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CIITT statement for Australia Day 2004

Centro Informasaun Independente ba Tasi Timor (CIITT)
(Independent Center for Timor Sea Information)

Rua Governador Celestino da Silva Farol-Dili, PO Box 390
Phone: 723 2851 (Demetrio), 7253082 (Ernesto)

Dili, 26 January 2004

Press Statement

The Independent Information Center on Timor Sea (CIITT) congratulates the people and the Government of Australia on Australia Day. CIITT understands that Australia Day is also a moment for the people and the Government of Australia to reflect on the meaning of independence to all people of different ethnicities and races in Australia, both the indigenous people as well as the newcomers.

On this occasion, it is important to reflect on the relationship of Australia and East Timor in the past. Australia was the only country to give official recognition to Indonesia’s rule in East Timor, which was established for over 20 years through various types of violations of the fundamental rights of the East Timorese. Although it refused to acknowledge its complicity in the denial of the rights of the East Timorese for independence, the Government of Australia has taken an important corrective action in its foreign policy with regards to the case of East Timor, right at the end of Indonesian occupation in East Timor. Australia had actively participated in the international effort to secure the result of the Popular Consultation organized by the United Nations in East Timor.

Furthermore, Australia has also recognized Democratic Republic of Timor Leste as an independent and sovereign nation, through the presence of the Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer during the celebration of Independence of East Timor and the opening of its Diplomatic Mission in East Timor. Such recognition, however, has not been reflected in all aspects of Australia’s relationship with East Timor. In order to control the largest part of the oil and gas rich Timor Sea, Australia maintains the application of previous treaties on maritime boundary, which were signed with the occupying power in East Timor. The previous treaties of maritime boundary delimitation have been based on the outdated continental shelf principle, and not on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Having rejected the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a settlement mechanism for the dispute on maritime boundaries with East Timor, Australia has demonstrated an arrogant attitude in the negotiation on the matter.

Such attitude reflects Australia’s politics of double standard in its recognition of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of RDTL, and is a denial of the right of the East Timorese to use their resources to develop as an independent nation. The Government of Australia commits this shameless action just as East Timor is catching up on its development, after centuries of colonial obstruction.

For a civilized and equal relationship to flourish between the people and the Governments of the two nations, CIITT urges:

1. The Government of Australia to take concrete measures in an effort to delimit a permanent boundary with RDTL within 3-5 years;

2. The United Nations and the international community to urge the Government of Australia to recognize the full sovereignty of the people of East Timor over their national territory;

3. The people of Australia to put pressure on its government to take a civilized stance in the negotiation of maritime boundary with East Timor, in accordance with UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

With Compliments,


Members of CIITT: Perkumpulan HAK, Haburas Foundation, Fokupers, Lao Hamutuk, ETSG, GMPD, CEGETIL, KSI, KSTL, Laifet, NGO Forum Advocacy division and individuals concerned with the issue.

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