Environmentalist Wins Top Global Award
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
April 19 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN)
today congratulated East Timor’s Demetrio
on receiving the prestigious
is the newly-independent country’s leading
a strong advocate for a just resolution in establishing a permanent
maritime boundary between Australia and East Timor.
Demetrio do Amaral de
Demetrio on receiving
Prize. He is an important and vigorous advocate for East Timor’s
natural environment and sovereignty,” said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for the
“The prize provides important recognition and support to all
those in East Timor seeking to build the new nation on a sound
De Carvalho is director of Haburas Foundation, East Timor’s only
non-governmental environmental group, which he founded in 1998. A
leader of the resistance during the Indonesian occupation, de
Carvalho helped head the fight to include provisions in East Timor’s
constitution that call for a healthy environment, respect for
traditional customary law, sustainable development, and natural
Haburas and de Carvalho are leaders in East Timor’s grassroots,
nationwide effort to demand a timely and fair resolution to East
Timor’s maritime boundary dispute with Australia.
“The award is especially timely as talks take place this week
between East Timor and Australia on a permanent maritime boundary
with Australia determining the fate of billions of dollars worth of
resources underneath the Timor Sea that would belong to East Timor
under international law. At stake is East Timor’s future,” said
Miller. “The outcome of those talks is of deep concern to all of us
concerned about the people of East Timor.”
Australia has already received more than (US) $1 billion in
revenues from petroleum fields that are twice as close to East Timor
as to Australia. If the Australian government continues to delay a
permanent maritime boundary for decades, they will have taken 60% of
East Timor's entire oil and gas entitlement.
De Carvalho and Haburas are promoting community reforestation and
watershed management programs to reduce forest and land degradation.
Other environmental priorities include protecting the wetlands of
Lake Iralalaru in the eastern part of East Timor from a proposed
hydropower station and facilitating the creation of the country’s
first national park. They are also working with communities to
De Carvalho will receive the
Environmental Prize in San Francisco today and attend a
separate ceremony in Washington, DC on April 21.
- founded in 1991 - supports human dignity for the people of East
Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social,
legal and economic justice, and human rights, including women's
rights. See www.etan.org
for more information about the boundary talks.
Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho
Dili, East Timor
A Founding Father of East Timor
A former clandestine resistance leader and now the head of the
first and only environmental nongovernmental organization in his
homeland, Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho is a founding father of
East Timor, the world’s newest country. Under his leadership, this
island nation, a Portuguese colony until 1975 ravaged by centuries
of occupation and warfare, is charting a new course for sustainable
development and environmental protection based on Tara Bandu--the
East Timorese cultural practice of acting in harmony with nature.
A land of lush rainforests, tropical beaches and spectacular
coral reefs, East Timor has seen its natural resources plundered
over the years by military occupation and profiteering colonialists.
De Carvalho was nine years old when the Indonesian military invaded
East Timor. As a child, he remembers the shriek of Indonesian war
planes overhead and napalm bombs exploding near his home in the
jungle where his family fled in 1975 after his father was brutally
murdered by FRETILIN, a former East Timorese pro-independence
guerrilla group (a re-organized FRETILIN is now the country’s
leading political party). While still a junior high school student,
de Carvalho became an activist for East Timorese independence. In
college he joined RENETIL, the leading student resistance movement,
and co-founded the movement’s first magazine.
During the Indonesian occupation, resistance fighters risked
their lives to gain liberation. A number of de Carvalho’s friends
and colleagues were tortured and killed by Indonesian military
forces, many of them in the bloody 1991 Dili massacre that killed
270 people. A week later, de Carvalho was seized by the Indonesian
police and thrown in jail for three weeks without due process for
his involvement in a protest in Jakarta. By the time East Timor
achieved independence in 2002, one-third of the population -- an
estimated 250,000 people -- had been killed by systematic slaughter,
forced starvation and relocation. The island’s forests, which
resistance fighters relied on for cover, had been slashed and burned
to ruin by Indonesian troops.
A New Beginning
Today, the majority of East Timor’s 965,000 citizens survive on
less than a dollar a day. This widespread economic hardship has put
enormous strains on the country’s natural resources. For example, in
communities around Dili, the nation’s capital, people with no other
means of income are clearing trees to sell as firewood.
In 1998 de Carvalho founded the Haburas Foundation, which means
“to make green and fresh” in Tetum, East Timor’s national language,
to tackle his country’s environmental crises. Operating out of his
home on a shoestring budget, de Carvalho is largely credited for
spearheading the progressive inclusion of four key articles in East
Timor’s constitution: the right to a healthy environment; respect
for traditional customary law; prioritization of sustainable
development; and natural resource management.
For a country building its republic from the ground up, these
principles will play a critical legal and symbolic role in guiding
the management of the island’s natural resources, from oil reserves
in the Timor Sea to its rainforests and coral reefs. Today, de
Carvalho and Haburas continue to advise the new government on
“East Timor must learn from the examples of neighboring countries
in the Asia Pacific,” de Carvalho has said. “Models of development
that have gone wrong there should serve as lessons for us. We do not
want to repeat the same mistakes.”
The Battle Over Oil and Gas Rights
East Timor’s rise from poverty will hinge largely on its ability
to mine petroleum deposits from the “Timor Gap,” a 155-mile area
that lies under the Timor Sea between East Timor and Australia. In
May 2002 the governments of both countries signed a yet un-ratified
treaty that gives East Timor 90 percent of the oil and gas reserves
in one of the Gap’s largest petroleum development areas. In dispute,
however, is Greater Sunrise, one of the Timor Sea’s largest known
gas reserves, estimated to be worth $36 billion. Eighty percent of
this gas reserve remains under Australian jurisdiction under a 1972
agreement between Australia and Indonesia.
In April, negotiations will resume between the two nations to
discuss where maritime boundaries should be drawn -- and who rightly
owns the Gap’s richest deposits. East Timor maintains that according
to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Greater Sunrise
and other oil fields should fall under East Timor’s sovereignty.
Haburas, as the leading representative body of the East Timorese
people in these talks, is ensuring that citizen priorities are part
of the discussion. De Carvalho is looking ahead to institute
protections for the larger marine ecosystem from petroleum mining
and development, including the surrounding seabed and fisheries.
Meanwhile, Haburas, under de Carvalho’s leadership, is tackling a
number of other highpriority environmental initiatives. Among them
is protecting Lake Iralalaru in the eastern part of the country, an
unexplored wetlands area under threat from a proposed hydropower
station, and plans to pump the lake for irrigating sugarcane
plantations. De Carvalho is pushing for further environmental
studies of the ecosystem and of the impact on local communities
before any development moves forward.
De Carvalho and Haburas are also leading community reforestation
and watershed management programs to reduce forest and land
degradation. Guiding these environmental efforts is the cultural
revitalization of Tara Bandu, what de Carvalho calls
East Timor’s “traditional ecological wisdom.”
As East Timor eyes tourism as its second major source of revenue
beyond oil, de Carvalho is shaping this growing industry by helping
communities set up cooperative eco-tourism businesses that promote
folk culture and environmentally sensitive expeditions. He is also
acting as a bridge between indigenous communities and government
officials in the creation of East Timor’s first national park.
“It’s not just that Demetrio is heading an environmental group,
Haburas is the leading group that has a handle on all of the major
development and environmental issues facing East Timor,” according
to Tim Anderson, a professor of political economy at the University
of Sydney who worked with de Carvalho during the country’s
transition to independence. “Demetrio is the one steering the
country in a direction of true sustainable development. He is one of
the new leaders of East Timor.”
# # #
PRESIDÊNCIA DA REPÚBLICA
GABINETE DO PRESIDENTE
(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)
Tuesday, 20th April 2004
TIMORESE ENVIRONMENTALIST WINS “GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL PRIZE”
Demetrio de Carvalho, 37, a leading Timorese
environmentalist and Founding Director of Fundação Haburas,
an environmental NGO, has won the prestigious Goldman
In a letter today to Mr. de Carvalho, H.E. President Kay
Rala Xanana Gusmão extended his heartfelt congratulations on
behalf of the people of Timor-Leste, stating that the prize
was recognition of Mr. de Carvalho’s “…tireless and
dedicated work in the promotion and protection of our
natural environment…and [for his] unique and extraordinary
service to the nation”.
Furthermore, H.E. the President commended the efforts of Mr.
de Carvalho and his foundation in forging a culture of
environmental awareness and management in the young nation.
The President also praised the important role played by Mr.
de Carvalho in ensuring that principles of environmental
justice were included in Timor-Leste’s national
Over the past fifteen years, since its establishment, the
Goldman Environmental Prize has commonly been referred to as
the Nobel Prize for Environment, and is awarded every year
to leading environmentalists in six geographical areas. Mr.
de Carvalho, who is currently in San Francisco for the award
ceremony, has received the prize for the Oceanic Region.
For President Xanana Gusmão, the awarding of this prize to a
Timorese citizen “is one more recognition and tribute to the
steadfast determination and commitment of the people of
Timor-Leste to building our nation on the solid foundations
of respect for human rights, peace and justice”.