The La'o Hamutuk Bulletin
Vol. 5, No. 2: March 2004
In February, Selma Hayati (La’o Hamutuk) and Marcelino Magno (representing the Independent Center for Timor Sea Information - CIITT) participated in a meeting of Oilwatch Southeast Asia, a network of civil society groups monitoring the exploitation of natural gas and oil resources. The 8-year-old Oilwatch Network, headquartered in Ecuador and represented in East Timor by La’o Hamutuk, unites people from tropical forest countries around the world to resist the negative political, environmental, economic and social consequences of the petroleum industry.
The consultation, organized by the Campaign for Alternative Industry Network (CAIN), Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and Earth Rights International (ERI), was held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 14-16 February, 2004, and was attended by 18 NGOs. Its theme was The Moratorium on Oil and Gas Development. The meeting was also attended by Thai community representatives from the Chana district in Songkhla province, Rayong, Chonburi, Petchaburi, and the Thailand-Malaysia Village Community Alliance who are affected by the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline project. The two-day meeting discussed important issues from each of the participants’ six countries, including the involvement of the military in the petroleum industry, the trans-ASEAN gas pipeline project, alternative energy, environmental issues, and human rights violations caused by oil and gas development.
Many community representatives attended, including the Arakan tribe (from West Burma invaded by Burma in 1784, Britain in 1824, and now under the repressive military junta), who have suffered as a direct result of oil and gas exploitation. They were promised a better life from the gas, but in reality their rights were violated and they did not get anything. The meeting ended with an excursion to the gas pipeline project on the Thailand-Burma border in Kanchanaburi, where we trekked three kilometers into the forest for almost four hours, to trace the Burma-Thailand-Malaysia pipeline which cuts through the Chana community area.
The following are important issues that the Southeast Asia Oilwatch network will give serious attention to, with the support of the secretariat of Oilwatch International:
Military As Guard Dog for Companies
Thailand, Burma and Indonesia are well-known for using their militaries to safeguard the profitability of the oil and gas industry. Armies have actively participated in the Yadana/Yetagun pipeline project in Arakan, Burma, and the Thailand-Malaysia Joint Development Area (JDA) pipeline project, as well as in Aceh and West Papua in Indonesia. Military involvement begins with preliminary land-clearing and continues all the way to post-development, always in the name of community welfare and national security.
The results of military involvement in these three countries are similar: violence through intimidation, torture, shooting, arrests, sexual abuse within the industrial areas, restriction of movement, forced migration, and an unfair legislation. For example, the Thai military attacked, shot and arrested members of the Chana community in Songkhla province on 20 December 2002; Burma has increased its military presence in Arakan to 30,000 soldiers in 54 battalions; Indonesian troops provide security for the area and operations of ExxonMobil in Aceh and Freeport in West Papua.
Negative Environmental and Social Consequences
“… There is not much that we can still catch in the sea.” So says Horha Sansuwan, a fisherman from Ban Lae village, 500 meters from the Songkhla Sea Harbor in Thailand. Sansuwan testified to the environmental changes resulting from the offshore project, which changed the beach and ocean ecosystem and damaged the local fishing industry. In the meantime, it has also changed the shape of the shoreline from erosion. The Arakan experience also demonstrates that chemicals used by offshore oil projects can severely affect the health of coastal residents.
The development of pipelines and oil and gas industry in coastal areas changed the livelihood and severely reduced community income in communities near the Map Ta Phut Free Trade Zone in Rayong province, Thailand. These communities used to depend on fishing, but since their income fell, most of the younger residents now seek industrial work as laborers. For the past four years, several large industries have severely damaged their health, with fumes and bad smells causing breathing difficulties. What happened to the benefits that the government and business owners promised?
Another example is the environmental changes in the Kanchanaburi area, crossed by the Thai-Malaysia gas pipeline. The damage to the earth and vegetation have caused the elephants to avoid the forests around the area, made protective topsoil vegetation disappear, and done other damage to the ecosystem.
Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline
The regional economy within ASEAN requires construction of a regional energy network. In an agreement between several ASEAN member states and other industrialized Asian nations like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China (ASEAN Action Plan in Energy Cooperation 1999-2004), it was proposed to build a 10,000 km long Trans-ASEAN pipeline through Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. We can predict the impacts of this project after observing the Yadana and Thai-Malaysia pipeline projects: land rights conflicts and environmental damage, both within and on the states’ borders.
It is important for the government and people of East Timor to think about alternative energy, which could reduce our dependence on oil and gas resources and create environmentally friendly energy. The development of alternative energy can be done by promoting energy conservation and sustainable energy. There needs to be a dissemination of information about alternative energy, and we can take advantage of small scale traditional energy solutions: biogas, mini hydro-electric plants, biodiesel, ethanol, etc. as well as a comprehensive waste management.
One general obstacle for alternative energy development is the dependence on expensive foreign technology. We need to take time to understand the importance of alternative energy, because this is not merely a matter of policy.
Keep Organizing: Lessons for the People of East Timor
The development of oil and gas in the Timor Sea is different from the cases mentioned above. However, East Timorese people can learn good lessons from the experiences of those countries. The local resistance in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma, built on strong grassroots organization, are a good example. A strong local network and shared community interests can help the East Timorese people be more effective dealing with the maritime boundary issues with Australia. East Timorese people still need to realize that Timor Sea oil and gas is not only an issue for NGOs and the government of RDTL, but is a matter for all of us.
More than 70,000 activists, trade unionists, NGO workers, journalists, academics, representatives from social movements, and campaigners for indigenous rights from all over the world descended on Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay) for the fourth World Social Forum.
The World Social Forum is a meeting place for those “opposed to neo-liberalism and to the domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a society centred in the human person.” The World Social Forum is an open space for the free exchange of thoughts and experiences. The World Social Forum supports human rights and democratic practices as opposed to totalitarianism. It opposes all forms of domination and degradation between human beings. It supports equality and solidarity between all people from gender, ethnic and societal perspectives. It opposes corporate-led globalization but promotes internationalism and globalization from below.
This was the first World Social Forum in Asia. It moved to Asia from Porto Alegre, Brazil, to explore parallels and expand links between like-minded groups, and to develop solutions to common problems. India was an excellent location because of its politicized and active population and as the birthplace of one of history’s greatest social movements: Gandhi’s nonviolent campaign for independence from Britain.
The four days of the World Social Forum were given over to the participating groups to organize their own seminars, panels, conferences, workshops, cultural events, solidarity meetings, rallies and marches. These took place in conference halls, seminar rooms and tents around the exhibition ground. The number and diversity of the events was staggering. Each day 240 events took place during the morning, afternoon and evening with topics ranging from international justice and the impact of globalization on sustainable agriculture to grassroots healthcare and indigenous land rights. In addition, the cultural program included music, theatre, film and documentaries from all over the world.
East Timorese participation
Participants from La’o Hamutuk and the International Financial Institutions Study Group (Kelompok Kajian) were Tomas Freitas, Mateus Goncalves, Bencio da Costa Belo and Simon Foster. Other participants from East Timor included Ego Lemos from Hasatil, Maria Immaculada from Haburas and Roberto Rigo from KSTL. Delegates from the IFI study group and La’o Hamutuk divided into pairs to attend as many events as possible. Below are examples of some of the events.
Ego Lemos of East Timor’s New Cinco do Oriente and HASATIL with Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture, at the World Social Forum.
Conference: Globalization, Global Governance and the Nation State
A panel presented views on how globalization impacts on the nation state. The panelists included academics from India, Europe and South America as well as the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. Panelists shared diverse views. As an example, Aijiaz Ahmed from India discussed how globalization caused states to become less accountable to their citizens and more accountable to international corporations and investors. Economic liberalization and deregulation obliges states to reduce social protection for citizens, although increasing social problems strengthened the role of the police and internal security forces. Mary Robinson stated that current trade rules were unfair and favored developed countries, but that increased trade could benefit all. Existing multilateral trade bodies and international courts are able to redress the balance.
Seminar: Water Privatization in Asia
The seminar, one of many discussing water privatization, focused on South and Southeast Asia. Participants discussed the privatization of all aspects of the supply and use of water including hydroelectricity. Speakers from the Philippines related how privatization had made water too expensive for many people, with companies reluctant to invest in infrastructure in poorer areas. Whilst many people discussed the negative impact of water privatization in other countries, Indian participants acknowledged that public management of Indian water was very bad. Other topics included reform of the public sector, public/private partnerships and water as a human right. We attended this seminar to learn more about how people in other countries have developed their water resources in an equitable manner.
Seminar: Male Involvement in Gender Issues
Four speakers from an international coalition called Men Against Violence and Abuse gave presentations on men working to stop gender-based sexual violence. The discussion broadened into men’s role in gender issues. Coalition members from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan and India talked about combating domestic violence through workshops at the grassroots level. Male involvement is important in the complex social and cultural changes needed to reduce gender inequality, particularly as many men perceive changes as an attack on their traditional roles as head of the family and wage earner.
Seminar: Solidarity for East Timor, Aceh and West Papua
Tomas Freitas from La’o Hamutuk spoke on the current situation in East Timor at a seminar organized by Action Solidarity for Asia Pacific. The key issue was the lack of international will in bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice (See Editorial, La’o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 4, No. 2) and the weakness of the domestic judicial system. The second issue was East Timor’s current economic situation. As a result of Australian intransigence and bad faith in negotiations in the Timor Sea, East Timor faces a budget shortfall until oil revenues come on line. Australia has taken more than a billion dollars from an oil field which should belong to East Timor under current international legal principles. See pages 3 and 5.
Panel discussion: Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Mateus Goncalves from the Sa’he Institute for Liberation participated in a panel on post-conflict reconstruction with speakers from Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In East Timor, international agencies have designed institutions of governance and administration since 1999. In particular, international financial institutions played a key role in creating the Banking and Payments Authority and the Ministry of Finance and continue to influence East Timor’s economic development. East Timorese feel excluded from the reconstruction process. All panelists emphasized the lack of ownership and control they felt concerning the activities of the international community.
Documentary film: The Peacekeepers and the Women
This documentary by German film maker Karin Jurschick examined the link between the UN peacekeepers and trafficking in women and the increased sex trade in Kosovo. The UN authority took a long time to assume responsibility, particularly as clients included UN staff. Calls for action were made from within by UN staffers, in particular an American UN police officer who was sent home after alerting senior staff members. The UN authority later created a specific team to raid suspected brothels. The appointment of a female journalist, formerly very critical of the UN, to head the team gave the appearance of a political rather than real solution. Furthermore, it targeted sex workers, often trafficked and vulnerable, rather than their clients.
In February Tomas Freitas and Simon Foster gave presentations at a workshop for farmers groups in Maubara and for La’o Hamutuk staff. The Maubara workshop, organized by Hasatil, was on the last day of three-week training session in sustainable agriculture for farmers groups and NGOs from all over East Timor, including Maubara. The workshop aimed to share ideas and information from the World Social Forum. The discussion centered around globalization and international trade, particularly the influence of transnational corporations in agriculture, as well as the issue of seed patenting and the use of non-monetary exchange systems. The participants agreed on the importance of thinking locally and sustainably and to focus on the needs of people.
The World Social Forum was an opportunity for East Timorese participants to strengthen ties with other activists from Asia, in particular Indonesia. Together with Indonesian activists, East Timorese made plans to organize and participate in an Indonesian Social Forum.
In the current climate, where international financial institutions dominate policy debates and development initiatives from below are often ignored, the World Social Forum plays a critical role in combining the voices and views of international civil society. The World Social Forum remains “vital to creating a global political culture that welcomes open debate, not only as a democratic value, but also as the only way to arrive at the truth and therefore formulating effective strategies and convincing alternatives.” We hope that next year more East Timorese activists will be able to participate.
We are looking for both East Timorese and international activists to join our staff collective.
Each staff member at La’o Hamutuk works collaboratively with other staff to research and report on the activities of international institutions and foreign governments operating in East Timor. Staff members share responsibilities for administrative and program work, including our Bulletin and Surat Popular publications, radio programs, public meetings, advocacy, popular education, coalitions with other East Timorese organizations, and exchanges with people in other countries. Each staff member is responsible for coordinating at least one of La’o Hamutuk’s main activities.
For more information about La’o Hamutuk, see back page of this Bulletin or our website at www.etan.org/lh.
Additional requirements for internationals
Additional requirements for East Timorese
To apply, please bring the following documents to our office in Farol (next to Perkumpulan HAK and the Sa’he Institute for Liberation) or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover letter explaining your reasons for wanting to work with La’o Hamutuk
Curriculum vitae (CV)
Two professional references from previous employers or organizations
Applications will be considered as we receive them. Positions are available immediately, but, as we are looking for the best possible people, we are flexible about start dates.
Women are especially encouraged to apply.
La’o Hamutuk is also looking for an East Timorese staff member with accounting skills. Please apply immediately.
More than fifty East Timorese, accompanied by a few international supporters, peacefully demonstrated on 20 March against the continuing United States occupation of Iraq, as part of a worldwide day of protest. This statement was read in front of the United States Embassy in Dili.
One year ago today, the United States, supported by the United Kingdom, Australia and so-called Coalition Forces, invaded Iraq to find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction which they claimed threaten peace and stability worldwide. However, by invading Iraq the United States and its allies refused to respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi people, especially the right of the people to determine their own future. The invasion and subsequent illegal occupation of Iraq took place after the U.S. and its allied forces ignored the cries of more than 10 million people around the world who protested the impending invasion. They also defied the United Nations that did not agree to use force in Iraq, but suggested the continuation of peaceful negotiations and inspections to see if Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction.
Hans Blix, chief of the UN investigation team prior to the U.S. invasion, said his team had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, discrediting the main reason the United States used to support their invasion. However, the United States and its allies went on to oppress and kill the people of Iraq, especially their innocent children and women. Recently, U.S. president George Bush admitted that the occupying forces have not found any weapons of mass destruction, but he continues to argue that Saddam Hussein supported and protected terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, even though there is no evidence to support this statement.
After the occupation forces in Iraq arrested Saddam, Bush said that he had saved the people of Iraq from Saddam’s regime and therefore he assumed responsibility to free the people. But how can a war-monger liberate the people of Iraq?
The current situation in Iraq is that many people have already died from the occupation, and many more will die. The people who suffered with the invasion will suffer even more. In Iraq, the United States has killed with its economic embargo, which starved hundreds of thousands of children to death, and the current foreign occupation denies people their right to determine their own future.
The United States talks about democracy, liberty and human rights, but in reality the U.S. has installed and supported many dictatorships around the world, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Suharto in Indonesia, closing its eyes to human rights violations inflicted by these governments, including against the people of East Timor. For many decades, the United States trained soldiers from military dictatorships in Latin America, Indonesia and other countries how to better torture their people.
Because of all this, we understand the United States’ concept of “liberation.” Using this concept, the United States supported Suharto’s invasion of our country on 7 December 1975, and continued its support throughout the occupation by his brutal military regime until 1999. During 24 years of illegal occupation, more then 200,000 people were killed or disappeared; many children lost their parents and other members of their families. Today we see our friends in Iraq suffering the same fate.
Last year, we East Timorese joined people around the world who love peace and justice in our cry not to invade Iraq. The United States refused to listen, and pursued its disastrous invasion. Today, we again join with people worldwide to demonstrate that we are still against the illegal and deadly occupation of Iraq.
We are angry that the United States will not leave Iraq by June 2004, because we know that there will be many more victims. Therefore, in order to promote true democracy and peace in Iraq, and to stop the ongoing killing of Iraqi and other people, we demand:
The United States and its coalition to immediately withdraw from Iraq, allowing the people of Iraq to decide their own future.
The United States to abandon its illegitimate policy of pre-emptive war, and to respect international laws against aggressive or invasive war, and help to create a peaceful world environment.
Dili, 20 March 2004
International Day Against Occupation of Iraq
La’o Hamutuk, Sahe Institute for Liberation (SIL), Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), HAK Association, Timor-Leste Journalists Association (AJTL), Arte Moris, Hametin Sustainibelidade Agrikultor Timor-Leste (HASATIL), Dai Popular, National Movement Against Violence (MNKV), Men’s Association Against Violence, (AMKV), NGO Forum Secretariat, Mirror for the People (LABEH).
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La'o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
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