pro-Jakarta militias were halted. East Timor will always be grateful to Australia for that support, which has helped some of us to forgive Australia's complicity with the previous 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

But today thousands of East Timorese people, who welcomed the international forces as their saviors in 1999, see that the Australian government is stealing revenues essential for the development of our newly independent nation.

We are outraged that, because of the Australian government's illegal occupation of our petroleum resources under the Timor Sea, more of our children will not live to reach the age of five, many more children will not be able to go to school, and our already high maternal mortality rate will increase.

Since our liberation in 1999, the Australian government has been stealing approximately one million U.S. dollars every day from East Timor. If this continues, and if your government succeeds in delaying a maritime boundary agreement for decades, Australia will have misappropriated approximately seven billion dollars that rightfully belongs to East Timor.

As an independent and sovereign country, Timor-Leste has right under international law to determine permanent seabed and maritime boundaries with its neighbors, and to manage resources contained in its territory. However the Howard government is obstructing this process by refusing to allow impartial arbiters to resolve the dispute, and by stonewalling on serious negotiations.

Australian people are very proud of your "fair go" tradition, and we encourage you to apply it to the people of Timor-Leste in terms of Timor Sea.

The Howard government is occupying and stealing at least 60 percent of East Timor's rightful share of the resources beneath the Timor Sea between Australia and Timor-Leste, worth about 30 billion U.S. dollars in government revenues.

Imagine how we could better our lives with this money? How many people will get access to basic health services or will finally learn to read? How many more children will survive their first year of life? How many other rights and services that Australians take for granted might become available to the people of East Timor?

The people of Timor Leste protest the injustice inflicted by the Australian government. Last month, our Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea launched a three-day protest in front of Australian embassy in Dili, but so far, the Howard government has not changed its position.

From 18-20 May 2004, East Timor's Socialist Youth Alliance and the Movement is against demonstrating against your government.

We realize that it will take a bi-national campaign, in both East Timor and Australia, to change the position of your government. We therefore welcome and highly appreciate the endeavors of Australian people joining the Timor Sea Justice Campaign to support us in the second anniversary of our restoration of independence. As in 1999, when thousands of people in Australia and around the world took to the streets to urge the government to dispatch the Australian soldiers to Timor-Leste, we now once again rely to you to change Australia's position and support justice for the people of Timor-Leste.

The Australian government does not care about a "fair go" for Timor-Leste and the international rule of law. The Howard government is using every opportunity to bully its tiny northern neighbor.

The government of Australia often says that Timor-Leste is trying to win sympathy within Australia over Timor Sea issues. Though Timor-Leste is really small and the poorest country in Southeast Asia, we are not trying to be as wealthy as Australia by claiming Australian resources or asking for your charity. We just want our entitlement under international law.

We therefore, urge the government of Australia to quickly and seriously negotiate permanent seabed and maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste. But, as we have seen at the negotiating table, Australian delegates have no legal justification for their occupation of oil and gas reserves closer to Timor-Leste's coastline than to Australia's. The Australian government is still stubborn and does not want to obey international law or any moral standards.

This week in Dili, the Timor-Leste Development Partners' meeting has begun. It is no secret that the newest country will experience a financial deficit in the coming three years, estimated at US$126 million. In 2003 alone, the government of Australia collected approximately US$ 172 million from the Laminaria-Corallina oilfield. If the government of Australia had not stolen these resources from our birthright, Timor-Leste would not have to beg donor countries for help.

Australia is one of the richest countries on earth per head in natural resources. The Australian government's budget for this year is about US$ 125 billion, but the natural gas reserves in Timor-Leste's part of the Timor Sea, which are equal to less than one fifth of Australia's natural gas resources, will bring in about US$30 billion in government revenues over the next five decades. The amount is relatively small compared to Australia's budget, and "greed" is the only word to describe this occupation. Timor-Leste's government budget, on the other hand, is less than US$0.1 billion per year, and losing these revenues will have a tremendous impact on our people.

The Australian people should not lose face in the eyes of the international community because of the deeds of your government, due to its occupation of Timor Sea resources. However if the government of Australia continues to stonewall the negotiation process, it will be hard for Australia to escape global shame and condemnation.

As the relations between the people of our two countries date back to the Second World War, Timor-Leste is committed to be a good neighbor to Australia. We still believe that the government of Australia has good political will to settle the dispute peacefully and follow international legal principles.

It took 24 years to bring Jakarta to the table -- but we are all better organizers now, and Canberra has less at stake than Indonesia did. Ending the Australian occupation of our sea will complete the victory which began when we ended the Indonesian occupation of our land, and it will be much easier.

On this second anniversary of the restoration of our national independence, we ask your support for the demands on Australia's government from Timor-Leste's Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea:

1. Respect East Timor as an independent and sovereign state. Our government's legitimacy and authority are equal to Australia's.

2. Negotiate a fair maritime boundary with East Timor, according to contemporary legal principles as expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, based on a median line. If both sides approach the process in good faith, meeting monthly, it should take no more than three years to reach an agreement.

3. Rejoin the maritime boundary dispute resolution mechanisms of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice, so that East Timor and Australia will have boundaries consistent with the law if negotiations do not result in a just and prompt solution.

4. Stop issuing new exploration licenses in seabed territory that is closer to East Timor than to Australia. During each of the last three years, Australia offered such areas to oil companies, and Canberra signed one contract just three months ago.

5. Deposit all revenues received by the Australian government from petroleum fields that are closer to East Timor than they are to Australia into an escrow account. When a permanent seabed boundary is established, this account will be divided appropriately between the two nations.

Thank you for your interest, support, past, present and future solidarity. A luta continua!

Movimento Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor
Dili, Timor Lorosa'e,
20 May 2004

see also Timor Sea, Boundaries & Oil

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