Subject: Interview with JRH

Source: Koran Tempo web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 30 Jun 04

East Timor foreign minister says "God will punish Australia"

June 30, 2004 10:29am Asia Intelligence Wire

published by Indonesian Koran Tempo web site on 30 June

Jakarta: The East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta is in Jakarta to attend the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Regional Forum (ARF) on 2 July, and prior to this he will attend a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers. Following is an interview with Ramos and the Tempo News Room journalist Faisal Assegaf at the JW Marriott Hotel on Tuesday (29 June) regarding the ARF agenda and recent bilateral problems East Timor has had.

[Faisal Assegaf ] What is East Timor's agenda at the ASEAN Regional Forum?

[Jose Ramos Horta] We are hopeful East Timor's request to join the ARF can be considered. We are the only country in Southeast Asia which is a member of the Southwest Pacific Forum and not part of the ARF. It doesn't make sense for a forum which aims to discuss regional security issues to not include East Timor. I have obtained open support from America, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and other ASEAN countries.

[Assegaf] Is becoming a member of ASEAN more important?

[Ramos Horta] The East Timor government plans to become a member of ASEAN, yet the process takes time - a minimum five years. In five years from now our economy will be far stronger so we will be able to actively provide a positive contribution to ASEAN.

[Assegaf] What are the prospects for bilateral relations with Indonesia if a military officer becomes the next president of Indonesia?

[Ramos Horta] Regardless of who wins the presidential election, East Timor and Indonesia are bound through geography, society, culture, history and strategic needs to continue the current good relations. Indonesia will also increase its representation into an embassy and has already appointed an ambassador to East Timor.

[Assegaf] What about the recommendation of the Serious Crimes Unit to bring senior Indonesian military officers to the international court? Does your government support these measures?

[Ramos Horta] My government does not support the use of the international court to try those responsible for the violence which occurred in 1999. Indonesia has established the ad-hoc tribunal and this is a sovereign decision of Indonesia.

[Assegaf] How are East Timor's relations with Australia, particularly regarding the Timor gap?

[Ramos Horta] It is extremely regrettable that in this case Australia - a very important friend to East Timor and a very important western democracy - has a different interpretation of international law. We haven't asked Australia for assistance. What we have asked of Australia is for them to support our right to have a permanent sea border in accordance with international law.

[Assegaf] Do you think Australia is attempting to control the Timor Gap?

[Ramos Horta] The Australian government has controlled and exploited our oil in three main wells: Coralina, Buffalo, and Laminaria. Since 1999, Australia has derived one million US dollars in income per day from the wells. We have asked Australia to discontinue issuing licenses to foreign companies. Unfortunately, Australia has continued to do this.

[Assegaf] What will you do?

[Ramos Horta] We have no forum to force our claims and rights except through resolution under international law. If the dispute cannot be resolved bilaterally, we will resolve it by mediation possibly through America or the International Court or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany.

[Assegaf] In other words, Australia has stolen East Timor's oil?

[Ramos Horta] I don't want to use a stronger word like steal, because Australia is a very important civilized nation. They shouldn't have to steal oil or other resources, particularly from small countries, as it would be very embarrassing. It's like Bill Gates stealing money from his driver or the person who cleans his house. We believe this is an infringement of our sovereignty and not theft.

[Assegaf] What will happen if Australia continues its activities?

[Ramos Horta] God will punish them at some point in time. I am confident God Almighty will provide justice in accordance with our rights. Who knows? [Maybe] God will part the sea where they operate like in the Bible.

Source: Koran Tempo web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 30 Jun 04

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