define('DISABLE_WP_CRON', true); Ongoing Timor Leste oil /gas battle with Australia | Chris White Online

Ongoing Timor Leste oil /gas battle with Australia

Update 10 July: Time to continue to support Timor Leste’s struggle against Turnbull/Bishop’s denial of Timor Sea justice over the boundary and oil reserves. Let’s ensure ALP, Greens, and independents, Xenophon, Wilke, unions, left groups and supporters of Timor Leste continue to campaign for Timor Sea justice.
See further below for arguments for Turnbull/Bishop to pay $5 billion reparations for TL.

Earlier posts
TL oil



Update:Xanana in Indonesia:

Special Lateline
Senator Xenophon calls for Royal Commission
Timor Sea Justice Campaign demands:
– A permanent maritime boundary with East Timor in accordance with international law – along the median line halfway between the two coastlines.
– Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull enter new negotiations.

Xanana Gusmao calls on Australians to get vocal and support a fair go in the Timor Sea
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Former President of East Timor Xanana Gusmao has called on Australians to try to persuade the their Government to give East Timor a fair go in the Timor Sea.

Mr Gusmao, now Timor’s Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, has expressed his frustrations about the Australian Government’s refusal to enter negotiations about establishing permanent maritime boundaries between the two nations.

“From the beginning we asked Canberra to talk… We are neighbours, we have problems, we sit down, we talk — but nothing,” said Mr Gusmao.

So now he’s appealing to the Australian public’s sense of fair play and urging Australians to push their government into meaningful talks.

Australia spies on ET

East Timor: Boundary row escalates as finances deteriorate

SYDNEY — As a guerrilla leader, Xanana Gusmao fought the Indonesian occupation of his homeland, a former Portuguese colony on the eastern half of the rugged island of Timor, his elusiveness often ascribed to magical powers. When East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, finally became independent in 2002, Gusmao became its first president, and then prime minister. Early this year he handed the reins to a younger colleague, Rui Maria de Araujo, but he remains revered and influential as minister for planning and strategic investment.

In that post, Gusmao is still driving East Timor’s government on two fronts — a controversial and expensive scheme for three energy-related developments on the island’s south coast, and an increasingly bitter dispute with neighboring Australia over the maritime resource boundary between the two countries.

Australia is holding to an arrangement it worked out with Indonesia during the occupation. This established a “joint development zone” covering the disputed area between the existing boundary in the Timor Trench — a deep trough close to East Timor that Canberra claims is the natural boundary, and the median line in the Timor Sea.

Canberra fears that conceding a median line boundary to East Timor would prompt Indonesia to seek renegotiation of its seabed boundary, agreed in 1972, which gives Australia more of the area’s deep-sea petroleum resources than would the median line.

Boundaries of agreement
To Resist is to Win
Australia has conceded to East Timor a more than equal share of petroleum flows in and around the joint development zone. In 2004 it agreed to raise the new nation’s share from ConocoPhillips’ Bayu-Undan field from 50% to 90%. In 2006 it lifted the future share from the much bigger Greater Sunrise discovery, which edges into the zone on the east, from about 18% to 50% — but only on the condition that East Timor agreed to set aside claims on a permanent boundary for 50 years.

East Timor’s government is now seeking to void the second treaty, arguing that Canberra showed bad faith during negotiations by spying on East Timorese negotiators. Gusmao argues that the “provisional arrangement” his government is seeking to overturn has “locked up an unfair share of the resources of the Timor Sea.”

By this he means the 5.1 trillion cubic foot Greater Sunrise gas field. Gusmao and colleagues such as Petroleum Minister Alfredo Pires have built hopes of rapid industrialization around this resource, aiming to lift one of Asia’s poorest countries into the ranks of the middle-income nations by 2030.

Their $5 billion scheme, Tasi Mane (Male Sea), as the Timorese call the rough water to their south, is based on gas being brought to the island’s south coast at Beaco by a pipeline across the Timor Trench for processing into liquefied natural gas, which can then be exported in refrigerated tankers.

Further along the coast, a refinery and petrochemical complex are to be built at Betano, and an offshore oil servicing base and industrial estate at Suai, in the west, with the three sites linked by a new road. The sites are at present small towns on a rugged shoreline, reached by tenuous mountain roads from East Timor’s more populous north coast.

Many supporters of East Timor’s independence struggle are cheering the new state in its David-and-Goliath legal battle with Australia. But critics are concerned that East Timor’s leaders are deluding their people about the benefits of winning the case and wasting resources desperately needed to raise health, education and nutrition levels in the fast-growing population, now 1.2 million.

The premise that a median-line sea boundary would bring all of Greater Sunrise into East Timor’s resource zone is false, the critics point out, since 79.9% of Greater Sunrise’s reserves would remain in Australia’s zone, to the eastern side of the present joint development zone.

Should a median-line boundary unravel the present Australia-Indonesia border, any resources in the area would go to Indonesia. The eastern boundary might be shifted to the southeast, to bring more of Greater Sunrise under East Timorese control, but this would depend on negotiations with Jakarta.

The option of piping the gas to East Timor for processing into LNG is opposed as risky and uneconomic by the Greater Sunrise partners, which comprise Australia’s Woodside Petroleum (with a 33.4% interest) as operator, ConocoPhillips (30%), Shell (26.6%) and Osaka Gas (10%). The partners have long indicated a preference for a floating LNG facility anchored directly over the field.

However, Timor GAP, East Timor’s small, state-owned oil company, says studies have confirmed the technical and economic feasibility of the pipeline to Beaco. In 2008 and 2009, U.S. offshore engineering company DeepGulf conducted a comprehensive bathymetric, or underwater topographical, survey, and in 2013, the Dutch underwater specialist Fugro used a small robotic submarine to make a high-resolution survey of the pipeline route. See the rest of the article.

I thought Australia wanted to help East Timor, not take its oil By Chip Henriss
East Timor contests Woodside’s gas plans. Exactly 16 years after I joined the Australian mission in East Timor, I wonder whether our government’s motive was pure, or if they were just eyeing off oil and gas fields. It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to right some wrongs, writes Chip Henriss.

Sixteen years ago on September 20, I was with the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade, the Townsville-based ready Deployment Force. We were some of the first soldiers to land in Dili, East Timor as part of the INTERFET mission. We were sent in to restore peace in the wake of the Indonesian-led violence that engulfed the country following the historic ballot for independence.

Like the beginning of any mission, it was tense. There was a lot of apprehension about how things might unfold. But it was also an optimistic mission and my conviction that it was a just mission was rock solid. The Australian government had finally reversed a decades-long policy of callous disregard to the plight of the Timorese. This was Australia standing up and doing the right thing to help out our friends in the region.
To Resist is to Win
It’s not an overstatement to say I was profoundly proud of Australia’s role at the time. It seemed to capture the notion of “a fair go” that my country so embraces.

In the years that followed however, I began to ask myself, was our government’s motivation as pure as it would have us believe?

Were we in East Timor to selflessly end the bloodshed? Could it be that we were also eying off East Timor’s vast oil and gas reserves?

East Timor’s oil had long been Australia’s weakness when it came to its unprincipled policies towards its small neighbour during the 1970s and ’80s, but I had hoped the intervention was the beginning of a new chapter.

My doubts started growing in March 2002 – just two month’s before East Timor would finally become an independent nation – when Australia withdrew its recognition of the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Why is Australia walking away from the independent umpire that helps settle disputes arising about maritime boundaries, I thought to myself. Unfortunately the answer became clear.

Through some very lopsided negotiations, in which the Australian government took a hard-nosed – some would call belligerent – approach, Australia managed to short-change East Timor out of billions of dollars of government revenue. It refused to set maritime boundaries with East Timor and instead cornered Timor into a series of dodgy “temporary resource sharing agreements”.

I felt betrayed. It was as if we had stepped in to chase off a schoolyard bully, but were now stealing the victim’s lunch money. I didn’t like it. I joined with other concerned Australians in a grassroots campaign calling for our government to give East Timor a fair go.

During the “Timor Sea Justice Campaign” in 2006, I had the honour of meeting a number of World War II veterans. They had fought the Japanese in East Timor and explained to me that none of their mates would have lived had it not been for the help they received from the local Timorese.

They too were angry by our government’s betrayal and in television ads funded by businessman, Ian Melrose, the Diggers said they’d prefer if prime minister John Howard didn’t attend their ANZAC day parade.



Even though permanent maritime boundaries still have not been established, I believe the campaign contributed to the fact that East Timor was eventually offered a larger share of the $40 billion Greater Sunrise gas field.

But even this has now been tarnished.

Two years back, an Australian whistleblower spy came forward alleging that Australia had bugged East Timor’s cabinet room during the negotiations. As such, East Timor took steps to have that particular treaty nullified arguing that it was not signed in good faith. In response, ASIO raided the offices of the lawyers representing East Timor and seized the whistleblower’s passport.

Sixteen years ago I thought INTERFET would have a great and lasting legacy in East Timor, but today I’m concerned the greed of successive Australian governments and big oil companies is slowly but surely eroding the goodwill that the Australian Defence Force soldiers I served with helped to create.

If the Australian government wants me to believe Australia went into East Timor to help them transition to independence – it needs to prove it.

It needs to finish the job that John Howard supposedly began. It needs to draw the line and set permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor so our neighbours can benefit from the natural resources that they are entitled to.

In situations such as this one, international law calls for a “median line” solution. This simply means drawing a line half way between the two coastlines. It’s fair and simple.

If an oil or gas field is located closer to East Timor then it should belong to East Timor. The Timorese fought for 25 years for their independence. They don’t want or need our charity, they simply want what is theirs by law.

I urge our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to resubmit Australia to the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and sit down with his Timorese counterpart and finish the job that we began in 1999 – draw the line.

Chip Henriss served as a commissioned officer in the Australian Regular Army and Army Reserve between 1991 and 2001.

Timor Sea policy a challenge for Labor by STEVE BRACKS

Australia is a sparsely populated island of 24 million people, separated from our billions of neighbours in Asia by the Timor Sea. We have the good fortune to inhabit one of the most economically successful, peaceful and environmentally diverse nations on the planet.

Australian governments of all persuasions have recognised that it is clearly in our national interest for international relations to be conducted according to the rule of law and without resort to conflict.

Gregory Poling, a fellow with the Pacific Partners Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, recently observed that as “a maritime nation and Indo-Pacific middle power, the protection of the global maritime commons, international rules and norms at sea, and freedom of navigation and overflight, are vital Australian interests”.

Yet in 2002, Australia unilaterally withdrew from the maritime jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. This decision was made by then foreign minister Alexander Downer just after Australia negotiated an agreement with the United Nations that had the effect of impeding the new nation of Timor-Leste from claiming rights to billions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, on the Timor side of the median line with Australia.

Leaving aside the merits of Australia’s maritime boundary claim in the Timor Sea – and our subsequent belligerent conduct towards one of our poorest andmost vulnerable neighbours – by stepping away from the international umpire we have undermined our ability to contribute positively to efforts to embed the rule of international law and reduce the risk of conflict in our region. Read more here
Our self-interest is still holding East Timor back By Tom Clarke
East Timor contests Woodside’s gas plans. Australia has long pursued East Timor’s oil and gas resources. As East Timor celebrates its independence day, Australia’s self-interest and greed for gas and oil reserves is still preventing the nation from enjoying full sovereignty, writes Tom Clarke.
Inside Timor Leste:
5 Balibo
OIL AND WATER Australia blurs the lines with Timor-Leste


My latest journey to Timor-Leste (East Timor) began on 16 October, the 40th anniversary of the murder of five Australian-based journalists in Balibo by Indonesian special forces. My first trip there was in March 1975, six months prior to their deaths. I was reporting for Radio National’s Lateline program on an upsurge of nationalist awareness in what had been, until recently, a politically backward Portuguese colony.

This time I made a pilgrimage to the house where the Balibo Five had spent their last hours, laying flowers in their honour. I had returned to Timor-Leste to mark another anniversary, however. On 28 October 1990, Radio National’s Background Briefing broadcast the first ever interview with the commander of the guerrilla force resisting Indonesia’s illegal occupation. Since December 1975 no foreigner had made contact with Xanana Gusmão, the charismatic “father of independence” who became Timor-Leste’s first president and later its prime minister. The questions he answered in 1990 were largely mine, but the man who conducted the interview was Robert Domm.

Domm had extensive experience of the country, having first visited as a merchant seaman in the early 1970s. After the Indonesian invasion, he had kept a close eye on developments and, in early 1989, when Jakarta finally opened the borders to permit access for foreigners, Domm was the first visitor under the new rules. The “open door” policy was supposed to demonstrate that everything was normal and the Timorese had accepted Indonesian rule, but it provided a crack through which we hoped to expose the truth.

In mid 1990 I talked to José Ramos-Horta, an old friend whom I first met in 1975. He was the resistance’s key diplomatic voice, keeping his nation’s cause alive on the international stage. (He, too, later became the nation’s prime minister and then president.) I wanted to find out about smuggling someone into the rugged mountains from where Gusmão directed military and political activities. After a month the answer came back: Gusmão was keen to seize the opportunity to have his voice heard by the outside world.

I needed a level-headed volunteer to undertake the mission as I was well known to Indonesian authorities. So I approached Domm, asking him to do the job as a freelance reporter. Even in consideration of the murder of the Balibo Five and Australian journalist Roger East, he accepted the challenge.

Chris and Zito clarify a point

Chris and Zito clarify a point

The local civilian resistance, which operated in defiance of Indonesia’s oppressive rule and massive, well-trained army, organised the initial phases of our operation. Several hundred civilians were involved, including students in Surabaya and Bali as well as villagers who lived close to Gusmão’s jungle hideout in the Ainaro district south of the capital, Dili.

The civilian resistance transported Domm in a four-wheeldrive over Timor-Leste’s bone-crunching roads that wind up steep mountain passes, then took him on the first stage of his arduous and dangerous trek, delivering him into the hands of a seven-man guerrilla detachment. These hardened fighters smuggled him past thousands of Indonesian soldiers and up a sheer mountain to Gusmão’s warm handshake.
When broadcast in late October 1990, the interview went what we now call “viral”. It helped transform Gusmão from a will-o’-the-wisp figure commanding a small guerrilla force into a substantial figure on the international stage. It was an important step in debunking Jakarta’s propaganda. The price the resistance paid for the interview was horrific. In the aftermath, the humiliated Indonesians launched a massive military offensive, killing a number of the guerrillas. Gusmão barely escaped with his life.

By contrast, the 2015 re-enactment of the 1990 Background Briefing interview was a joyous celebration. Gone was the atmosphere of repression, and the smell of death. Hundreds of local villagers proudly sang the national anthem and cheered Gusmão’s speeches. This time I joined Domm in the trek up the mountain. Nothing could have prepared me for that challenge.

I’m in my mid 60s, reasonably fit, and regularly take long bushwalks up steep national park tracks. Nevertheless I would not have made it to Gusmão’s reconstructed jungle headquarters without the assistance of two of his veteran guerrillas – one pushing from behind, the other pulling from in front. With each footstep I was in danger of sliding back down the slope. The veterans – tough, strong and wiry – had spent many years in these mountains fighting the Indonesian army. Now they were saving me from injury or even death.

After wearily climbing the final steps I looked up and saw Gusmão. He offered me his hand, helping me up as though I were a sparrow.

Having stepped down as prime minister last February, handing the reins to Rui Maria de Araújo of the opposition Fretilin party, Gusmão says he still wants to rebuild national unity after traumatic divisions, and institute generational change.

This time I conducted the interview in person, filmed by ABC TV’s Lateline while Domm listened. When asked later what his impression was of Domm, Gusmão replied emotionally. “I knew he was a man of commitment. To come to us in our remote mountain camp, as a white man, was extremely dangerous. I thought he was supremely courageous. He travelled country peopled by Indonesian soldiers.”

Gusmão also stressed the significance of the 1990 interview. “It was extremely important in two key ways. First, it took our voice to the world, but it was also important for our morale,” he said. “It gave us even more determination to resist, a preparedness to die in the belief of ultimate victory.”

And die they did. Before hiking up the mountain I had visited the memorial to the fallen guerrillas of the Ainaro district. In a beautifully constructed building are the remains of more than 2500 heroes of the struggle, collected by their comrades from where they had fallen, identified by name, date of birth and death, and placed in simple wooden coffins. The number of women among the deceased is striking. Each coffin is draped with the national flag, and photos adorn most of them. In time they will be buried in a memorial park. These fighters came from only one of many regions where the war raged for 24 years. During the occupation, almost 200,000 Timorese, or almost one third of the 1975 population, died as a direct result of Indonesian operations.

The worst period of mass killings occurred before the country was opened to foreign visitors in 1989. Domm’s 1990 interview with Gusmão revealed the truth that Australian intelligence had long known, and which the government had covered up. So it was hardly surprising that Gusmão reserved his most trenchant criticism of the international community’s policies for successive Australian governments.

“Australia has been an accomplice in the genocide perpetrated by the occupation forces,” he calmly told Domm, “because the interests which Australia wanted to secure with the annexation of East Timor to Indonesia are so evident.” Gusmão was referring to the Timor Gap Treaty, which the then Australian foreign minister, Gareth Evans, signed in December 1989 with his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas. The treaty meant the two nations agreed to jointly exploit Timor-Leste’s rich oil and gas resources and share the profits, with Australia allocated the lion’s share of the biggest prize, the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field.

Despite his remote location Gusmão was well informed, explaining to Domm that “it’s an illegal decision, illegitimate and criminal, in the context that we’re being exterminated by a party to this agreement. Australia, with this treaty, becomes an accomplice. It’s inconceivable that a democratic country with a Western way of life, a country which claims to be a defender of human rights, should profit from our blood.” In order to finalise this agreement, Australia became the sole nation to extend de jure recognition to the incorporation of Timor-Leste into Indonesia.

Almerio Villa Nova and Chris White

Almerio Villa Nova and Chris White

Australia’s greed for Timor-Leste’s resources dates to 1963, when it issued an exploration licence for Greater Sunrise to Australian oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum. After the events of 1965–66, in which the Indonesian army and its civilian collaborators massacred up to a million Indonesian communists and leftists, negotiations were launched to draw the maritime boundary between Indonesian West Timor and Australia. In 1972, in recognition of Australia’s support for his regime, President Suharto agreed to a preposterously generous boundary, drawn almost at the edge of what Australia claims as its continental shelf, close to West Timor’s southern coastline.

This agreement, however, left a “gap” over the area closest to East Timor, which the Portuguese still controlled. Lisbon wanted a median line drawn between East Timor and Australia, in accordance with international law. Hence the “Timor Gap” in Australia’s northern maritime boundary was born. Today, it is an independent Timor-Leste that demands the same placement of the boundary as the Portuguese did, which would make the oil and gas reserves of Greater Sunrise exclusively Timor-Leste’s.

Australia knew all along that most of the oil and gas resources are located in the gap south of Timor-Leste. As isolated as he was in 1990, Gusmão understood that Evans’ Timor Gap Treaty was designed to share the spoils with Indonesia. This desire had been spelt out in a cable dispatched to Canberra by Richard Woolcott, then Australia’s ambassador in Jakarta. Written in August 1975 on the eve of the Indonesian invasion, it revealed the length to which Australia was prepared to go to steal Timor-Leste’s oil and gas.

“I wonder whether the Department [of foreign affairs] has ascertained the interest of the Minister or the Department of Minerals and Energy,” Woolcott mused, as “this Department might well have an interest in closing the present gap in the agreed seabed border and this could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia … than with Portugal or independent Portuguese Timor.” With no hint of shame Woolcott concluded, “I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand, but that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about.”

Fifteen years later Gusmão condemned such pragmatism, telling Domm, “We feel betrayed that a country with Western values should profit from our peoples’ blood by participating in this rapacious exploitation of something that is in fact legitimately ours.”

Now, 25 years on, Gusmão’s conclusion about current Australian policies towards Timor-Leste’s natural resources is hardly kinder. Indeed, he views successive Australian governments as continuing to connive to steal his country’s natural resources. “For us, our nation cannot achieve its full sovereignty until our maritime boundary with Australia is finalised,” he argues. “Australia has consistently refused to negotiate maritime boundaries with us, yet has done so with all neighbours that it shares maritime boundaries with. Why not us, we wonder? Australia’s grab for our oil and gas in earlier times, and its insistence on clinging to past actions, involved illegal actions. We feel Australia should apologise and the best apology would be to put the past right, and agree to sit at the table with us and negotiate our maritime boundaries.”

International guests KSTL
The August 1999 referendum, in which the Timorese voted for independence, caused a significant headache for Australia. Evans’ 1989 deal with Jakarta was now worthless unless Canberra played hardball with the soon-to-be independent nation. Even as the Australian government led the international force that returned the new nation to a kind of peace, it kept a close eye on Timor-Leste’s natural resources. How would Australia keep its ill-gotten share?

Negotiations commenced while East Timor was under UN transitional administration. Australia pressed for a memorandum of understanding to allow continued exploitation of natural resources in the Timor Sea, but in a smaller area than that covered by the Timor Gap Treaty. Australia then pressured Timor-Leste to facilitate operations in the Bayu-Undan field, which was ready for exploitation. Timor-Leste agreed in order to get urgently needed oil and gas money flowing, so it could commence rebuilding. The Timor Sea Treaty was signed on 20 May 2002, the first day of independence. The Bayu-Undan operation, even though it is much closer to Timor-Leste’s coast, included plans for a pipeline to Darwin, generating considerable revenue for Australia.

Australia’s hardball tactics continued after independence. The Timorese were ill-prepared for such negotiations, lacking in institutional and legal expertise, and reliant on hastily acquired outside advice. Despite these disadvantages, Timor-Leste signed the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) in early 2006, covering the much more lucrative Greater Sunrise field. At that time, Timor-Leste believed that the pipeline for this operation would be built to its shores, creating desperately needed jobs for locals.

Australia had first proposed that the terms of Evans’ deal should remain in place, with Timor-Leste receiving Indonesia’s “share” and Australia the remainder. Under direction of the then foreign minister Alexander Downer, Australia’s negotiators cited the precedent of its favourable 1972 Indonesia agreement to adopt the continental shelf as the maritime boundary.

Timor-Leste rejected this claim, proposing instead a final delineation of the maritime boundary. Australia pointedly stymied this, instead incrementally conceding ever larger proportions of the resources until it agreed to take “only” a 10% share under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty (covering Bayu-Undan) and 50% under CMATS (covering Greater Sunrise, conservatively estimated to be worth around $40 billion), while proclaiming its “generosity” in making such “concessions”. As Gusmão wryly comments, “We must be the poorest donor nation giving generously to Australia.”

The catch in achieving these so-called concessions was Australia’s insistence on a 50-year (legally unenforceable) moratorium regarding maritime boundaries, during which Timor-Leste’s natural resources would be fully exploited. The other catch was that in March 2002, on the eve of independence, Australia had withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, so it would no longer have to accept its decisions on settling maritime boundary disputes. Consequently Timor-Leste was deprived of any judicial forum in which to pursue finalisation of the maritime boundary. This must have been especially galling when Timor-Leste realised Australia had used underhanded means during negotiations for the CMATS treaty. Downer is proud of CMATS. In March 2014 he told Four Corners that he had consulted closely with Woodside. “The Australian government unashamedly should be trying to advance the interests of Australian companies,” he said. “Woodside is a huge Australian company and they were proposing to invest billions of dollars in Greater Sunrise to create wealth, which would inter alia have been wealth for Australians, but obviously substantially for the East Timorese as well. So I was all in favour of that.”

Downer left government following the 2007 federal election, then became a lobbyist for Woodside. In May 2011 he turned up in Dili representing Woodside, asking for a meeting with Gusmão, who at that time was prime minister. Downer delivered a message from Woodside that the company would provide considerable development money if Gusmão dropped his campaign for a pipeline to take the gas to Timor-Leste. Gusmão flatly rejected this.

When he met Downer in 2011, Gusmão did not know that his country’s negotiating team had been bugged by Australia in 2004 during the CMATS negotiations. In late 2012 he obtained firm evidence. Gusmão would not reveal exactly how he found out, but he did not need WikiLeaks’ help. As he explained for this essay, Timor-Leste’s positions on key questions, their weaknesses on crucial points, their ignorance of international legal issues and even their bottom-line negotiating positions were all known in advance. “We were very disappointed.”

Downer was the authorising minister for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS),
the agency that bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet room in Dili and tapped its telephones. The long-serving career ASIS officer who carried out the operation – known as “Witness K” – faces possible prosecution for disclosing the use of an aid team – tasked with renovating the cabinet room – to install the bugs.

Gusmão knew Australia had bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet room, but instead of kicking up a public storm he quietly spoke to the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, alerting her to the problem. In December 2012 he followed up with a letter to Gillard, but to his surprise, she sent an envoy: Margaret Twomey, Australia’s ambassador to Dili when the CMATS negotiations were under way.

When Gusmão’s claims were rebuffed, leaving no further avenue for fruitful discussions, Timor-Leste opted for its only remaining legal recourse. In April 2013, Australia was formally notified that Timor-Leste was utilising the provisions of the May 2002 Timor Sea Treaty, and taking its case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Dili asserted that CMATS is invalid because Australia had conducted espionage to Timor-Leste’s disadvantage, and had not negotiated in good faith.

In 2014, Downer told Four Corners that “the Australian government was on Australia’s side in the negotiations and we did our best to make sure that we were able to achieve our objective”. Gusmão cannot “comprehend” that the ASIS operation “was for legitimate intelligence gathering … it gave commercial and economic advantage to the Australian government”. Greater Sunrise remains stalled.
In December 2013, Attorney-general George Brandis authorised raids on Timor-Leste’s Canberra-based legal adviser Bernard Collaery, as well as Witness K, whose passport was seized. Legal files connected with Timor-Leste’s arbitration case were also seized. Timor-Leste, demanding their return, applied to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The files were unconditionally returned last May and Brandis provided the following undertaking: “Australia recognises the need for all States to respect the confidentiality of communications between States and their legal advisers consistent with the widely accepted principle of legal professional privilege.”

Gusmão remains unconvinced of Australia’s sincerity. When asked if he was confident that Australia has ceased its spying on Timor-Leste, he responded, “Well, it is a hard question, but given what is going on between us, despite the strong links and people-to-people friendships, it may well continue. We hope Australia is now better than that.” In a further show of good faith, Timor-Leste did, however, agree to Australia’s request to suspend the arbitration to see if an amicable agreement could be reached. It could not, with Australia yet again refusing to enter into negotiations to settle permanent maritime boundaries. It is little wonder that Gusmão is determined to pursue the case to invalidate CMATS.

Timor-Leste’s case relies on Witness K, whose affidavit has already been lodged with the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Gusmão offered a simple assessment of the witness’ motives: “From what we can deduce, Witness K wanted to tell the truth of what was done to us.” But without a passport this crucial witness may be prevented from telling the court what he knows in person.

The Australian government’s intransigence continues, as does its approach to the issue of where the maritime boundary should be drawn. Foreign minister Julie Bishop recently complained that coverage of the issue in The Saturday Paper might leave readers “with the impression that Australia’s Timor Sea policies are inconsistent with international law and unfair to Timor-Leste. This is not the case.” Bishop also claimed that drawing the maritime boundary at the median point would generate less revenue for Timor-Leste from Greater Sunrise.

In fact, Greater Sunrise is considerably north of the legally appropriate median line. But if Bishop is so confident of Australia’s legal position she has an easy option to test it: restore the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to settle the dispute. After all, Australia’s maritime boundaries have been finalised bar one: that with Timor-Leste.

As Gusmão cynically observes, “for less than 2% of Australia’s maritime boundary, the unmarked part with us, the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea is not recognised by Australia”. The poverty I witnessed in the Ainaro district is a stark reminder of what is at stake in Timor- Leste’s quest to win sovereignty over its natural resources. If Bishop’s version of the applicable international law is correct, she could rightly point out that it is on Gusmão’s head that his nation will forgo revenue being granted by a magnanimous Australia.

If she is wrong, however, then successive Australian governments – stretching back to the 1960s – would be exposed for conspiring to steal Timor-Leste’s natural wealth, just as Gusmão has claimed since Robert Domm made his historic trek to give him a voice on the international stage 25 years ago.

Demand U.S. to acknowledge the crime and tell all it knows.
Sign and share ETAN’s petition. Thanks

John M. Miller East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
Donate at

Earlier TL runs out of oil revenue



2016 budget proposal puts fantasies before people’s needs
Adapted from , which includes several graphs and tables with the specifics discussed in the text below.

A good Timor Leste Independence Day Dinner 2015 was held
6.00 pm for 6.30 pm, Saturday 28th November Angles Restaurant 550 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne near corner of Spencer St

Excellent presentation from Guest Speaker Charles Scheiner
former National Co-ordinator East Timor Action Network (ETAN) USA
Researcher at La’o Hamutuk (Dili, Timor-Leste)

Charles talked about the role of international solidarity in various phases of TL’s struggle — 1975, 1991
(when ETAN started), 1999 and post independence. The last part looks at La’o Hamutuk as case study, in relation to today.

‘A luta continua’ (the struggle continues) even if the objectives, allies and targets may change over time.

About La’o Hamutuk :
Founded in 2000, La’o Hamutuk (“Walking Together” in English) is an independent Timor-Leste nongovernmental
organisation that monitors, analyzes, and reports on development processes in Timor-Leste, including the policies of
East Timorese government and international institutions engaged in Timor-Leste.

La’o Hamutuk (LH) believes that
development should be based in the context of Timor-Leste’s history, culture, economic, and social conditions.

It will be sustainable only if the people are the ultimate decision makers in a democratic and transparent development
process. La’o Hamutuk facilitates communication between the public and decision makers in Timor-Leste as well as
solidarity with other countries to explore alternative development models. As a resource centre, the organization
provides literature on development experiences and practices. We believe that broad participation in development
decision making can help ensure that the people of Timor-Leste will benefit from their resources, enable them to direct the development process, and assume the responsibility for protecting their natural resource wealth.

Update July 20:
Turnbull/Bishop hands of Timor’s oil.
$5 billion in reparations to TL.
“The East Timor government has accused Australia of hypocrisy for appealing to China to use inter­national law to resolve its disputes with Asian neighbours over the South China Sea while refusing to do so itself in its ongoing tussle over the Timor Sea. Prime Minister Rui de Araujo told The Weekend Australian in an email exchange that Canberras respective positions on the South China Sea and Timor Sea, where it had a direct interest in potentially tens of ­billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue, were inconsistent.

While Australia has been urging China to use international mechanisms to resolve disputes in the South China Sea, it refuses to respect the law of the sea in its own backyard, the Timor Sea, Mr Araujo said. If differences in the Timor Sea cant be resolved at the negotiating table using the global ­architecture, why would anyone believe that more complicated challenges in the South China Sea can be resolved at all?

On Tuesday the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague delivered a landmark ruling in the dispute between The Philippines and China over territory they both claim in the strategically vital sea, through which 30 per cent of global maritime trade passes. It found there was no legal basis to Chinas claim over 90 per cent of the South China Sea, ­including land features and ­waters within The Philippines exclusive economic zone.
Beijing has refused to ­recognise the tribunals ruling, but the decision sets a precedent for Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei which all face their own­ ­territorial disputes with China, as well as Indonesia, which is not a South China Sea claimant but has faced recent territorial ­aggression by Chinese coastguards in its ­waters.

East Timor was among many countries to welcome the ruling as an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea and globally through international laws and dispute mechanisms within those laws.
In April the Dili government launched compulsory, though non-binding, conciliation with Australia through the UN ­Convention on the Law of the Sea to try to persuade Canberra to agree on permanent maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea, which it has refused to do for the past 14 years. Dili claims it is the only option left open to it because Australia ­ like China ­ refused to recognise the jurisdiction of a tribunal when it withdrew from the UNCLOS compulsory dispute settlement procedures in 2002, two months before East Timor gained independence.
TL oil
In doing so Canberra blocked East Timor from challenging the 1972 maritime boundaries it ­inherited from Indonesia ­ under which Australia claims much of the Timor Sea on the basis its ­continental shelf juts into those waters ­ in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, thereby avoiding a similar situation to which Beijing is now confronted.
Under current arrangements, oil and gas revenues from the Timor Seas Greater Sunrise gas field are split evenly, while 90 per cent of revenues from the Joint Petroleum Development Area goes to East Timor.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday Australia stood by the existing treaties, which were negotiated in good faith in a manner fully consistent with international law.

Our position has not changed. The existing treaties agreed on a moratorium on negotiating boundaries and arrangements, and have allowed Timor Leste to accumulate a ­petroleum fund worth around $16bn, around eight times more than its annual GDP, she said.
Australia will take part in any compulsory arbitration as per our legal obligations. In doing so, Australia will argue our case before the commission, including on matters of jurisdiction.

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