Subject: CIITT: Timor NGOs plan protest on Timor Sea

Media Release

9th April 2004

“Let us unite for our Rights”

From 14th to 22nd April, a coalition of civil society groups will be staging a series of protest actions to send a strong message to the Australian Government of the injustice reflected in the Timor Sea Treaty. This is staged to coincide with a new round of boundary negotiation to take place in Dili from April 19th to 23rd.

The Haburas Foundation is amongst the thirteen organisations actively involved in the Centre for Independent Information on the Timor Sea (CIITT) which provides views and analysis on this issue from civil society’s perspective. Other CIITT members include human rights, environmental, women’s and social justice groups. The Centre is also supported by concerned individuals with various professional backgrounds.

In May 2002, the Timor Sea Treaty was rushed through by Australia, just the day after the independence ceremony of the world’s newest nation. The treaty sets up a joint petroleum development area, the JPDA which is much smaller in area than East Timor’s entitled seabed boundary. According to leading experts in international law and maritime boundaries, East Timor’s lateral boundary would extend beyond that of the JPDA.

“Unless a fair and just boundary settlement is reached, Australia is effectively robbing 60% of oil and gas resources from the impoverished people of East Timor” said Demetrio de Carvalho of the environmental organisation, Haburas.

Australia has to date refused to settle the seabed boundary in accordance with established international law. This essentially reaps an impoverished small nation to its rightful resources. Australia is a rich and powerful country in this region. This compares with East Timor where the majority of the population lives on less than AUD$1.50 a day and it is one of the world’s poorest countries. East Timor has serious health problems such as tuberculosis and a high infant mortality rate.

“It is ironic that on the one hand Australia’s AusAID talks about poverty reduction and gender equity for Timor Leste, on the other hand, Australia take away our only resource that will reduce poverty in our country. Women often ended up shouldering the heavy burden of poverty and poor health in the community. If poverty persists here, it will further disadvantage our women” added Demetrio.

Australia has since been reluctant to settle the boundary dispute and yet it has facilitated further exploration activities in the disputed area and collecting revenue that is due to East Timor.

“Until the boundary dispute is settled, there should not be any further exploration work in the disputed area. In the interest of both Australia and East Timor, it is also vital that environmental safeguards be included in future treaty negotiation.“ concluded Demetrio.

As the Timor Sea resources are Timor’s only means to achieve economic self-reliance and the urgently needed social services, Haburas strongly echoes CIITT’s calls for unity to form the “Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea”. A series of actions have been scheduled to develop an “Action Manifesto” to ensure that Timor’s sovereignty and rights are upheld.

Schedule of Events :

§ Tuesday April 14th to Thursday 16th - peaceful march from the Office of CIITT to the Australian Embassy

§ Monday April 19th - Press conference at the CIITT office, Rua Celestino da Silva, Farol-Dili

§ Thursday 22nd April : Hand over of petitions to the Australian Ambassador

Media Contact : Jose Pompeia Tel : +670 390 331 0103

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